An air filtration unit is the last major addition needed to start using the space formerly occupied by Sunshine Manor, and Eastern Health plans to call for tenders for that contract in the coming months.
The east wing of the Dr. G.B. Cross Memorial Hospital, formerly occupied by a 14-bed long-term care facility known as Sunshine Manor, was closed in June, 2009, after the opening of Dr. O'Mahony Manor, a 44-bed facility.
While a working group at the hospital evaluated what to do with the space freed up by the closure, doctors and nurses used the east wing sporadically for overflow when there weren't enough empty acute care beds in the rest of the hospital.
In October, 2009, Pat Coish-Snow, chief operating officer for the Bonavista and Burin region, told the Packet they were evaluating how many acute care beds the hospital needed.
"We haven't made any final decisions," she said. "We've had some discussions, but I suspect it's going to take a while. Over the summer we didn't do a lot.
"Whether we need any more acute-care beds, we need to stabilize and get back to where we were before we had people waiting for access to long-term care."
In 2010, Collette Smith, director of integrated health services, told the Packet they were looking at the demand for acute care beds, and whether it would be best to use the space for other services.
"We're going to sit down and look at those numbers to see if we need more acute-care beds or some alternate type of beds," she said at that time. "We're looking at our rehab patients to see what our biggest need is."
Three years later, however, Eastern Health hasn't decided how many acute care beds it will provide in the space that was formerly Sunshine Manor.
Eastern Health has now earmarked the space for an inpatient rehabilitation area, as well as two larger palliative care rooms, a new day surgery area, a waiting area, a special procedure room and an undeterminited number of acute care beds.
The uphill struggle
In the late 1980s the provincial health department found Clarenville had the second highest need for long-term care of any town in the province. As an interim measure, in 1996 government decided to convert a wing of the hospital for long-term care.
That space, named Sunshine Manor, was not enough, however.
Construction of Dr. O'Mahony Manor, annexed to the hospital, was built, providing 44 beds.
By July, 2010, there were still 58 people waiting for a long-term care beds in Clarenville, even though O'Mahony Manor started accepting patients the year before.
As of Feb. 1, this year, 40 people are on the waiting list for O'Mahony Manor, according to Zelda Burt, the authority's media relations manager.
She says 30 of those people are already in a long-term care facility, awaiting transfer to the facility of their choice. She added the average wait time for placement in a long-term care facility is 18-24 months.
In August of last year the Department of Health and Community Services announced a contract had been awarded to build a 16-bed dementia bungalow in Bonavista. At the time, health minister Susan Sullivan wasn't clear on when the $1.6 million project would be completed.
Meanwhile, in the former Sunshine Manor wing at Cross Memorial in Clarenville, some renovations have been completed already, such as a glass-enclosed nursing station, and a new day surgery and recovery area.
The former Sunshine Manor area stopped being used for acute care overflow in July, 2012, when the hospital began preparing the space for its new uses.
Burt expects the hospital's total bed count to rise from 45 beds to 51 beds when the renovations are finished.
The number won't rise by 14, which was the number of beds in the former Sunshine Manor, because they need the space to add these new features, according to Burt.