Island Health has announced the addition of 38 beds to address care needs for seniors in the Comox Valley. File photo

Island Health announces addition of 38 beds for seniors care in the Comox Valley

17 beds at Comox Valley hospital; 21 beds at St. Joe’s

Island Health is opening several interim beds specifically to address long-term seniors’ care issues in the Comox Valley.

Island Health is opening 17 beds on Floor 4B at the North Island Hospital’s Comox Valley campus. The space for the beds at the North Island Hospital was previously used for medical records storage.

The 17 additional beds bring the total number of beds at the Comox Valley campus to 146.

Norm Peters, Island Health’s executive director for residential care and end of life, said the additional beds will also alleviate some stress in other areas of the Comox Valley campus.

“This also frees up the capacity in the other parts of the hospital so that we can then admit people who are needing acute care treatment in those other beds,” he said. “So we think this is a real positive outcome for the community.”

RELATED: New Comox Valley hospital operating above patient capacity

In addition to the 17 beds opening up at the hospital, an additional 21 beds will be made available, on a temporary basis, at the St. Joseph’s facility in Comox.

“There is a high rate of individuals waiting for supports within the community, such as long-term care, so in addition to these 17 beds, we are opening up those temporary beds at St. Joe’s. Those are being opened while we conclude the request for proposal process [for a permanent long-term care facility].”

Peters explained the difference between the two options.

“The beds at St. Joe’s will be designated as long-term care beds, so they will have the same support levels that anyone else would have when they go into long-term care,” he said. “The beds in the hospital, because they are within a transitional unit, will have a slightly different staffing model. They will be there to help people to either recover from their surgery, or get ready to go back into the community. They will be acute care beds with a designation of transitional care beds.”

Michael Aikins, chief administrative officer at St. Joseph’s, was happy with the announcement.

“We are pleased and honoured to be working closely with Island Health to help improve the quality of care of our frail and elderly,” he said. “Expanding and enhancing the quality complex care services currently provided to our existing residents supports our ongoing mission and our exciting future vision for the redevelopment of the St. Joseph’s site.”

With 21 new beds comes the need for additional staff. Aikins said there will be a job fair in early August (details still to come), and applications are presently being accepted at

MAiD issue

As for the medical assistance in dying issue, Peters said patients will be informed of the restrictions in place at St. Joe’s beforehand.

“As a [Catholic] organization, St. Joe’s does have that ability to be a conscientious objector, so we would work closely with those individuals going to the facility so they understood when they were going into care there that [MAiD] would not be an option to them, and should they, at some point, wish to explore that, then we would work with that person and their family to support them in making that decision.

“We give everyone the opportunity to indicate their preferred facility, and we, as best as possible, support people to go to their preferred [facility]. There’s a number of reasons people choose one facility over another – not just exclusively over medical assistance in dying.”

The new beds at both locations are expected to open in early September.

RFP process ongoing

In regards to the RFP process, Peters said the proposals are going into the evaluation process, and hopes that the recommendations will be made “in the very near future.”

RELATED: Island Health issues new RFP for long-term care beds

He was not at liberty to discuss the process any further, but said he expects an announcement will come within the next couple of months.

“On the RFP, I would say that we have been very pleased with the quality of the proposals we’ve received,” he said. “There is a great opportunity here for the community, so we are very excited… but it does take some time. We want to be thoughtful, because it is a significant decision.”

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