MLAs want long-term care beds

Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen speaks at the legislative assembly. She and Hay River North MLA Robert Bouchard want the GNWT to develop a plan to turn the old Hay River Hospital into a long-term care facility.
— Danielle Sachs/NNSL photo

Hay River’s two MLAs recently brought up still-unanswered questions about the plan for long-term care beds in the community once a new health centre is
Speaking on Feb. 11 in the legislative assembly, Hay River North MLA Robert Bouchard said there are many questions about long-term beds, what will happen with other services that aren’t going to be in the new facility, and the future of the old hospital.
“My concerns here today are that the Department of Health should have had a clear picture for the community of Hay River of what exactly health and social services is going to look like for Hay River for the next 50 years,” he said.
Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen echoed those concerns.
There are 10 long-term care beds in the existing Hay River hospital, she said. “Another fact is that the new health centre does not anticipate having any long-term care beds.”
Groenewegen suggested the government undertake a technical review to look at converting the existing hospital to an extended-care facility.
“We can’t wait,” she said. “We need to know what the game plan is going to be going forward.”
Groenewegen listed some of the advantages of the existing hospital – a strategic location, large rooms in acute care and extended care, home-like common areas, a large kitchen and cafeteria, lots of parking and a well-located security desk.
“It would just seem that, if this building could be re-profiled as a long-term care facility, it’s worth looking into,” she said.
Public Works and Services Minister Glen Abernethy said that, once the Department of Health and Social Services vacates the existing hospital, it will become the responsibility of his department, which will then do a technical assessment on the building to figure out whether it can be used for other purposes.
Groenewegen said that was not the answer she was hoping for.
“There is no place for these folks to go if they vacate the building,” she said. “We can’t wait until after the building is vacated and then start doing an assessment of whether or not it could be used as a long-term care facility. There are no other 10 long-term care beds in Hay River and we certainly don’t want to be shipping our people out of Hay River to other communities.”
Bouchard asked Health and Social Services Minister Tom Beaulieu what his department has done about the problem.
“The very first process to adding long-term care beds to Hay River would be to go through the capital planning process,” Beaulieu said. “I have had discussions with the (Department of the) Executive and the Department of Health and Social Services about initiating the initial discussions that are needed at the senior bureaucratic level to talk about adding this project to the capital plan for the GNWT.”
Beaulieu said the plan is not to move people into long-term care beds outside of Hay River. “All the long-term care needs in Hay River will be addressed in Hay River.”
The minister agreed to write Public Works and Services to ask that the existing hospital be assessed as a possible long-term care facility.
When contacted by The Hub, Bouchard said he and Groenewegen are trying to keep the issue of long-term beds on the radar for the GNWT.
“As the budgets go forward, we definitely know that it’s an issue,” he said. “I know the cabinet has been discussing it and I know the minister of health has been trying to work with us to get it solved, but it’s definitely one of the things I want to keep on the radar because right now there is no set plan for the long-term care beds.”