Jodi Lundmark, tbnewswatch.com
St. Joseph's Care Group president and CEO Tracy Buckler said work is underway in the Lakehead Psychiatric Hopsital for 26 transitional care beds that will help with the city's gridlock issue.
The Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital should have its 26 transitional care beds ready for patients by the first week of June.
Work is underway at the LPH to make way for the beds that were part of a $14 million announcement made by Ontario's Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Deb Matthews earlier this month to help address the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre's gridlock issue.
The funding will provide the 26 beds at the LPH to treat people with long-term illnesses and disabilities as well as 17 more spaces at the former McKellar Hospital for seniors and people in need of care.
St. Joseph's Care Group president and CEO Tracy Buckler said they are reopening a unit of the Algoma Street site and painting and drywalling has begun.
But the biggest task to get the site ready to take patients is staffing.
"We're going to operate this unit as an extension of our transitional care program," she said, noting the beds at the LPH site will be used for people waiting for long-term care.
Through the minister's announcement, St. Joe's received about $2.5 million to operate the unit for about two years.
Buckler said they'll be hiring about 22 full-time equivalent positions, so more than 22 people will be hired as some positions will be part time and casual.
Those positions include registered nurses, registered nurse practitioners, personal support workers, recreationists and rehabilitation assistants.
The hiring process will take time, but Buckler said that gives them time to get the unit ready for patients.
"It's a nice, bright area. It's a large space for sure," said Buckler.
"It's great for temporary occupancy."
Buckler said the beds at the LPH will help increase flow throughout the entire health care system in Thunder Bay and the city's overcapacity issue is with long-term care.
"We're trying to help the gridlock situation. We're trying to help with the alternative level of care challenge across the system right now. I think this will be a good option for a temporary basis."
St. Joseph's Care Group is looking to eventually close the LPH site. That will happen after the Centre of Excellence for Integrated Seniors' Services, a 416 long-term care bed facility, is open and the organization's new mental health wing is added to the St. Joseph's Hospital site.
Construction of CEISS is expected to be complete in 2015 and Buckler said the mental health wing will go out for tender soon.