With RIH swelling beyond capacity, Interior Health Authority will spent $3.1 million on opening beds at Ponderosa Lodge.
The health authority announced Monday it will reopen a closed third floor at the aging facility on the hospital grounds with 33 new beds. Admissions will begin later this month.
Beds will be occupied by seniors in transition between hospital and home as well as others who will be housed temporarily in an effort to keep them out of Royal Inland Hospital. Services will include support from health professionals, including nurses and physiotherapists, to stabilize seniors and improve their health before returning home.
Those beds are expected to free space at RIH, which has suffered several critical incidents of overcapacity this winter.
Deborah Smith, a regional residential health-care service administrator for IHA, said the move is intended to improve supports for seniors and keep seniors out of acute care beds in hospital.
The 33 new beds as well as 15 "winter surge" beds added earlier this year will cost $3.1 million annually.
"We can take patients from the hospital or prevent someone from going there," said Smith.
With the new addition, Ponderosa is now up to 136 beds — considered at capacity. While the former residential seniors centre has long been considered outdated, it has gradually become fully occupied due to pressures on the hospital.
Unlike in past, Ponderosa won't be considered a long-term home for seniors. But it will fulfill a number of purposes, including respite beds as well as a temporary space until a long-term bed opens up at a dedicated seniors' residence elsewhere.
Kamloops-South Thompson NDP candidate Tom Friedman said the spaces are badly needed "given the problems at RIH."
The New Democrat said opening up room at Ponderosa may tamp down the crisis for now but it's another example of care-by-crisis.
"They're not addressing the root causes," he said, citing lack of family doctors and insufficient home support as two core problems.
Smith said with the addition of the 33 new beds, IHA is continuing with its "pathway to home" philosophy of keeping seniors in their own homes as long as possible. Planning for a return to home will start soon after admission.
"What's it going to look like when this person goes home?" Smith said will be a question the planning will answer. "We'll start earlier in the process."
That planning will include education, nutrition planning and home support.
IHA said the temporary beds will remain open until spring next year, when a new 125-bed publicly funded building operated by Buron Healthcare Ltd. in Brocklehurst is slated to open.