'Out in the cold': Wascana rehab patients displaced by Pioneer Village mould woes

Mould at Pioneer Village is having a domino effect, with patients at the long-term Regina care facility shifting to Wascana Rehabilitation Centre and displacing the patients who had been using the hostel there.

Mould at long-term Regina care facility sees Pioneer Village patients temporarily shifted to rehab centre

Albert Konowalchuk is a father to a patient who uses the Wascana Rehabilitation Centre. He and NDP MLA Carla Beck spoke Wednesday about the challenges faced by the families of Wascana patients after Pioneer Village patients displaced them. (CBC News)

Mould at Pioneer Village is having a domino effect, with patients at the long-term Regina care facility shifting to Wascana Rehabilitation Centre and displacing the patients who had been using the hostel services there.

Albert Konowalchuk has been bringing his son Edward from Togo, Sask., regularly to the Regina rehab facility for the past 13 years. He said his son has come to depend on the facility, its services and the friends he's made there. 

"The challenge is for handicapped people to get out. And this is a place for handicapped people," he said. "It's not here for long-term patients from Pioneer Village."

"The continued presence of mould" was found in the facility as part of of ongoing maintenance and monitoring in April 2018, the Saskatchewan Health Authority said last month in a news release.

In all, 94 residents have been moved — 65 in the hostel unit and 29  in long-term care units.

Patients at Wascana Rehabilitation Centre will not be able to use accommodation services that were earlier provided to them, after 36 patients at long-term care facility Pioneer Village had to temporarily move into the site. (CBC News)

Saskatchewan Government Insurance will help Konowalchuk's family with alternative accommodation, but he said the change will hurt patients, families and the rehab centre itself. He said the government should have been building a new long-term care facility years ago.

"But unfortunately, they passed the buck to other departments and now this department's going to be suffering."

NDP MLA Carla Beck pointed out that the Saskatchewan Health Authority's first budget shows that much of the province's medical infrastructure is in disrepair. 

"What it is, at its core, is a failure to invest in maintenance and preventative maintenance," she said, noting the health region has seen its deferred maintenance costs grow to $3.3 billion.

'Not an easy decision'

Debbie Sinnett, Saskatchewan Health Authority's executive director of continuing care, said that the 94 people had to be moved out of Pioneer Village to clear out two floors so they could be examined for mould. The rehab facility was "uniquely suited" to accommodate some of the patients, she said.

"It was not an easy decision to make."

Several of the rehabilitation centre patients have support from SGI or the Workers' Compensation Board to find alternate accommodation, she noted.

"But we know whenever you make a change, it's very difficult to make that adjustment and we've offered our support as well," she said.

Debbie Sinnett, Saskatchewan Health Authority’s executive director of continuing care, estimates it could take six to 12 months to assess and address the problems at Pioneer Village. (CBC News)

Thirty-six people from Pioneer Village will move to Wascana, while the remaining patients have either been relocated elsewhere in Pioneer Village or moved to other long-term care facilities, she said.

Once patients have been moved, the health authority will take a closer look at the Pioneer Village building to provide Minister of Health Jim Reiter options on what to do next, whether it's repairing or replacing the long-term care facility, or another option, Sinnett said.

The current move is a temporary one, with the assessment and remediation likely taking between six months to a year, she said.

"We need to do some work on that building. We don't have an immediate option." 

Konowalchuk said the only solution he sees is for the government to begin building a proper long-term care facility.

"If you're going to fix something, you have to do it properly so it [doesn't] happen again," he said.

However, he knows that's a fix that won't happen overnight for his son and others who use the rehab centre.

"Unfortunately, we have to be out in the cold."