Norma Nikitin said she owes her independence to Health Sciences North's geriatric day hospital.
The 72-year-old has been hospitalized twice in the past two years — once in 2011 from a dropped foot and again this year for complications related to a loose spinal disc.
She also has a long list of chronic conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and spinal stenosis.
After leaving hospital, Nikitin worked with a physiotherapist at the geriatric program to regain her mobility, a dietitian to lose the weight she'd gained with medication side-effects and a pharmacist to reduce those side-effects.
“When I was being discharged, if I couldn't have come here, I would have had to go into a nursing home,” Nikitin said.
While the geriatric and adult rehab day hospital had been in existence for about three years, it recently reopened as an enhanced seniors' program called Short Term Assessment and Treatment Centre (STAT).
With the new program's launch, a physician and nurse practitioner were added to the previously existing multidisciplinary team of health professionals, which include a physiotherapist, speech language pathologist and pharmacist, among others.
While the service was previously offered at the Ramsey Lake Health Centre site, it's now located at the Sudbury Outpatient Centre (the former Memorial Hospital).
The new centre has been outfitted not only with exercise equipment, but facilities such as a kitchen and bathroom.
The program is available to Sudburians over the age of 65 who are at high risk of nursing home placement, but able to live safely in the community, who do not have a primary care provider.
Patients can be referred to STAT by hospital staff for North East Specialized Geriatric Services.
Part of the idea underlying STAT is preventing seniors from being admitted to hospital multiple times, McNeil said.
But more importantly, it aims to restore the function patients had before they were hospitalized, and delay their admission to long-term care facilities, he said.
“We know that in any hospitalization and any illness there is a real assault on an elderly person's physical health and mental health,” McNeil said.
“This is just one piece in helping people that might benefit from this to improve their function and cognitive status.”
All of the personnel and capital funding for the STAT program was reallocated from the hospital's existing budget, he said.
American studies have shown that patients released from hospital who don't have a family physician to provide follow-up care puts them at risk of being readmitted to hospital, said the hospital's medical lead of seniors care.
“As many as one-third of patients that are referred to the North East Specialized Geriatric Services in this community have no family doctor,” said Dr. Janet McElhaney.
The geriatrician said seniors' greatest fear isn't dying – it's being placed in a nursing home. She said the “star-studded” lineup of staff working at STAT will help prevent this very thing from happening.
One of the people who lobbied for the program's creation was Pat Douglas, president of the local chapter of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP).
A few years ago, the alternate level of care (ALC) patient crisis at the hospital prompted her to do a little online research on possible solutions.
She came across a page describing a geriatric day hospital program in the United States called Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), and brought the idea to hospital officials.
“It was a like a Eureka moment for me,” she said.
Nikitin said she's grateful not only for the team of professionals who work at STAT, but for those who made the program a reality in the first place.
“I know with all certainty, without them and their encouragement, I would not have come this far,” she said.