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Projections for long-term care needs a little mystifying


It's probably trite to say so because it has been said so often by others, but it really is true that the only thing that never changes is change.

Change is constant, unavoidable and predictable. That is predictable in the sense that it will happen, not in the sense that anyone can exactly know what that change will be.

So it was not surprising when the GNWT released its revised projections of the number of long-term care beds that will be required in the territory by 2034.

But it was still somewhat surprising that the numbers varied so drastically from the previous estimates of 2015.

In the intervening six years — perhaps closer to five years — the projected number of long-term care beds needed in the NWT by 2034 dropped precipitously to 169 from 435.

That is a steep decline. Some might describe it as shocking.

After all, could conditions — i.e. the number of anticipated older people needing long-term care — have changed so dramatically in a territory of just 45,000 people to warrant such a decrease in the number of required long-term care beds?

The answer to that question seems to be not really. The population of the NWT has been pretty much static for years. Last year, the territory grew by 17 people.

And everybody knows that the population is getting older.

Now this is not to question the work of the GNWT analysts who came up with the new projections.

The GNWT news release announcing those new projections was accompanied by a report containing graphs, charts and enough numbers to keep any mathematician happy. Analysts are employed by government to offer facts and figures, and there is no reason to doubt the accuracy of the numbers behind the long-term care bed projections.

And there is no reason to believe that the experts back in 2015, perhaps some of the same people, were incorrect.

The change is what happens to those numbers when mixed with social and political goals.

Health and Social Services Minister Julie Green, noting her department worked with the NWT Bureau of Statistics to re-do the projections for long-term care beds, said, "We are confident that these projections are based on the best evidence available."

That evidence includes the average age of admission into long-term care and the care levels individuals require upon admission.

"We will use our home and community care resources more effectively," Green said in the legislative assembly. "This means that seniors will receive the support they need in their home communities for as long as possible without going into long-term care."

So it appears that government priorities and strategies may be partly the reason for the drastic decrease in the projected number of long-term care beds.

That brings us back to constant change.

Based on the 2015 projections, Hay River expected and had been told since then that it would eventually get a 48-bed long-term care facility.

Now, it is being told that it will still soon get such a facility, but with a yet-to-be-determined number of beds.

It would probably be best to get that new facility built as soon as possible just in case the projections change once again.