Photo: Sharon Gardiner
Dr. Jason Malinowski is Chief of Staff at SFMH.
This opinion has been endorsed by the hospital’s Medical Advisory Committee.
At St. Francis Memorial we have ten inpatient beds on the active care ward to treat serious illnesses requiring acute hospitalization. That’s a very small number of beds for this community – there is high demand for those beds and we need to protect them.
We as a community will need to act very strategically to ensure that those beds stay open by making sure that we use the beds in the most efficient way possible. With an elderly population, we see high demand for the beds – and the demand has been consistently high for the past number of months. Many times the hospital has been over-capacity, with patients waiting in the ER or away in another hospital, because there were no inpatient beds at St. Francis Memorial. Being over-capacity means increasing the risk to the hospital, straining both the financial and HR resources, and that increased risk threatens programs and services.
Contributing to this problem is the number of seniors who live at home under tenuous circumstances, yet have no plan for the day when they can no longer live at home due to illness or injury. Often there are no family members who live nearby who can step in quickly. And when an unfortunate (but not totally unexpected) illness occurs, meaning the patient can’t live independently any more, the hospital becomes the home of last resort.
We no longer have the luxury of having the hospital house all the patients who can’t go home.
- We as a community need to make contingency plans early, to have things like placement papers completed before we are in crisis.
- We need to expect that we will be discharged from the hospital, when we no longer have acute medical needs and a safe discharge plan is in place.
- We need to advocate for a strong and effective home care program to meet our needs on discharge.
- We need to continue to develop and support innovative ways to take care of our frail elderly and vulnerable patients – like the Madawaska Valley Hospice program.
As a rural and isolated community, we have a long history of looking after ourselves. We can most effectively look after our acute medical needs when we cherish and look after those valuable ten beds.
About the author: Pursuing his love for rural family medicine, Dr. Malinowski graduated from Queen’s University with his MD and completed his residency there in Family and Palliative Medicine. He found that Barry’s Bay and the St. Francis Memorial Hospital were a perfect match for his career and family aspirations, and began practicing here in 2002. Dr. Malinowski cherishes his time with his wife, Andrea, and his boys, Joseph and William. His professional interests include Quality Improvement in medical care, Healthcare Leadership, Medical Education, Social Media in Healthcare, and Hospice Palliative Care. Dr. Malinowski holds academic appointments with Queen’s University and the University of Ottawa, and was named “Community Teacher of the Year” by the Ontario College of Family Physicians in 2012.