The NWT’s health minister says the number of long-term care beds to be built in Hay River has been halved because better data is now available.
Julie Green faced questioning in the legislature from Hay River South MLA Rocky Simpson after the news, two weeks ago, that Hay River will now receive 24 new long-term care beds instead of the 48 beds initially announced in 2015.
More broadly, the NWT government has more than halved its estimate of the number of long-term care beds it will require across the territory by 2034.
“I have a difficult time believing so much has changed in five years, when our population has had a minimal change overall,” Simpson told the legislature on Monday.
Green, responding, said: “What has changed is a greater amount of data about actual use.”
The minister said new data had been used by the NWT Bureau of Statistics to paint a more accurate picture of how long-term care facilities are currently used and how the need for them is likely to grow.
“We have actual information to rely on. In 2015, those were truly projections based on bed ratios for age. What we have now is actual, versus projected, which is why those two numbers are different,” Green told Simpson.
While Simpson criticized the NWT government for making decisions about Hay River without consulting the community, Green said the figures behind the decision were raw data from statisticians that would not ordinarily be the subject of community engagement.
Even so, the health minister insisted, a forthcoming trip to Hay River to talk to affected parties would be a genuine dialogue with the possibility of change.
“We do want to verify the numbers with residents of Hay River and we plan to meet with the town council, the seniors’ society, and with the Indigenous organizations,” Green said. “We want to make sure that we haven’t overlooked or missed anything that is important to the calculation of these numbers, so I’m going to say this is a genuine way of getting community input into this.
“I don’t know what the end result is.”
Simpson expressed concern that dividing the previously planned 48-bed facility into two – 24 beds in Hay River and 24 in Fort Smith, as Green had envisaged earlier in the month – would end up being more costly for the territorial government.
Green, however, said the issue of ageing in place went “beyond budgets and money.”
Seniors “want to stay in their home,” Green said. “They want to have services that come to them from the community, whether it’s a nurse or a personal support worker or a family member, and they want these people to assist them to remain independent for as long as possible. That’s really the future for Elders in the Northwest Territories and in the country as a whole.
“Long-term care has turned out to be a disaster in southern Canada. It has turned out to be a place where way too many people have died because of poor or no standards, poor regulation, issues around having people work in multiple places for very low wages. We are fortunate here in the sense that the government offers long-term care and so there is accountability.
“There isn’t a need to make a profit. We can accommodate people where they are.”