Planning for a new hospital in the Cowichan Valley is not a simple task as it is tied into a much more complex matrix of related health care issues.

The thing is, how will those beds in a new hospital be configured? Will the new facility be dedicated to acute care only? Not likely. How many mental health beds should be planned for? They don’t know and won’t know until there is a clear idea of what kind of in-community resources may exist by the time the new hospital opens.

What about addiction issues? Again, that will depend on what kind of, and how many community resources to deal with addiction may exist when the hospital opens. How about culturally sensitive Aboriginal health treatment facilities? Nobody knows for sure what may exist in the community six years from now.

We have the baby boomers aging out and many will need to have access to some level of medical care. Hospital planners, on their own, have no idea what will exist to accommodate these folks over time; never mind when the new facility opens. Will services exist that will support a senior living in their own home as long as possible?

In the event an aging senior requires hospitalization because of an incident and it is decided that senior can no longer live on their own, space must be found in an extended care facility. If space is not immediately available that individual will be kept in hospital until space is found. That means there is an acute care bed tied up for an unpredictable length of time.

Planners say that at any point in time as many as 20 per cent of available acute care beds are tied up with patients awaiting transfer to a more appropriate facility.

How do planners handle this? They must work in close consultation with providers of other health care services in the community; and that is being done in Cowichan.

In the absence of this joint planning exercise, acute care beds would end up being taken out of the pool and patients end up in hallways and cupboards when things get busy.

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