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Is 24 enough in Hay River?

Health and Social Services Minister Julie Green visited Hay River on April 9 for discussions with several organizations about the number of new long-term care beds needed in the community.

The number of new long-term care beds needed in Hay River was the main focus when Health and Social Services Minister Julie Green visited the community on April 9.

Green held closed meetings with several groups – the Town of Hay River, the Hay River Seniors' Society, K'atlodeeche First Nation and the Hay River Metis Government Council.

Since 2015, the GNWT had planned to build a 48-bed long-term care facility in Hay River, but that number has now been tentatively cut in half, awaiting a final decision.

"Twenty-four is the place that we're working from right now," Green told The Hub on April 12. "And one of the things that we wanted to accomplish on Friday was to figure out whether we had missed any factors in our calculations of the number of beds needed."

One of the major issues that came up was Hay River's catchment area, which doesn't include Fort Resolution and Fort Providence, she said. "So I think that what will happen is we will ask the Bureau of Statistics to look again at the numbers with Fort Res and Fort Providence in mind, and see what difference that makes."

People in those communities may be interested in long-term care in Hay River, as opposed to Fort Simpson or Yellowknife, the minister added. "So we wanted to hear from people have we thought this through properly."

Green said another issue raised during the discussions is how to account for people's preferences about where they want to go into long-term care.

For example, she noted 23 per cent of the people in Woodland Manor are not from Hay River.

"And they've chosen to be there because that's where their children are or for some other reason," she said, noting that at least one person from Hay River is in long-term care in Inuvik.

Green added there was also discussion about the need for more seniors' housing.

"I think that, if Elders had a decent place to live that is sized for their needs, the pressure on long-term care would be reduced, and it would be a benefit to the people themselves because they would be able to stay in their homes," she said.

Green noted she visited on April 9 at the invitation of Hay River South MLA Rocky Simpson.

Tom Makepeace, chair of the Hay River Seniors' Society, sounded pleased with the meeting with Green.

Productive meeting

"I think it was pretty productive," he said. "There were some good questions."

Makepeace also pointed to the issue of Fort Resolution and Fort Providence possibly affecting the number of new long-term care beds needed in Hay River.

The Seniors' Society chair added the government should also get a better understanding of the need in the community.

"You can get people isolated in a normal home and, if they never go to the doctor, nobody knows what they're doing, how their health is, what mental state they're in or health state they're in," he said. "And it creeps up on you pretty fast."

In March, Green released new projections that foresee an additional 169 long-term care beds being required in the NWT by 2034. That is a significant reduction from 2015 when projections identified a need for 435 beds in the same timeframe.

The minister said she is confident in the recent numbers from the NWT Bureau of Statistics.

"But we did want people to verify for us that we thought of all the inputs that we needed to think about," she said.

Green stated the GNWT remains committed to building a new long-term care facility in Hay River, and she would like to see construction start by this time next year.

There are currently 25 long-term care beds at Woodland Manor.

As of March, eight people were on a waitlist.