New role for Chilliwack hospital rehab unit

A 20-bed subacute unit at Chilliwack General Hospital lauded for it’s “homelike atmosphere” is being turned into an outpatient clinic.

But Fraser Health officials say rehab patients will be “happier and improve faster” at home than in hospital.

“In the past many services were only provided in a hospital setting,” Valerie Spurrell, Fraser Health’s rehab director, explained in a Friday news release announcing the change.

“Outpatient programs, like those we’re adding at Chilliwack, are changing that,” she said.

Fraser Health expects to double the number of rehab patients who can be cared for at hospitals in the region, as a result of the change.

But Chilliwack patients who continue to need “high-intensity” rehab will need to go to hospitals in Surrey and Port Moody, and those with “less intensive” inpatient requirements will need to go to rehab beds at Abbotsford General Hospital.

Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz was not available at press time to comment on Chilliwack patients needing to leave the community for inpatient rehab care, but she told The Progress she would be phoning FHA officials later Monday.

FHA officials were also not available for comment Monday.

The $2.5-million rehab unit in Chilliwack opened in 2006 to provide patients with less intensive medical needs a “seamless” transition from hospital to home.

Family members were also able to take part in patient rehab programs, making the transition from hospital to home easier.

“This has been a real godsend, this place,” one rehab patient said, during a tour of the new unit by Chilliwack MLAs John Les and Barry Penner.

But Fraser Health officials said in the news release that the outpatient rehab program — called the Rehabilitation Early Discharge initiative (REDi) — has proven successful at four other hospitals in the region.

The program allows patients to go home an average of 9 to 11 days sooner, yet achieve the same, or better, levels of recovery, FHA officials said.

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