New Thomson Centre beds not enough: NDP

On Monday, residents began moving into 10 new beds at the Thomson Centre. The move is a good start, but more must be done to address the need for affordable long-term care, said Jan Stick, the NDP's MLA for Riverdale South.

On Monday, residents began moving into 10 new beds at the Thomson Centre.

The move is a good start, but more must be done to address the need for affordable long-term care, said Jan Stick, the NDP’s MLA for Riverdale South.

The centre opened in 1993 as a long-term care facility with plans for 44 beds. But the building was beset with water leaks and mould problems, leading it to be shut in 2002.

The Thomson Centre came to host offices and various therapists. After numerous delays, 18 beds opened last summer.

The centre’s new residents are coming from Whitehorse General Hospital, the community and other care facilities.

There are plans to open 16 or 17 additional beds, said Liris Smith, the Health department’s director of care and community.

Health Minister Doug Graham recently indicated his government plans to hike the price paid by long-term care residents. Stick called on him to clarify his plans.

“All Yukoners deserve access to long-term care, regardless of how much they can pay,” she said.

Graham was unavailable for comment before the News’ deadline.

There are approximately 20 people across the Yukon on a waiting list for long-term care, said Smith. In 2007, the waiting list was roughly the same.

This shortage of long-term beds means there is less space available at the hospital for acute care.

And there are no beds designated for palliative care in the Yukon, said Cathy Routledge, outgoing executive director of Hospice Yukon.

“The beds have been a missing piece for a very long time,” she said.

It means hospitals “don’t have acute beds when you need them,” she said. “So where are you putting the really sick people?”

As the population ages, this problem will also grow. Before, many people left the Yukon when they retired, said Routledge. Now, not only are people staying, but more are also coming here to retire.

Health and Social Services has a palliative care team that travels throughout the territory. But patients dying in hospital, and their families, need a different form of care.

Not all nurses are gifted in working with dying people, and not all have been trained for the situation. Those who care for dying people well are “like shining lights” during an extremely stressful time, said Marilyn Wolovick, executive director of Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services.

Wolovick’s husband died last September at Whitehorse General Hospital. A cancer patient, he spent the last month of his life in the surgical ward. The ward was busy and stressful.

Wolovick felt she “had to be advocating all the time.” One of his remaining pleasures was taking a bath, an activity that required two people. He wasn’t able to receive one very often.

Ideally, she would like a place where families can stay with individuals who are dying, she said.

The family’s needs are also important, said Allanna Wieb. Her partner of almost 20 years, David Amirault, died just over three years ago at Whitehorse General.

Palliative care made all the difference. David had leukemia, and he did not like the sight of blood. So the palliative doctor had his bed made with chocolate brown sheets, so if there was blood, it would be harder to see.

Extra care made sure “the family could just love him and be with him,” she said. “I don’t know if I would physically be able to take care of him.”

Contact Meagan Gillmore at

mgillmore@yukon-news.com

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