Northern Health is restructuring its detox services at the Nechako Treatment Centre in order to increase usage and take pressure off the Prince George Regional Hospital emergency room.
Regional director of mental health and addictions services Jim Campbell said the centre will continue to offer a total of 20 treatment beds, but how those beds are used will change.
“We will be reconfiguring to increase access to beds so occupancy can be better,” Campbell said. “Part of it is the shift in acute (treatment) beds. Those were usually the highest demand. The stabilization beds weren’t in as high demand. That limited how quickly someone could get into the program.”
The centre currently has four beds for patients going through acute substance withdrawal who need substantial medical care. The remaining 16 stabilization beds were for people going through lesser stages of substance withdrawal.
Under the new model, there will be six acute beds, 10 stabilization beds and four “sobering beds” for patients who arrive severely intoxicated and need to be monitored while they sober up. Currently the hospital emergency room serves the “sobering bed” function, Campbell said.
“This will take pressure off the emergency room,” Campbell said.
Health services manager Derek Dobrinsky said Northern Health did a review of its detox services in 2008.
From September 2008 to the end of the year, the average occupancy of the detox unit was 55 per cent. One day in three, the detox unit was less than half full.
“At no time was our detox full,” Dobrinsky said. “We weren’t meeting the needs of our region.”
In addition, they found the 10 registered nurses weren’t able to work to the full scope of their practice and had to rely on the emergency room to do things like hook up IVs, he said.
The new model will create a multi-disciplinary team to provide more comprehensive services to the patients, he added.
Currently the detox centre employs ten registered nurses, one licensed practical nurse, ten detox workers, a unit clerk and team leader.
The new model will have have five registered nurses, five licensed practical nurses and five addictions councillors, along with the clerk and team leader. The equivalent of four full-time positions will be lost in the change. Two of the nurse positions and two detox worker positions are currently vacant, Dobrinsky said, so there should be very little displacement of staff.
Mental health and addictions area manager Sherri Hevanor said the smaller, more certified staff, will be able to provide more medical and addictions counseling services than before.
“The (counsellors) will engage the clients and do discharge planning. Do they move into a treatment centre or move into our day program on site?” Hevanor said. “And with the acute beds we can keep them in our own unit… not shipping them to emergency for treatment.”
The detox unit staff have been notified of the changes, and the transition should be completed within two or three months.