The former St. Joseph’s Hospital is being called back into action. Some patients in acute care beds at the Comox Valley Hospital, who are waiting for residential care beds, will move to St. Joseph’s to alleviate the new facility’s chronic overcapacity


Eleven months after the new Comox Valley Hospital opened, the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) will finally unburden its staff from chronic overcapacity.

And it will give Comox Valley family caregivers some extra opportunity for relief with three additional respite care beds.

VIHA has contracted with St. Joseph’s to open 21 residential care beds in the former acute care hospital site at the top of Comox hill. The beds will be available in September.

And the health authority said they will also convert space on the new hospital’s fourth floor, which was reserved for expansion, into a 17-bed residential care unit for mostly elderly patients who need an alternate level of care.

Norm Peters, Executive Director, Surgery, End of Life Care & Residential Care at Island Health told Decafnation that “By moving (ALC patients) to St. Joseph’s, it opens up acute care beds at the hospital for people who require acute care.”

Almost every day since the new hospital opened with 129 acute care beds, it has been dramatically overcapacity. The number of admitted patients has soared to 178 on occasion, nearly 50 percent higher than planned.

That has stressed workers at the hospital, which was budgeted for 129 patients.

FURTHER READING: Record 178 patients at CVH; Flawed planning at root of hospital’s problems

Most of the overcapacity has been due to patients in more expensive acute care beds who are waiting to transition to long-term care facilities. But the Comox Valley has had a dearth of long-term care beds for many years, so these patients have had no option but to stay in the hospital.

In fact, those in charge of designing the new hospital never planned for any ALC patients (alternate level of care). Hospital planners naively assumed that VIHA would have provided enough beds at residential care facilities such as The Views at St. Joseph’s, Glacier View Lodge or the Seniors Village.

The new 21 beds at St. Joseph’s are temporary until VIHA opens a proposed 151 new complex care beds sometime in 2020, if they can be built that fast. Contracts for those beds, spread among multiple providers, won’t be awarded until at least Aug. 31.

Michael Aikins, administrative officer for The Views at St. Joseph’s, told Decafnation that the 21 residential care beds and the three respite beds will be located on the third floor of the former acute care hospital.

While the new beds are detached from other Views patients, they will be cared for by Views staff who will follow St. Joseph’s policies.

Aikins said The Views was in the process of hiring care aides, LPN’s, housekeepers, dietary aides and will add hours in other support areas such as maintenance, payroll. They will reinforce their casual workers in all areas.

There will be crossover opportunities to maximize The Views’ resources, but the temporary ALC unit will have dedicated staff to provide day-to-day care to the residents.

St. Joseph’s will make some modest improvements to the hospital rooms that have sat vacant for nearly a year with some fresh paint, new furnishings and improved wayfinding.

St. Joseph’s Board of Directors Chair Chris Kelsey said the board is happy to help and provide support.

FURTHER READING: Island Health press release


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