Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Vince Fedoroff

A PACKED HELLABY HALL – The Yukon NDP’s town hall meeting on continuing care drew a large crowd Wednesday evening.

Image title

Photo by Vince Fedoroff

PANELLISTS OFFER VIEWS – The Yukon NDP’s town hall on continuing care options, held Wednesday evening, included remarks from a panel. Seen left to right are Ranjit Sarin, the president of the Vimy Heritage House Society; Ken Quong, the president of the Yukon Medical Association; Sean Secord, the president of the Yukon Registered Nurses Association; and NDP MLA Jan Stick, her party’s health critic.

Care facility plan sparks range of anxieties

After about two hours’ worth of discussing Yukoners’ feelings about continuing care and the Yukon government’s 150-bed facility planned for Whistle Bend, a cabinet minister spoke the words many have been waiting to hear.

By Aimee O'Connor on September 17, 2015

After about two hours’ worth of discussing Yukoners’ feelings about continuing care and the Yukon government’s 150-bed facility planned for Whistle Bend, a cabinet minister spoke the words many have been waiting to hear.

“I agree with you when you say the location is not good,” Education Minister Doug Graham told the crowd gathered Wednesday evening at Hellaby Hall.

The former Health and Social Services minister’s admission took place at the Yukon NDP’s town hall meeting on continuing care.

Nearly 100 residents – including many seniors and politicians from the various parties – attended the meeting.

After a quick panel discussion, the microphone was handed to Yukoners to share their thoughts and personal stories involving continuing care.

“I don’t have any position … to support or refute a long-term facility in Whitehorse,” said panelist, Ken Quong, the president of the Yukon Medical Association.

“I will leave that to the politicians.”

Co-panelist Ranjit Sarin, the president of the Vimy Heritage House Society, echoed Quong’s thought on leaving it up to government to decide.

There were many concerned about the ailing or elderly being “shipped” from their communities to an institution or “warehouse” that would feel prison-like, with long corridors and lots of staff who wouldn’t be able to get to know their patients.

“I haven’t seen the plans, but I don’t think it’s 300 beds all in one room or a circle,” Quong said.

He added that the “300-bed” image people have in their minds is problematic.

“I don’t think it’s quite a fair way to characterize the facility, or any facility,” Quong said.

Graham told the meeting attendees that it was his fault that the 300-bed term is being used – in early announcements about the facility in 2014, Graham used the number 300.

It later caused confusion when Premier Darrell Pasloski referred to it as a 150-bed facility in his April 2 budget speech.

Graham explained that while 150 beds will be installed for sure, there will be infrastructure in place to support an additional 150 beds – but it won’t happen right away.

The facility has not been designed yet, he added. Those calling it an “institution” or “great big box” is a difficult thing to accept, he said.

A criticism of the facility heard time and time again – in the legislative assembly and on the streets – is that the construction of a 150-bed complex was planned and decided on without Yukoners’ input.

In a press release issued Tuesday, the government stated it is “continuing to engage with Yukon seniors about options for affordable and sustainable continuing care.”

The Department of Health and Social Services started holding meetings earlier this month with seniors to discuss the programming and physical plans for the Whistle Bend facility.

Health and Social Services Minister Mike Nixon said the initial reaction from the meetings has been positive – much unlike the reactions from Yukon seniors and other community residents last night.

While many preferred the option of supportive home care, the general concern was with the location and size of the Whistle Bend facility, not simply the building itself.

After hearing several people’s thoughts, Quong pointed out to Graham that if he were to take an issue home with him, it would be location.

The selection of Whistle Bend for the centre was due to its size and a pressing need to get the project moving, Pasloski told the Star in July.

This statement occurred in the wake of ATIP (Access to Information and Protection of Privacy) documents that had gone public earlier that week.

Whitehorse resident Tamara Goeppel made a request for information regarding the facility – she wanted to know why the downtown was not considered.

She received hordes of email exchanges and briefing notes among government officials and technical advisors that were sent throughout the location selection process for the facility.

In order of best location to worst, a report prepared by the property management division of the Department of Highways and Public Works put Porter Creek at the top, then Riverdale, followed by Copper Ridge and finally, Whistle Bend.

On April 9, senior management gave instructions to strike Porter Creek, Riverdale and Copper Ridge off of the possible locations list.

It’s unclear from the report as to why those three locations were eliminated from the list.

The report provides a summary of data which showed that Whistle Bend had potential for higher costs for building due to its silty soil, water table and potential for frost-heaving.

“Whistle Bend is a political decision. It has nothing to do with people who will be living there,” Goeppel said last night.

She has stuck to the thought of having the facility at a location at Fifth Avenue and Rogers Street – which would keep residents in a place they know well, and have memories in.

“Who here has a memory of Whistle Bend?” she asked the crowd. Her question was met with laughter.

Graham later pointed out that the city was also opposed to having the facility at Fifth and Rogers, adding there isn’t space to build downtown at all.

Other residents took issue with the location of Whistle Bend because of its distance to services such as the hospital.

In addition to this, people said that it lacks enough bus service and would be an extra step out of the way for people trying to visit, especially out-of-towners without vehicles.

Willy Shippey, the former director of Copper Ridge Place, took the microphone near the end of the meeting.

She said she was speaking up now that it would not cost her job, as she is retiring to Prince Edward Island soon.

“I don’t understand why we can’t talk about it…. I don’t know how we got here,” she said.

Quong asked Shippey a followup question: in her experience working in a care facility, would she build the facility?

Her answer was matter of fact.

“No. I would not build that facility.”

The last public hearing in regard to the Whistle Bend facility was held March 9, when city council was debating an essential zoning change for a piece of land near Keno Way that would enable the project to move forward.

Just five residents appeared at the public meeting.

Of the residents who spoke, several concerns were raised about the facility. Those included its size being too big, potential traffic problems and the facility not fitting into the “original vision” for Whistle Bend.

Days later, a Yukon Party press release quashed the former concern, stating, “By choosing Whistle Bend, the facility will be integrated into a growing subdivision and will complement the overall plan for the area.”

The rezoning was approved during the March 23 city council meeting, passing with a vote of 5-1.

Coun. Betty Irwin was the only one to vote against the motion.

Irwin said at the time it felt as though the government was pushing the city against the wall with the decision because of the urgency of finding much-needed beds for seniors on a growing waitlist for continuing care.

She had asked for more details about the project, including a list of other locations that had been considered before Whistle Bend was selected.

At last night’s meeting, questionnaires covering what types of services people currently receive and what services are priorities circulated the room.

The NDP hopes to prepare a summary of everything that was heard at the meeting, including people’s answers to the questionnaires.

The Council on Aging will be hosting an information session about the Whistle Bend facility in October.

According to the government’s statement this week, it will continue having meetings between officials and Yukon seniors until late October.

The facility is slated to be completed by 2018.

Comments (16)

Up 0 Down 0

Max Mack on Sep 23, 2015 at 5:32 pm

Who will be filling these facilities? My understanding is that seniors have been moving to the Yukon to take advantage of our very economically-priced care facilities.

While I am very sympathetic to senior issues, is it true that OUR facilities are being filled with imports? How long does a senior have to live in the Yukon before becoming eligible for a room? If true, this increased demand will, inevitably, result in increased pricing. Those pesky supply-demand curves . . .

I am also concerned that the massive expenditures on residential care facilities will result in massive increases in user fees, a corresponding reduction in allocation of resources for other health and social issues, and the come-back of the dreaded health-care premium.

Up 13 Down 8

CJ on Sep 21, 2015 at 11:15 am

@Tim from Calgary -- My sympathies. It must be awful to live in a place you like, except for the people. Hopefully we'll all fall in line so you can peacefully live out your days, starting in 25 years, in a place you really want the government to build.

I have my doubts that people in Calgary are sanguine about every decision the government makes, but whatever. We'll have to take your word for it, Tim from Calgary. I do hope your community service sentence goes better for you and you're not forced to spend too much time with people from the Yukon as you wait for the years to pass. Keep setting us straight with your incredibly insightful and informative posts and maybe the time will pass faster.

Up 9 Down 8

Wundering on Sep 20, 2015 at 9:25 pm

Whitehorse has a huge geographical area, and apparently the Territorial government wants to put facilities in every corner of it.
If it doesn't start planing now, when?
Wait until it is to late like all other cities have, and in case you haven't noticed, all cities say they can't afford transit system, but they all have them. Where did they get the money? Most got funding from the federal government. Planning and laying out transit corridors does not cost much, and a little forward thinking and planning could save considerable in the future. Whitehorse will not always be the population it is now, and no place is in the "wilderness" anymore.

Up 44 Down 1

Smurf on Sep 19, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Rapid transit system, eh? How should this look like? LRT to the Carcross Cutoff? Skytrain to Whistle Bend? Any idea who is supposed to pay for it?
Right now they're not even able to manage their existing system (infrastructure/buildings/transit - you name it) without tons of money from the government...
Just for the records: We're not in Calgary or Toronto and we are a small town with 28000 (!!!) people in the "wilderness" (still). Also we don't have a money printing facility!
So how about some more realistic ideas (Whistle Bend itself was for sure not one of it)?

Up 7 Down 26

Wundering on Sep 19, 2015 at 6:45 am

Build it and they will come, they have no place else to go.
Maybe a better transit system would help, start thinking rapid transit for Whitehorse.

Up 41 Down 10

Lost in the Yukon on Sep 18, 2015 at 4:49 pm

Dearest Tim from Calgary ... maybe you should go back to Calgary. Oh, forgot, that would mean giving up your cushy policy position for the Yukon Party Government.

Or maybe instead of discounting the legitimate concerns of many of the seniors in Whitehorse and the Communities and/or their loved ones, take the time to listen and truly try to understand what their concerns are,

Up 25 Down 14

Old timer on Sep 18, 2015 at 4:30 pm

I don't live in Whitehorse but because of family living here I would love to move here. This is a continuing care facility folks and I think that we as Yukoners are very lucky to have the facilities that we have and will have. So if the government were to build more smaller facilities are you all willing to pay your fair share for residing there? I find that some people that live in Whitehorse can find something to complain about all the time. It just sounds that you are entitled people that think they deserve everything for nothing. Perhaps a trip into the rest of Canada to compare what we have here would give you a reality check. Be thankful for what we have.

Up 59 Down 3

YukonMax on Sep 18, 2015 at 10:59 am

To us, in the communities, it doesn't matter what Whitehorse and YG wants to do for Whitehorse aging population. We don't live in Whitehorse or anywhere near. What matters to us the most is being blessed by remaining in our own community with family and friends and everyone else that makes up our personal support base as we age and even as we face our end of life.

Up 33 Down 35

Tim on Sep 18, 2015 at 8:46 am

Do people not have anything better to gripe about? I am from Calgary and people would love to have this built for them. I am now living in the Yukon and getting up there in years and have no idea what my situation will be when it comes time to think about whether this will benefit me. Home care is very important, but home care cannot be for everyone. There are still many people who need of a beautiful facility like this. Some can't live at home period. Some have little or no family able or willing to take them in. Calling this a "warehouse for old people" is just not fair. Is Copper Ridge just that? Whistle Bend is IN TOWN and being developed and starting to look beautiful. In a few more years it will be thriving. Do you think it would be better off in Copper Ridge? No. Riverdale? Why so more people can whine about the government creating traffic? Porter Creek? If you haven't noticed it is a 30 second drive from Whistle Bend and PC is further from downtown. There is NO ROOM downtown. Stop griping and start embracing. People find anything they can to complain about the government. This is a brilliant concept and I applaud them for this one. I'd also like to make my reservation for 25 years in the future....

Up 50 Down 9

Bert on Sep 17, 2015 at 10:26 pm

My choice would have been the tank farm as that is central to everything. 5 mins from anywhere and walking distance to the CGC.

Up 39 Down 6

Speak up Communities on Sep 17, 2015 at 10:16 pm

I wish the communities would speak up on this issue. If I lived for ages in one of the smaller communities, why would I want to spend my final years in Whitehorse? Nothing against Whitehorse, but I think this government is being shortsighted on this and are not listening to the electorate.

Up 31 Down 1

CJ on Sep 17, 2015 at 9:50 pm

@same thing, different decade Someone (I think Willy Shippy) said they had issues with transportation right now at Copper Ridge that sounded pretty onerous. So if they were complaining about the location back then, maybe they had a point.

You can make any building nice. But does everything we do here have to be wallpapered over so the poor decision gets kicked down the road?

Up 34 Down 4

Lost in the Yukon on Sep 17, 2015 at 5:52 pm

To "Same Thing, Different Decade?" ... the former Director of Copper Ridge answered that question. She said in essence that hindsight tells her that it is not a good location. The accessibility to the location for people to visit (those who have to rely on public transportation) is problematic. She also rattled off a number of other reasons. A downtown location, close to shops, restaurants etc. would make it much more inclusive for the resident and easier for family and friends to visit and take their loved ones out for a walk or go to a coffee shop etc.

Up 74 Down 15

June Jackson on Sep 17, 2015 at 3:33 pm

My opinion is with the seniors..I don't want to go there either. It has been one thing after another going wrong with Whistle Bend location itself..now the City is taking time off from inspecting peoples garbage to drain off the water.. I am going to hate being shut off from family..though my friends might be in there with me. It's an ugly place Whistle Bend. I wish we could vote out this government right now.

At the end of this meeting.. Dougie beat around the bush, didn't change the government stand on this issue, which Paslowski already said they would not and all the folks that turned out to the meeting... for what? The government already knows many seniors are afraid of what they are going to do to us.

Why don't they just wait a while? Maybe enough seniors will leave or die off that we won't need a facility at all.

Up 72 Down 8

Lost in the Yukon on Sep 17, 2015 at 3:18 pm

The former Minister of Health and Social Services was defensive, and dismissive of the concerns expressed by many. He only agreed to take back the "location" issue under pressure after calling the Chair of the meeting essentially dishonest in her representation of the process. The decision to build, what it will have and where it will be have already been made and this was essentially confirmed by the former Director of Copper Ridge who said she only heard about via an email. It was also felt that the former Director was leaving a job she loved because of her opposition to what was being done by this government.

They talk about consultation this fall ... It will not be true consultation. The public can have a say in the color of the walls and what carpet but Dougie rattled off a list of what is already planned to go into the building. It will be a sham and shame on Doug Graham for being misleading.

Up 45 Down 16

same thing, different decade? on Sep 17, 2015 at 3:07 pm

I would like to know if the situation was the same as this way back before the Copper Ridge facility opened and the Copper Ridge subdivision wasn't developed yet either.

Were people against it's location? If so, look at Copper Ridge now.

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.