A violent altercation last month between two residents at Woodland Manor was among the first issues raised as the new session of the legislative assembly began on Oct. 13.
Hay River North MLA Rocky (RJ) Simpson told the legislature the incident, which he said caused a fairly significant injury, is an ongoing concern at the long-term care facility.
One resident was hurt in the Sept. 9 incident at Woodland Manor, a home for the aged and disabled.
“I’ve spoken with residents of the long-term care and extended care units in Hay River,” Simpson said according to Hansard. “This incident has put many of them on edge, and they’re now concerned for their own safety. The health authority has been very proactive in trying to mitigate these risks, but, in the current system, only so much can be done to protect residents’ safety.”
Simpson said a long-term or extended care facility is home to the residents, and they have the right to feel safe in their own homes.
“We have to be concerned not only with their physical wellbeing but with their psychological wellbeing, as well, which can negatively affect their physical health,” he said.
Simpson recognized there is no simple fix for the issue.
“We can’t evict residents of these facilities who are violent,” he said. “They’re there because they can’t be cared for elsewhere. If a resident has a history of violence or poses a threat, we can’t just lock them in their room. They’re not prisoners. However, all residents of long-term care facilities are vulnerable in one way or another, and we can’t allow individuals who pose a threat or who are psychologically abusive to remain amongst a vulnerable population.”
Simpson asked Health Minister Glen Abernethy if the incident at Woodland Manor spurred the department to look into how it can create safeguards to avoid such incidents in the future.
Abernethy replied he can’t discuss individual cases, so he talked in more general terms about what the department does when there is an incident.
“When an incident does occur within a long-term care facility, regardless of where it happens to be in the Northwest Territories, immediate measures are taken to ensure that residents are safe and staff are safe. That’s our first priority,” he said.
The next step is to do an investigation.
“This is intended to help us learn from these incidents so that we can put in measures or safeguards to make sure that these types of things don’t happen again,” said Abernethy. “Our goal is to prevent future incidents.”
The minister said new long-term care facilities are designed with cameras in the hallways and other safety measures, such as doors that can be locked to isolate areas and separate individuals who might have a difference of opinion or some aggression towards each other.
Simpson also asked if the department has looked into installing cameras in existing facilities, particularly Woodland Manor.
“Currently, all of our new long-term care facilities are designed with cameras in public spaces, not in individual rooms as that would be seen as a breach of individuals’ privacy,” Abernethy replied. “There is no current plan to put cameras in existing facilities, but, if the facilities were to approach us and wish to do that, we’re certainly supportive of finding a way to make that happen within some of our existing facilities.”
Simpson asked whether there are options currently available to remove someone who might be violent from a facility and find somewhere else where that person can live.
Abernethy said moving an individual can be complicated.
“If there is a resident showing some violent tendencies or aggression, we have the ability to take them out of the facility and send them to a hospital where we can actually obtain a medical or a psychiatric assessment to determine if there are some underlying issues with the client that are leading to these aggressive or violent behaviours,” he said. “Since residents are placed in a long-term care facility and have an individual care plan, those care plans can be amended and other resources can be brought to bear to help avoid future incidents.”
Abernethy added some cases might require moving a person to a different facility and, in really complex cases, a southern placement may be considered so higher levels of support can be provided than currently available in the NWT.