By: Mike Anderson
Thanks to a $5.1 million boost from the province, Southlake Regional Health Centre will expand an innovative program that allows seniors to return home faster following a hospital stay in acute care – reducing wait times for those who require intensive home and community care support.
Currently, the Southlake@home program is only available in Aurora, Newmarket and Keswick, but the additional funding will allow the hospital to provide the program to patients throughout Georgina, according to Arden Krystal, President and CEO of Southlake Regional Health Centre.
The Southlake@home program, first launched in March 2019 as a pilot, partners with third-party home and community care providers, like Bayshore Healthcare, SE Health and CHATS, to establish an “intensive transitional plan of care” so patients return home safely and have the support they need to recover.
The hospital estimates that 400 seniors per year will be able to benefit from the program. Although it is designed to help patients who require acute care, Southlake hopes to expand the program in the future to accommodate those with less complicated needs.
“Prior to Southlake@home, patients waited in the hospital more than 14 days on average for the services they needed at home to be arranged,” Ms. Krystal said. “Getting these patients home sooner means we have more capacity to care for patients who need hospital care, but it also means that patients are getting care in the most appropriate setting, their home.”
The funding boost was announced at Southlake on October 16 by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliot, who said that programs like Southlake@home are an essential part of the province’s plan to end “hallway health care.”
“Expanding home and community care is a critical part of our plan to end hallway health care,” Ms. Elliot said.
“By making these significant investments at Southlake and supporting partnerships between home and community care providers and busy hospitals, patients will experience quicker transitions between receiving hospital care and returning home with appropriate support they need to recover properly. These investments will also ensure that more hospital beds are available for those who need them.”
The funding announcement was made at a media event held in Southlake’s rehabilitation gym, which also doubles as an overflow area for surgical patients when the hospital is busy, according to Ms. Krystal, who is responsible for one of the most congested hospitals in Ontario.
“We know that most of the solutions to end hallway health care won’t be found in hospitals,” Ms. Krystal said.
“We need to continue partnering with community providers, recoup capacity in our hospitals so that they can focus on the services we were designed to provide and direct new resources to the community where they will have a bigger impact.”
Julie Smith, who’s mother-in-law Rita, 94, was one of the first patients to benefit from Southlake@home — after falling and fracturing both her ankles, also spoke at the media event. “Care transition was smooth and seamless, continuity of care existed, and I was able to be a daughter-in-law and not the care provider,” she said.
The new provincial funding will also be used to support a Geriatric Admission Diversion Clinic at Southlake.
The clinic will be open seven days a week and divert patients, after they are assessed, from the emergency department to a facility more suited for geriatric care and treatment.
Last year 22 percent of the visits to Southlake’s emergency department were patients over 65 years old.
“What we’re hoping to do is to be able to actually prevent admissions, and that would then reduce some of the congestion that we have in Emergency,” Ms. Krystal added.