Data from the RCA reveals the impact of the second and third wave of the pandemic on rehab capacity in the community. The data—gathered from providers of publicly funded ambulatory and in-home rehabilitation—showed a major reduction in operating capacity and patient volumes in ambulatory rehab and continued challenges in both ambulatory and in-home settings.

The survey was conducted in the summer of 2021 and followed the RCA’s fall 2020 survey which captured the impact of the pandemic’s first wave. Responses were received from 68 ambulatory rehab clinics and 23 in-home service providers across the province. Details are available in a summary report.

Key findings:

Ambulatory rehab programs/clinics

  • Reduced operating capacity continues: At the time of the 2021 survey, 90% of responding organizations reported that they were operating at reduced capacity. The average operating capacity was 72% of pre-pandemic levels.
  • Various factors contributed to reduced capacity: The two most cited factors contributing to reduced capacity were full or partial clinic closures due to the pandemic and patients declining in person/virtual care services. Other factors included: reduced capacity on reopening due to physical distancing requirements, fewer referrals received, the hold placed on surgeries and staffing not available due to pandemic redeployment.
  • Patient volumes have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels: On average, estimated overall patient volumes for 2020/21 were down 44% from pre-pandemic volumes.

In-home rehab

  • Capacity challenges continue: The most cited factors impacting in-home rehab referrals included increased referrals due to greater numbers of hospital discharges to community, and ambulatory care centres closing. At the same time, capacity was reduced due to staffing issues. 

Providers anticipate changes based on summer vaccine rollout

The RCA presented the survey results to the participating organizations in October, and providers noted that a number of developments since the survey may lead to an increase in referral requests in the coming months. In particular, the rollout of vaccines has led to people being more comfortable seeking care and/or seeing their family physicians, with referrals increasing as a result. Delayed surgeries are also being rescheduled. However, providers also noted that the patients they are seeing are much more complex. In-home providers noted that human resources continue to be a significant challenge, in particular, a shortage of allied health professionals. In-home providers also noted that the shift to virtual care will be an important option to community rehab over the long term. 

For more information, please contact Katie Churchill, Project Manager.