Yukon budgets $5M for 14 'temporary' long-term care beds

The Yukon government says it needs to create long-term care space immediately to alleviate an urgent need. A $5 million project announced today will create 10 more spaces in Whitehorse, at the Thomson Centre.

Thomson Centre office space retrofitted for patients in long-term care

The Thomson Centre has a view of the Yukon River. In recent years a wing has been been used by office workers, instead of patients. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

The Yukon government has announced a $5 million project to create more long-term care beds. This includes renovations and putting 10 long-term care beds back into the Thomson Centre in Whitehorse — at least for now.

The project's total cost is $5 million. Renovations to the Thomson centre will cost about $1 million, with the remaining $4 million covering new staffing for home care and the creation of four new spaces in Dawson City's McDonald lodge.

The territory has reached full occupancy on its 193 long-term care beds, and the lack of additional beds has forced some surgeries at the hospital to be cancelled or postponed.

Health Minister Mike Nixon says there is immense pressure on the government to find extra space for patients, immediately. 

"Our focus for the next little while is to do what we can do as a government to meet the needs that are creating the pressures right now," Nixon said.  

The territory is building a new 150-bed continuing care facility in Whitehorse's Whistle Bend neighbourhood, but that won't open for two years.

Office workers move out, patients move in 

Nixon announced on Monday that about 10 office workers will be displaced from their offices at the Thomson Centre, to make way for 10 new long-term care beds. 

Despite the $1 million budget for renovations, the new beds at the Thomson Centre could only be temporary. Yukon Health Minister Mike Nixon said he didn't know if patients would remain there after 2018. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

The Thomson Centre opened in 1993 as an extended care facility, but the building was plagued with mould problems and sat empty for years. Some extended care beds were eventually moved back, but the rest of the building became office space.

The new beds, which should be ready for occupancy by October, will mean the facility can again house 39 long term care patients, as originally designed.

But despite the $1 million budgeted for new renovations, Nixon could not say whether the beds will remain there after 2018, when the Whistle Bend facility opens. 

The government also announced on Monday that Whitehorse General Hospital will create four "holding beds" in the inpatient unit, for patients awaiting admission — although those beds won't increase the hospital's overall bed count.

Craig Tuton, chair of the Yukon Hospital Corporation, said the holding beds will spare continuing care patients from having to spend time in the emergency ward. 

Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski says the renovation will help alleviate urgent need. All 193 of Yukon's existing continuing care beds are full. (Philippe Morin/CBC )

"This will allow more Yukoners to be in the right care, at the right place, at the right time," he said.

Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski said on Monday the facility in Whistle Bend will ultimately provide much-needed relief, with 150 beds, but said he realizes the crunch has been difficult for patients and healthcare staff. 

"While we wait for this facility to open, our community has leaned on the hospital and its incredible staff to fill the short-term gap. And we know that that has to change," he said.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated the cost of the Thomson Centre renovations at $5 million. In fact, the $5 million budget also includes the cost of creating new spaces at Dawson City's McDonald Lodge and new staffing.
    Jul 19, 2016 8:02 AM CT
  • An earlier version of this story said four beds at Whitehorse General hospital would be permanently reallocated to long-term care. In fact, those "holding beds" will be used by patients awaiting admission to hospital.
    Jul 20, 2016 12:26 PM CT