Residents are moving into 10 new continuing care beds at the Thomson Centre in Whitehorse this week.
The first two residents moved in on Tuesday, and the last two are expected by Oct. 11, said Katharina McArthur, the centre’s manager.
The new beds are part of a group of measures announced in July that are intended to alleviate the strain on the Whitehorse General Hospital, which is housing more and more long-term care patients with nowhere else to go.
The initiative was announced after Dr. David Storey published a letter in June that decried the lack of available beds and understaffing at the hospital.
Five of the new Thomson Centre residents are coming out of the hospital, McArthur said. One is coming directly from home, and the four others are being transferred from other continuing care centres in Whitehorse. Those four spots will then be filled by other residents from the hospital or the community.
McArthur said some residents are being shuffled between centres because the facilities offer different levels of care. The new Thomson Centre unit offers extended care, the highest level available.
“We have an obligation to provide the right level of care to those people that are in our care,” she said.
The Yukon government has also extended home care hours on evenings and weekends, and has hired a new full-time occupational therapist and four home-care support workers.
Yukon Hospital Corporation spokesperson James Low said a recreational therapist and a speech language therapist have also begun working with the long-term care patients in the hospital, to reduce the workload for hospital staff.
In addition, four new holding beds for patients awaiting admission to the hospital should be ready within the next month, he said.
“I think the hospital is encouraged that some of the steps we’re taking are moving us in the right direction,” Low said. “It will likely alleviate some of the immediate pressure that comes with managing this issue on a daily basis.”
But the Whitehorse hospital is still functioning at close to full capacity. Low said occupancy averaged 90 per cent in September, and the hospital was full about 50 per cent of the time.
McArthur said there are currently about 50 people on the wait list to get into a continuing care room in the territory, and there are seven new applications as of Sept. 1.
The new rooms at the Thomson Centre were renovated over the last few months, as they were previously used as office space. Low said the renovations include new flooring and plumbing, a new kitchen and serving area for the unit, new grab bars and nurse call buttons, and cables for TV, phone and internet connections. Whitehorse-based TSL Contractors was the main contractor for the renovations.
The government puts the total cost of the renovations was $594,000.
McArthur said close to 15 new staff have been hired for the new 10-bed unit. The operations and maintenance budget for the new unit is $2.04 million, and the funds will be included in a supplementary budget, according to a Health and Social Services spokesperson. The project was not included in the Yukon government’s spring budget.
The government maintains that the 150-bed continuing care centre under construction in Whistle Bend, scheduled to open in 2018, is the long-term solution to the bed shortage in the territory. McArthur said the new staff at the Thomson Centre will likely transfer to Whistle Bend if the unit closes once the new centre opens its doors.
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