Question re: Rural Continuing care facilities - May 12, 2015

Mr. Silver: With almost no public consultation, the Government of Yukon has decided to proceed with a 300-bed continuing care facility in Whitehorse.

It will centralize continuing care in a one-size-fits-all type of way. The cost estimate for this new facility is $330 million, according to the government’s own reports. Clearly money is no object when it comes to continuing care in Whitehorse. At the same time, the government is proceeding with replacing McDonald Lodge in Dawson. While there were plans to make this a 20-bed facility, these have been scaled back to 15 beds.

People whom I spoke to in my community and other rural centres are interested in staying in their own communities, Mr. Speaker. They don’t want to move to a one-size-fits-all facility hundreds of miles away in Whitehorse.

Why is the government pursuing this centralized approach instead of focusing on keeping seniors in their home communities?

Hon. Mr. Nixon: I thank the member opposite for his question. Certainly this government is very interested in moving forward with a 150-bed continuing care facility in Whistle Bend, but we are also very interested in making investments like the investments we are making in Dawson City with McDonald Lodge, with the new 15-bed facility that, as I understand it, could be expandable in the future to 20 beds, if required.

This government also stands behind the investments that we make in home care, in keeping those Yukoners — those seniors and people in need of that level of care — in their communities as long as possible.

Mr. Silver: If needed — well, it is needed — absolutely. The government is missing an opportunity to have more beds in rural Yukon. It did so because it seems to think that the solution of a big warehouse in Whitehorse would work. We can all agree that the demand for continuing care is growing. The Liberal caucus, however, disagrees fundamentally with the government on how to manage that growth. I would like to see the demand in rural Yukon being met in rural Yukon. The government’s approach is to funnel all of our seniors into Whitehorse. One of the planned studies that the government is relying on, as it proceeds with the continuing care decision, says that the only new beds that will be built in the future are all going to be in Whitehorse.

Can the minister confirm that is in fact the plan, going forward, and expand the rationale behind giving our rural seniors only one option — move to Whitehorse?

Hon. Mr. Nixon: I think the member opposite truly missed the point. We have had this discussion on the floor of this Legislature before in this session. We are moving forward with a 150-bed facility. We see construction completed in 2018. That will address the growing number of seniors who require that level of care.

Certainly we have made many investments. In fact, our investments in home care have increased over 350 percent. That home care is for individuals with a lower level of care. It is in place to keep them in their communities longer. Once a person receives, or is in need of, a very high level of care, Whitehorse seems to be the best option as far as capacity and the services and the treatment that people require with that level of care.

We will continue to make those investments. Certainly we see the Whistle Bend facility as expandable in the future if that need is there. This government supports keeping seniors in their community for as long as possible, but it also supports providing a higher level of support and service to those seniors who do require it.

Mr. Silver: With all due respect to the minister, I think it is he who has missed the point.

Rural seniors don’t want to move to Whitehorse to retire. They want to stay in their own communities. The Government of Yukon recently leaned on the City of Whitehorse to make zoning changes to allow the new $330-million facility to be built in Whistle Bend. It left at least two councillors publicly criticizing this government over its heavy-handed approach to this project and demonstrated against this government’s inability to get together and get along with other levels of government.

We’ve already heard concerns of First Nation elders in my community and in other communities who are very uncomfortable with such a large institution. I guess my question would be: In the planning of this facility, what consultation has the government had with First Nation governments regarding their needs and their plans to provide for their aging populations?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: This government continues to make investments to ensure, as much as possible, that seniors do have the ability to age in place, whether it’s investments in home care — over a 350-percent increase in home care investments — or whether it’s investing in seniors residences. We have one that’s currently being built in Mayo and also here in Whitehorse, but we’ve also invested in seniors residences in Haines Junction and Teslin and Watson Lake and Faro. These are investments that we make. You can also look at advancements in technology that, again, allow people to stay in their communities longer.

What we do know for sure is that the Member for Klondike, the Leader of the Liberal Party, has clearly not only voted against the hospital in his community and was very publicly opposed to the hospital in his community — I challenge him to ask the residents of his community whether or not they support that hospital.

The reality is that he talks about supporting long-term care beds in his community. He voted against that too, Mr. Speaker.