Question re: Continuing care facilities - April 9, 2014

Mr. Silver:   I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services about the government’s new continuing care facility. Last week, the government confirmed it was barging ahead with the largest construction project in the territory’s history, despite the fact that no business case analysis was done. A decision has already been made to build a 300-bed facility. It seems a bit futile to spend $7 million on a design and then ask the public what they think when the design is already completed. By the time the government is ready to go to the public, the only decision left to be made will be: What colour will the curtains be?

When is the minister planning to consult with Yukoners, exactly?

Hon. Mr. Graham:     Once again, I’ll make every attempt to educate the member opposite in the process by which capital projects are undertaken by this government. When a need has been indicated by a department, a needs assessment is then done. That needs assessment has been done. That needs assessment showed us that — through the use of home care, through the number of seniors that is rapidly increasing here in the territory and a number of other indicators — that the long-term care use in the territory will increase by at least 300 to 320 beds in the next 10 years.

Once that needs assessment was done, this government took the decision to go ahead with planning for a 300-bed facility. As part of the planning process, we entered a business case phase of the program. That is the current phase we are in. As part of a business case development, the numbers that we produced during the needs assessment are reviewed. That is currently being done, and it found that not only were our numbers accurate, they were perhaps a little low. That is the phase we have now entered.

Mr. Silver:   The Yukon Party government has time and time again been criticized by the Auditor General of Canada for its failure to plan for major capital projects, and we are seeing the same mistakes repeated on this new continuing care facility.

On March 27, the minister told a local paper that the government would like to see a mix of government, non-profit and private operators in the territory when it comes to continuing care facilities. The government already operates 182 beds and has announced a plan for 300 more. If the government wants to put more focus on the non-profit and the private operations, what is the rationale for not developing these sectors and, instead, barging ahead with a new 300-bed facility?

Hon. Mr. Graham:     Once again, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to educate the member opposite.

There are a number of different phases of aging. The member opposite has obviously not entered any of these phases. I have.

Mr. Speaker, you have to be aware that people don’t all require a continuing care facility. There are secondary care facilities, there are a number of graduated facilities where seniors can spend their time. We are hoping and we are encouraging the private sector and the non-government sector to enter into those other areas. Secondary care is a perfect example. An NGO or a private operator would probably do very well in the provision of secondary care to Yukon seniors. What it is about is offering options to Yukon seniors. I realize the Opposition doesn’t want to see that happen. We would like to see that happen.

We understand that continuing care is a responsibility of this government and that’s why we’re proceeding on the path that we are. We would like to see other sectors of the society take an interest in seniors as well and provide care in various stages.

Mr. Silver:   If continuing care was such a priority for this government, then why was it not identified as a platform item in their 2011 election campaign? If it was such a priority, then why has it taken this government three budgets to bring it to the table?

If the government has already decided to build a 300-bed facility, surely it knows how much it will cost to operate, run programs and how it will be staffed. This is another recommendation from the Auditor General — don’t build something unless you know the cost to operate it. What are the staffing and program costs associated with a facility of this size?

Hon. Mr. Graham:     Isn’t it interesting that the member opposite would have us place such a complex in our platform without having done a needs assessment — without having done any assessment whatsoever. I am not sure what the member opposite believes that we should be doing.

Mr. Speaker, in our election platform was a continuing care facility for the municipality of Dawson City. That will be proceeding in the coming year. In our platform were a number of other things that we are accomplishing as well. Obviously the member opposite is not aware that there was a number of continuing care beds added in the Thomson Centre. This is part of the expansion of continuing care. What we also did is improve home care so that we would keep elderly folks in their homes in a familiar setting for a longer period of time, so that they didn’t have to make use of continuing care.

The member opposite did not make any comments last year, when the increased continuing care budget was produced. I don’t know what he expects. One time he is saying we have not done any planning; in the next he is saying we should make commitments without doing any planning whatsoever. He has to make up his mind what side of the fence he is on.