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Re-admissions soar at Ottawa Hospital, union says

Alan ForsterOTTAWA – Patient re-admissions at the Ottawa Hospital have “spiked” as a result of provincial funding cuts, according to the union representing healthcare workers.

Local CUPE 4000, representing about 3,800 healthcare workers in Eastern Ontario, along with Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU), released figures stating the Ottawa Hospital’s re-admissions increased from 8.8 percent to 9.6 percent between 2009 and 2014.

That’s higher than both the province-wide average of 9.1% in 2014 and the Champlain regional health network’s rate of 8.7% in 2014, which includes Ottawa and most of eastern Ontario.

“I’d argue that Ontario needs to get its head around this,” OCHU president Michael Hurley told the Ottawa Citizen. He said the increased re-admission rates would be more costly than making sure a patient recovers properly the first time.

“Each case represents failure for the healthcare system … and a huge setback,” he said. “It’s also an economic setback because not everyone gets paid sick leave.”

However, Dr. Alan Forster (pictured), Ottawa Hospital’s general internist and chief quality and performance officer, said there are other reasons for the increased re-admission rate.

In particular, patients are living longer, and are often very frail when they reach an advanced age. While new technologies and medical techniques can keep them alive when they’re admitted to hospital, they often have trouble when they’re discharged and are at home.

And as a teaching hospital, the Ottawa Hospital tends to see patients with the most challenging conditions – from across the region, both young and old. These patients are also difficult to support once they are sent home.

“The focus on the hospital and ongoing spending in the hospital isn’t the right question,” said Dr. Forster. “The question should be … how do we improve care for people with complex diseases when they’re not in the hospital?”

While the cuts have affected the hospitals, there have been improvements in monitoring people after their discharge, Dr. Forster said. He added the “slight increase” in readmission rate is not enough to be called a “spike.”

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