Whistle Bend facility design lacking

Presentations on July 26 and 27 by the territorial government will provide an opportunity for you the taxpayer to provide feedback on the proposed Whistle Bend Continuing Care Centre.

Presentations on July 26 and 27 by the territorial government will provide an opportunity for you the taxpayer to provide feedback on the proposed Whistle Bend Continuing Care Centre.

I have previously expressed my concern that the original mandate expressed in Cornerstone’s report of August 26, 2014 has been seriously missed. The centre is not only one or two stories with level ground access on both levels as requested after considered professional study, with reasonable travel distances for residents to access shared central services. It has morphed into four hotels of three stories each with no shared community, poor circulation, and no access between floors.

Here are some concerns I note that you may wish to view for yourself next week.

  • Wayfinding is dismal. there is no straight path to the front entrance;

  • Four separate buildings converge on a congested central area;

  • Corridors are plugged with linen storage, tub room and dirty laundry storage;

  • No sight line exists from nursing stations to all rooms in a wing 120 feet away;

  • No stairway is provided between floors in each wing: Exits go outside only;

  • No elevator exists in each wing or beyond fire doors in the central area;

  • Two houses dine with views of the paved rear entrance and propane tanks;

  • There is only one elevator bank as far as 300 feet from end view beds;

  • Central services are 100 to 200 feet beyond remote elevators;

  • A building permit has not been granted although construction has begun;

  • A staffing and operations plan has not been made public;

  • An evacuation plan has not been made public.

You have an opportunity to see where your tax dollars are rightly going right now to serve the needs of hundreds of citizens in need that we collectively promised to help as Canadians. Of course this is not just your money: it is money that seniors have contributed to the Government of Canada for years with the expectation to be cared for when needed. The need is now. It was actually five years ago. And for some reason an empty second floor of a $70 million hospital addition isn’t even being considered for needed continuing care beds.

Think of it like this: You own a 60-by-100 foot lot in the city and will build it out to house 12 people on each of three levels. Access to outside will be blocked. You will plan to eat meals next door on your neighbour’s property behind you, across the lane, a short walk away. Access to an elevator and central services is at the end of the block, almost five houses away. Repeat this accommodation three to seven times. For someone with a walker, that’s 1,000 steps to services. Unmanageable.

Put another way, housing is all in one end of the football field and the only elevator bank is at least 55 to 90 yards away. All services are in the far end zone and beyond. Anyone caring for a senior parent, or navigating an airport terminal, knows how troubling and exhausting such long distances can be.

I personally would embrace the opportunity for a closer, redundant service elevator specifically serving the rear entrance designed for the purpose of removing patients who have finished enjoying their time in Whistle Bend. The thought of random removal through the front lobby just seems less practical than a second service elevator. And rear access is provided for a valid reason.

I would also embrace an alternative fire plan in the event that movement within the building between fire compartments is trumped by some other kind of natural disaster. Evacuation from two upper floors with only one service elevator far from all resident wings simply seems too risky in an unanticipated emergency. It could be a forest fire encompassing the neighbourhood, a gas explosion, or a sustained un-repairable power outage. However far-fetched that it may seem now why not just enable future flexibility for added safety? Added safety can easily be incorporated now.

I formally raised my concerns last March regarding fire security and evacuation. I have had no response from local or territorial bureaucrats, fire marshals or politicians. I feel I have done my earnest best to bring these issues responsibly to light since these proposed concepts were first revealed to the public. Lateral movements and fire-resistant wall and floor treatments may fully meet the current code provisions, but why not build in a little redundancy to give options to our emergency personnel in the event of rescues and evacuations?

In lieu of stopping work on a much-needed facility why not try to make it better, given that it is now under construction? Please contribute to next week’s meetings what you can as a citizen and taxpayer. My personal concerns are based solely on caring for elderly with firsthand experience with my 94-year-old father and his colleagues in care.

From next week’s meeting take away a sense of what the Whistle Bend Continuing Care Centre has to offer given its layout. Vow to treasure other existing facilities such as the Thompson Centre, McCauley Lodge, McDonald Lodge, and Copper Ridge Place. Be ready to lobby and support their existence as alternatives to that offered by the Whistle Bend Hotel.

Robert Wills, Whitehorse

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