Thomson Centre work underway

Contractors are finally banging nails in the Thomson Centre and making long-awaited renovations to the continuing-care facility, which sits adjacent to Whitehorse General Hospital.

Contractors are finally banging nails in the Thomson Centre and making long-awaited renovations to the continuing-care facility, which sits adjacent to Whitehorse General Hospital.

The work ought to be complete by the end of February, said Michael Cowper, project manager for the Yukon Hospital Corporation.

In early December, Health Minister Glenn Hart vowed the Thomson Centre’s continuing care beds would, once again, be occupied by the end of that month. Since then, another deadline’s blown by and the work’s budget has swollen to $2.3 million from $1.5 million.

It’s all part of a familiar pattern for the facility, which was built in 1993 as a continuing-care facility under Tony Penikett’s NDP government. It has been plagued with water leaks, mould infestations and other problems.

As a result, the 40 rooms designed to provide continuing and palliative care to the elderly have sat empty. Instead, pockets of the centre have been used as office space and to house physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

The Yukon Party vowed to fix the mouldering facility when it rose to power. But that’s proven easier said than done.

When Brad Cathers was Health minister, he promised to open the facility by February of 2007. But those plans were put on hold after the territory encountered more problems meeting the building code.

Instead, focus was put on offering continuing care at Copper Ridge Place. When that facility filled up last year, Health Minister Glenn Hart promised to open the Thomson Centre by September 2010.

When that deadline passed, Hart said it would open by the end of December.

Now that deadline’s gone too. The renovations budget grew once the cost of the work was appraised in more detail, said Cowper.

Some contractors are tackling the mildew problems by replacing windows and soggy drywall. Others are rewiring the building, so that each room is wired for phone, internet and television. The building is also being outfitted with a new call system that will allow patients to wirelessly page nurses anywhere in the building.

Washroom doors are being widened to accommodate wheelchairs. Some washrooms will have special lifts, such as those already found in Copper Ridge Place, installed to carry patients.

A wing designed for dementia patients is being refitted for elderly patients in need of extended care. And one room is being refitted for an extremely overweight patient.

Twenty-nine of the centre’s 44 rooms ought to be fit for occupancy when renovations are done. But it remains to be seen how many of these beds will actually be open – in December, Hart only promised that 20 beds would be available.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

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