Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

UNHAPPY ONLOOKERS – A number of people attended Monday’s ground-breaking ceremony for the new continuing care facility to protest its large size and its location in the Whistle Bend subdivision. Inset Sheila Dodd

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

SOD OFFICIALLY TURNED – Premier Darrell Pasloski, Health and Social Services Minister Mike Nixon and Mayor Dan Curtis (left to right) break the ground Monday for the new continuing care complex in Whistle Bend.

Protesters flock to ground-breaking ceremony

A site on Olive May Way became the scene of a groundbreaking protest Monday morning.

By Stephanie Waddell on May 10, 2016

A site on Olive May Way became the scene of a groundbreaking protest Monday morning.

A large crowd of residents joined Yukon government and city officials at the groundbreaking of the territory’s planned 150-bed continuing care facility, continuing to voice their opposition to the location, size and design.

While some carried signs stating their opposition, others made their views known during the speeches and a question and answer period.

Many have described the size of the facility (to be built with an initial 150 beds with room for another 150 to be added later) and design as being more of a warehouse or hotel for residents, and not a home.

The $146-million facility should be built closer to the city’s centre and the hospital, many have argued.

As Sheila Dodd commented before the ceremony began, she is happy to see a project that will mean jobs for Yukoners, but it needs to be moved.

“Location really matters,” she said.

Like many others arguing against the location Monday, Dodd was quick to note the time it will take for emergency services to make their way to the Whistle Bend site. She noted the difference a few minutes make when it comes to medical emergencies.

Dodd regularly gives seniors drives to various appointments. She noted the challenges that many families would face in visiting loved ones living at the facility away from the city’s centre.

Many potential residents want to live close to services offered in the downtown area, she said.

Dodd pointed out there is a large piece of land on Nisutlin Drive that could have been used for a continuing care facility.

Many argue the government is building the facility in the wrong location.

Others pointed to issues with transit and the difficulty many might have in dropping by the facility on their noon hour or on the way home from work to visit a loved one.

Still another told government officials the site is so far away they nearly ran out of gas getting to the groundbreaking ceremony.

Government officials, however, painted a different picture of the future facility amid the continued comments volleyed at them by protesters during the ceremony.

Premier Darrell Pasloski was quick to note the careful consideration and analysis that went into selecting the location at 5 Olive May Way.

Any change in plans could end up having a significant negative impact on those who may work or take training on the two-year building project as well as those who are on the list of 60 people waiting for a continuing care bed, the premier said.

As Pasloski spoke, calls to “Move it!” and “Provide better home care!” came from the crowd.

He and Health and Social Services Minister Mike Nixon emphasized the increased spending the territory has put into home care in recent years.

They also pointed out that in many cases, a patient needs more services than home care can provide. When home care is no longer sufficient, continuing care is needed.

While there is no wait list for home care services, the wait list for continuing care beds continues, they noted.

Nixon also stressed the work that’s going into making residents feel at home in all of the territory’s continuing care facilities.

“We strive to create a home-like environment for residents,” he said.

The Whistle Bend facility will feature seven different “houses” of individual rooms all connected to a “village square”.

That common area will feature services like a hair salon, coffee and gift shop, an arts and crafts studio, gym, a First Nations healing room and a devotional space among others features.

“But no medical treatment,” one protester was quick to interrupt.

Nixon then went on to highlight the dedicated beds for palliative care, secure facilities for those with mental health issues and dedicated space for day programming for patients who may not live there but need programming, meals and bathing services through the day.

While Nixon spoke about what will be offered in the facility, Mayor Dan Curtis focused on the Whistle Bend neighbourhood.

It’s difficult to imagine, he acknowledged, the future of phase three in Whistle Bend, which the continuing care facility is a part of.

However, he continued, to the left of the ATCO trailers that are on the site will be Keno Way - the Main Street of the Whistle Bend neighbourhood - set to include shops and services.

A protestor again yelled out that there won’t be needed medical services.

Curtis was quick to ask that the heckling stop until after he was done speaking and that the protester “show some respect.” That request was met with applause from territorial and city officials.

“This is a phenomenal neighbourhood,” the mayor said.

A total of 270 lots that can provide more than 350 homes have already been purchased in the first three phases of the city’s newest neighbourhood.

“That’s the size of five Valleyviews,” Curtis commented.

He later addressed Dodd’s point that vacant land on Nisutlin Drive in Riverdale would be a better spot for the facility.

The land belongs to the Kwanlin Dün First Nation. Curtis said he understands the size could not accommodate the space needed for the proposed facility.

There is no space of that size available in either the downtown area or Riverdale, he said.

“It’s just not viable,” he said.

Similarly, Nixon painted a picture of a “thriving community” of Whistle Bend in the future.

It takes about the same amount of time to travel from downtown to the site as it does to get from downtown to the Copper Ridge Place continuing care facility, he noted.

Nixon mentioned other areas that were considered, including the former tank farm site that would have required significant remediation and an area in Porter Creek which would have required blasting near a school and residential area.

Local resident Robert Wills, meanwhile, took issue with the potential fire danger.

He argued there’s been no confirmation it will be built to a required protection standard. He spoke of the difficulty in getting residents with significant mobility issues out of a building that would have three levels.

Pasloski suggested Wills’ arguments are fear-mongering, and noting the construction will be to the highest level.

Pat Living, a Department of Health and Social Services spokeswoman, also emphasized in a separate interview the building is being constructed to the highest level for fire protection.

It’s designed so that it would take an hour and a half for flames to spread between walls.

There are plans in place so that residents could be moved to rooms down the hall and out of the building in the case of an emergency, Living added.

While protesters continued to make their points, government officials also stood their ground, eventually making their way from the podium to the ceremonial shovels that they dug into the earth.

Even after the ceremony concluded, the arguing continued into the legislature during question period, with the opposition parties raising the issue.

The Yukon Party caucus sent out a press release taking issue with a petition they argue is being circulated by the Yukon Liberal Party to stop work on the project.

“We have always believed that the Yukon Liberal Party would cancel the Whistle Bend continuing care facility,” Pasloski said in a statement.

“The Liberal leader (Sandy Silver) has articulated his desire to build smaller facilities throughout the territory, which would bankrupt our health care system, and the Liberal candidate in Whitehorse Centre (Tamara Goeppel) has made stopping the work a centrepiece of her campaign.”

The Liberals have previously asked Yukoners to follow the example of the Alberta government, which cancelled a continuing care facility after getting elected, it was noted.

The cancellation cost Alberta taxpayers millions of dollars and is expected to massively delay the project completion date, the Yukon Party argued.

“We continue to hear from Yukoners, family members and health professionals that these continuing care beds are urgently needed,” Nixon added.

“The Liberals should explain to those families why they would further delay giving their loved ones the care they need.”

(Both the Liberals and NDP said last month they would not cancel the project if they win this year’s territorial election.)

Dozens of Yukoners are currently on the wait list for continuing care beds, and others occupy beds in Whitehorse General Hospital that could be used for other services, it was pointed out.

The Whistle Bend continuing care beds are estimated to cost $500 per day per bed, while hospital beds being used for the same purpose cost $2,400 per day per bed.

Comments (6)

Up 11 Down 5

Bob M on May 11, 2016 at 2:59 pm

June, you complain/whine every day about our Premier, yet you can't even spell his name correctly. You sound so tired, are you excited to live in Whistlebend?

Up 6 Down 15

Debby Sorokopud on May 11, 2016 at 12:14 pm

I worked at CPR the second year it was opened. As a new comer to Whitehorse I was exposed to all sorts of comments about this new LTC facility.
The most common complaint was how the government in place at the time CPR was being planned did not consider any suggestions from the community. Nor did it follow through with other suggestions from staff etc.
One of the largest concern was the location and how far out the facility would be from necessary services, shopping etc.
And most importantly how difficult it would be for elderly visitors to get up to CRP to see there loved ones.
The list of complaints and concerns just goes on and on...
But that government pushed ahead and built CRP up in Copper Ridge subdivision anyway.
There was a bus stop located across from the facility and no protection provided around the bus stop. The cold winters and harsh elements made it difficult for senior folks to wait for the bus. The transit system did not make multiple trips up to CPR because it was "way out too far etc". I believe that was increased over the years after multiple community folks kept appealing to have that increased.
The Resident Council appealed themselves to the city to build a shelter glass around the bus stop. Over time that was built.

It may help the concerned community folks of Whitehorse to bring forward the multiple issues that have arisen since CRP has been built.
Staffing a 96 bed faculty had always been significant and I believe still cannot reach adequate staffing to compliment and cover all areas.
Where are the government going to find enough adequate professionals and all other staffing levels to support this huge warehouse??

I just don't understand why Yukon Government don't learn from past mistakes. And learn better ways and actually listen to the community folks with their valid suggestions & ideas.

A huge warehouse facility can never be "homelike" just because it has a hair salon, activities, pretty decorated individual rooms etc.
Home is remaining as closely associated within a community all seniors are a part of. And remaining as close to loved ones is a huge factor.
Is the city going to provide adequate transit morning, noon, night and weekends????

And if this new facility becomes a permanent home sadly for some young adults,
what does it offer them?????

So much $$$$ to sink into one huge warehouse facility seems ridiculous. And so far away from anything accessible for older and younger Residents living there is tragic...
And so far away from emergency services seems such a reckless way of thinking...

Assisted Living???????? There doesn't seem to be any discussion or opportunity to have that be a part of this building project.
So when Home Care can no longer support folks living in their homes, the next step is Long Term Care????? Really????
Now how tragic and narrow minded is that!!!
If an individual can still manage an element of independence why not move into "assisted living" first????

Yukon must get with the times and assess all other provinces and see what is working best for the aging/health factor. And where folks will be enjoying their "golden years"????

Yukon Health and Social Services please listen to folks and adjust accordingly!!!!
The community deserve to be heard and not just have excuses as to why you want to put $150,000,000 into a warehouse, that may or may not have enough staff to care for folks.
Three main considerations:
Options to include assisted living
Distance/transportation issues
Accessibility for all Residents living there ( a hair dressing salon and bingo isn't going to offer a home like atmosphere)

Up 23 Down 7

Gene_Jacket on May 10, 2016 at 8:24 pm

It must be easy to be the NDP critics. Simply call for more spending on every possible project.
One facility to centralize and save costs makes sense. Whistle Bend is not "far" by any reasonable standard.

How does staffing work if there are tiny little facilities in 10 places? Would they each have separate kitchen and laundry?
Furthermore the NDP is so defeatist they can't even imagine that one day a *bus* could go to Whistle Bend once hundreds of people live there.

Up 6 Down 24

June Jackson on May 10, 2016 at 7:07 pm

The Paslowski government did not consult with anyone but each other. The people who will inhabit this place were left out of everything connected with it.

It's not like there were not other location choices.. there were.. but both governments, municipal and territorial need to justify the mess that is Whistle Bend and put as much money into as they possibly can..

My major complaint is the place stinks and it looks like a slum. The City was going to do something about the sewer lagoon, but I don't think they ever did.

And yes.. it's too far out..

Hey, "Whitehorse whiners' i suggest you run right down to Ft. McMurray and help those folks as they will be worthy of your attention..
"The actions of these protestors tell me they're types who have never had to deal with a real problem in their comfortable, highly sheltered lives and are making a mountain out of a molehill just because they can." You don't know anything about those protesters.. Highly sheltered lives? You are a joke. YP I guess.

Up 41 Down 11

over the top on May 10, 2016 at 3:58 pm

Oh come on. 'Almost ran out of gas', it was so far away. These arguments get more ridiculous with each flare up.

The old age residence downtown has people complaining about a business that wanted to open up across the street (might bring more traffic into the area), complaining about Rendezvous, formerly complaining about the Yukon Quest start which has since moved to Shipyards... there are plenty of reasons to have a facility tucked away in a quieter spot. Not the least of which is the space available.

The big arguments here seem to be the ease of visitation for the families! Plus access for 'emergency services' (I thought the whole place was going to be run as a medical center more or less). So what, nobody should be living there or further out if they might have an urgent need for an ambulance? My guess is that an ambulance could be parked right at the doorstep full time if there were actually that many beds filled there.

Whatever. The only sensible argument to me is that there did not seem to be much consideration for providing assistance for people to age in place at home or with relatives. The money would have gone a lot further if they supported people in staying in their own homes longer.

Up 59 Down 17

Whitehorse Whiners on May 10, 2016 at 3:22 pm

Welcome to Whitehorse, where nothing can be done without the whiners coming out. A new $150 million seniors facility to provide highly subsidized modern 1st class accommodation courtesy of the taxpayer and people B----about that. It's to far from downtown, it's to big, it has too many stories, it doesn't have a hospital next door, I almost ran out of gas driving all of 5 minutes to it from downtown, on and on and on. You know there are some people in this country that actually have real problems to deal with, such as Fort McMurray people who lost their homes. The actions of these protestors tell me they're types who have never had to deal with a real problem in their comfortable, highly sheltered lives and are making a mountain out of a molehill just because they can.

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