It looks like many other patient units – bustling with caregivers and patients moving around the halls.  But what it does is unique in Saskatoon Health Region.

On November 4, the new 28-bed Convalescent Unit at Saskatoon City Hospital was officially opened. The new unit provides care to medically stable adult patients who no longer require the full resources of a complex acute care nursing unit, but still need more time and therapy to recover before going home or to a home-like environment.

In simple terms, it’s a next step for those patients who need a bit more time to recuperate. This unit gives them an environment that helps them heal, with easy access to resources they need, while freeing up an acute care bed for someone who has just experienced a medical crisis and whose care needs are more complex.

A dining room, overlooking Kinsmen Park.

Patients in the Convalescent Unit are encouraged to eat their meals in a communal dining room which overlooks Kinsmen Park.

“The new unit is a great addition to the levels of care we offer our patients,” said Corey Miller, vice president of Integrated Health Services with Saskatoon Health Region. “It fills a gap for patients that need a bit more care and time in their recovery, yet no longer require all of the same resources as traditional acute care. The new unit places the right patient, in the right bed, at the right time.”

Patients from City Hospital and other acute care sites in the Region began moving into the Convalescent Unit on October 7. The unit reached full capacity at the end of October.

A large group photo of staff.

The staff of the new Convalescent Unit at City Hospital is multidisciplinary, including therapists, nurses, dietitians, pharmacists and social workers.

While its equipment is standard, the unit’s staff model is distinctive.  It has an interdisciplinary team that includes physicians, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, recreation therapists, social workers, speech language pathologists, registered dietitians, pharmacists and client/patient access services (CPAS). This team provides care in consultation with the patient and their family.

Active therapy, designed to improve strength and stability for patients, is provided directly on the unit seven days a week. Usually, patients have to go to a rehabilitation area for this kind of care. Patients are encouraged and supported to be up, out of bed, and dressed in their own clothes, and meals are served, when possible, in a communal dining room which overlooks the river and Kinsmen Park.

A double hospital room.

There are both private and double rooms for patients within the Convalescent Unit.

Discharge planning begins at the time of admission. Milestones and goals for each patient are determined in collaboration with the patient and their family within a few days of admission. The length of stay varies by patient and depends on the progress they make towards their milestones and goals.

“This unit is a new tool for our toolkit in better serving the clients of our health region,” Miller told reporters at the opening ceremony. “(We can provide) specialized care in an environment that allows us to focus on those 28 patients rather than having some patients requiring this kind of care and others requiring medical or surgical care…. We’re really happy to have it.”

This unit will not cost as much to run as one that would be more nursing-driven instead of therapy-driven, Miller said.  “It’s also more effective for the patients that are in that cycle of their care,” he continued. “Before this unit was open, many of these patients… would be dispersed all over our acute care sites. (Because) they were in beds all over, they may not necessarily have been getting the specialized care…that they receive now.”

The ultimate goal for this unit is that people are prepared to go home, Miller said.

Miller is shown at the podium through the lens of a television camera.

Corey Miller, vice president of Integrated Health Services for Saskatoon Health Region, speaks at the grand opening ceremony for the Convalescent Unit on November 4 at Saskatoon City Hospital.

“It’s about strengthening these people as they recover, preparing them to go home, and making that transition successful,” he said. “The Convalescent Unit is a place that allows patients to finish their recovery in a safe and supportive nursing environment.”

The Region is already hearing very positive things about the unit from patients and their families.

“My stay within the Convalescent Unit was exactly what I needed to help me prepare to return home after my hospital stay,” says Carol Butt, one of the first patients to receive care on the new unit, and who spoke at the official opening ceremony. “The staff’s availability and promptness in responding to our needs was a great comfort. When I was discharged, I felt confident in my ability to manage in my home environment. I am truly thankful to this much-needed space.”

Two people stand at a podium.

Saskatoon Health Region vice president Corey Miller stands near former Convalescent Unit patient Carol Butt as she speaks about her experience within the unit at the grand opening on November 4.

Butt, 65, suffered from a torn Achilles tendon and a broken leg earlier this year, undergoing surgery at Royal University Hospital and spending several weeks in the Intensive Care Unit. After going home, she ended up being admitted to St. Paul’s Hospital after contracting an infection.

“(The infection) really laid me low,” Butt told reporters at the opening. “I lost a lot of weight and strength and I just couldn’t function.”

“When I was getting stronger, the physio team at St. Paul’s recommended that I consider coming to the new Convalescent Unit that was opening here at City Hospital,” Butt stated.  “This unit would address my interim care needs and provide me time to rebuild my strength and give me the skills I would need to work towards my independence.”

Butt was the second patient admitted to this unit on October 8, and was discharged October 31. Her experience, she said, was the best you could have in the given situation.

“No one likes to be unhealthy, but since I was in the situation, I was truly grateful for the opportunity that they provided me with to regain my strength and confidence.”

Her time on the unit was busy, Butt said, and the unit fit the bill perfectly for what she needed.