Dawson’s health centre is ancient and tiny.
Three doctors share an office smaller than most bathrooms.
And one of the centre’s three examining rooms doubles as a storage closet.
“There’s no room for anything,” said the receptionist, who wished to remain anonymous.
“There’s not even room for me to put out the patients’ charts.”
The doctors’ office is also not wheelchair accessible.
“Look how steep the stairs are,” said the receptionist.
Built in the early 1970s, the centre is in need of repair.
“The nursing station looks like it should be condemned,” said landscaper Debi Wickham who worked near the centre this summer.
The Yukon Party promised Dawson a new multi-level care facility during its term.
In fact, the party’s glossy campaign pamphlet champions its ongoing construction of multi-level care facilities in Watson Lake and Dawson City.
But ground hasn’t even been broken in Dawson, though blueprints for the facility exist.
Currently, Dawson’s only seniors’ housing is Alexander McDonald Lodge, a turquoise and white structure built in 1970, that some say looks more like a trailer than a care facility.
The lodge has 11 beds, nine of which are occupied. Not all residents have private bathrooms.
The facility also accommodates seniors from Mayo and Old Crow and is expected to be at capacity this winter.
“McDonald Lodge is ancient,” said Dawson mayor John Steins.
“And it needs to be revisited.”
But a new multi-level care facility may not be the best alternative.
Various residents voiced concerns about a health centre that shares its digs with a seniors-care facility.
The spread of germs from health-centre patients to resident seniors was one concern.
Another was the building’s multi-level plan.
If seniors are on the top floor, they are liable to fall and break something, said a Dawson care worker who asked to remain anonymous.
But if the medical centre is on the second storey and the elevator breaks, then it would be difficult to bring emergency patients upstairs, she said.
“And the only elevator repair man in the territory, lives in Teslin.”
“Senior care and a hospital are a bad combo,” said Dawson landscaper Brent McDonald.
“The ambulances will continually be waking up the seniors.”
“What we really need is a care facility with 14 to 16 beds,” said 70-year-old Dawson resident Ken Smith.
“And it doesn’t have to have doctors and dentists all in one place.
“Seniors like the sense of being on their own, but having the services when they’re needed.”
Right now, if Smith needs to go to the dentist, the optometrist, or have special tests done, he must to travel to Whitehorse.
And it’s not cheap.
“If a senior has to go to Whitehorse or Vancouver, they have to take the money out of their own pocket before they can be reimbursed,” he said.
“And lots of seniors don’t have the money, so they don’t go.”
If they do get to Whitehorse, they have to pay for lodgings, he added.
And only after the third night will the government start paying for accommodations, said Smith.
The government does assist with travel expenses, he added.
A new health centre could reduce the number of trips seniors are forced to make to Whitehorse, he said.
“The government said there was money available for a new facility,” said Smith.
“But now it’s ended up they didn’t have it.”