Surrey Memorial Hospital to move patients to 'transitional housing' in hotel to free up beds

Those with precarious housing or who are unhoused will be moved to a nearby hotel to free up space at the overcrowded hospital.

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Fraser Health is spending millions of dollars to house patients at a nearby motel as they are moved out of acute care at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

The hospital has been battling overcrowding for years, but the health authority says the use of a hotel for what it calls “community transitional housing” is about providing round-the-clock care, social and rehabilitation services to vulnerable patients who live in precarious housing or who are unhoused.

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The George Point Inn at 9414 King George Blvd. will have space for 53 patients once it scales up starting Monday. The inn bills itself as a quiet and safe motel close to shopping and other amenities, offering “cleanliness, seclusion, fair cost and, above all, safety.”

Fraser Health spokesman Nick Eagland said the entire motel, all 53 rooms, will be used and that minor renovations have already been completed.

The total annual operating cost for the program is expected to be $5.5 million, plus the leasing cost of $4.5 million over two years.

“We will determine the future of this pilot program through ongoing and systematic assessments allowing us to evaluate its effectiveness, identify areas for improvement and make informed decisions to ensure its success,” said Eagland in a statement.

“This unique transitional housing environment will ensure eligible vulnerable patients benefit from a continuum of care after they no longer require hospital services, keeping them connected to the health support services they need,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix on Wednesday.

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George Point Inn
One of the hotel suites at George Point Inn. All 53 rooms at the motel will serve as transitional housing for patients at nearby Surrey Memorial Hospital. Photo by Fraser Health

Dix said the transitional housing plan is one of dozens of actions the Health Ministry is taking to address concerns raised by doctors, nurses and health-care workers at the overburdened hospital.

“We know people need a safe, supportive environment after hospital discharge, where compassionate care nurtures their recovery,” said Fraser Health president and CEO Dr. Victoria Lee. “We’ve carefully designed community transitional housing to help us ensure more patients benefit from wraparound, personalized care that improves their quality of life.”

Fraser Health will have a dedicated team at the inn providing wraparound supports to help patients recover, reduce complications and minimize the number of people being readmitted or going to emergency.

Once patients complete their stay, typically a few weeks, staff will continue to help patients as they return home or get them into community-based supportive housing.

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Dix announced more money for Surrey Memorial in June, promising to address overcrowding and safety concerns raised by doctors in a series of letters sent to the Health Ministry and Fraser Health a month earlier.

The plan outlined 30 specific actions to tackle the situation from all angles, including opening a care and triage unit in the emergency department, using community health-care services to take the pressure off of the hospital and boosting staff levels.

B.C. United party Leader Kevin Falcon said at the time it was a Band-Aid fix for the overwhelmed hospital, while Dix countered that the former Liberal government was to blame for selling land near Surrey Memorial that could have been used for another health facility.

— With files from Glenda Luymes

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