Ribbon cutting reversed

John Thompson and Genesee Keevil News Reporters On Friday, patients were supposed to move into the newly reopened Thomson Centre. But that didn't happen.

by John Thompson and Genesee Keevil

On Friday, patients were supposed to move into the newly reopened Thomson Centre.

But that didn’t happen.

After many years of renovations, and many millions spent, the continuing-care facility is still infested with mould.

“They might as well have demolished it and rebuilt it for the amount they’ve spent on it,” said a frustrated employee, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal.

Last week, with much fanfare, the territory announced the building, which stands adjacent to Whitehorse General Hospital, would be reoccupied within a few weeks.

A short time later, air quality tests picked up “minute” amounts of mould spores in the building, said Yukon Hospital Corporation spokesperson Val Pike.

Such small quantities need not worry office workers within one wing of the building, she said.

But, for elderly patients with weakened immune systems, the mould may present a danger.

So occupation of the building has been put on hold. A mould expert is being flown up from Vancouver next week.

There’s currently no indication as to when the building will be occupied by patients, said Pike.

The government should not have raised patient expectations until the building was properly assessed, said David Sloan, a former health minister and Liberal candidate.

“It looks to me like it was political grandstanding more than anything else,” he said.

And what is going to happen to all the new staff hired to work in the centre, said the employee.

“These new workers were here for the ribbon cutting, but now they don’t have a job.”

It’s all being kept “hush, hush,” added the employee.

“We have a huge gag order on us.”

It’s embarrassing, said the staffer.

“We have to keep telling people it’s been postponed again and again.”

The Thomson Centre was built in 1993 as a continuing-care facility by Tony Penikett’s NDP government. But it has been plagued with water leaks, mould infestations and other problems.

So, for the past nine years, its rooms, built to provide care to the elderly, have sat empty.

Nineteen rooms have been renovated for patients requiring intermediate care – cooked meals, and help with bathing and getting around – like what’s on offer at Macaulay Lodge.

Another 10 rooms have been redone to offer extended care, like what’s provided to residents at Copper Ridge.

But there’s no sign yet of when these rooms will become occupied. The territory must hire more nurses first.

The Yukon Party originally promised to have the Thomson Centre open by February of 2007. But it faced a succession of setbacks with meeting the building code, so the government instead focused on filling Copper Ridge’s 96 beds.

This year’s budget included $3.3 million to complete work to the Thomson Centre.

“And how many millions have they already spent?” said the employee.

“Someone needs to be accountable for the amount of money that’s being put out, because that’s been kept from the public,” they said.

“I’m pretty disgusted.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at gkeevil@yukon-news.com or John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com.