Council lobbies for more residential care beds

Letters sent to provincial cabinet ministers

The community needs more residential care beds to meet both a current demand and in the future as the population ages, says a District of Houston councillor.

It’s a position developed by councillor Tom Stringfellow who took it to the council in a special meeting April 9 with council then deciding to write provincial health minister Adrian Dix and Selena Robinson, the provincial minister in charge of housing.

Stringfellow’s immediate concept is to convert the six assisted living units at the Cottonwood Manor into residential care beds.

Also known as complex care, residential care is the highest level of care provided by the provincial government with a key provision being 24/7 coverage.

People in assisted living do have care provided during the day, and a meal, but lack care coverage during the evening and overnight.

What’s happening here, however, is that the people in assisted living now actually need that higher level of care, Stringfellow said.

“But there’s no one there overnight should there be an emergency or should someone need help,” he said.

Assisted living residents who fall during the night and who can’t call for help are then found the next morning, hours after the incident, Stringfellow added.

“It’s just terrible, terrible, being like that hour after hour,” he said. “There’s just no care after hours.”

And should the person be able to contact someone, in an emergency situation, the only alternative is an ambulance trip to a hospital in an adjacent community, Stringfellow added.

“It’s then a 45-minute drive to an ER,” he said, noting that if and when a person is then discharged, the next challenge is how they return home.

The Houston Health Centre does have four residential or complex care beds with 24/7 coverage but they are always full as are two beds defined as short stay beds for respite and palliative care at the centre.

Stringfellow said no major renovations would be needed at Cottonwood Manor’s six assisted care units to convert them to residential care.

Shower facilities in each room, for instance, are of the walk-in variety that exists in residential care facilities elsewhere, he noted.

“It’s just the evening and overnight care, that’s what’s important,” Stringfellow emphasized.

Emergency care needs aside, Stringfellow said overnight services are needed for those in assisted care who display dementia.

“I know there is a cost [to providing overnight care] but there is a cost to a call out [for an ambulance]. There are going to be costs, but that’s just where we’re at,” he said.

Stringfellow’s research to back up his position has taken him to reading health minister Adrian Dix’s mandate letter outlining the goals of the provincial government, one being the need to increase health care in rural areas and another to increase quality services for seniors.

The Northern Health Authority, which runs the health centre and does provide home care services for assisted living residents at Cottonwood Manor, is receiving council’s letter as is the Smithers Community Services Association which operates both the assisted living units there and its 16 independent living units under contract from the provincial BC Housing agency.

Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad is included in the distribution list.

The 16 independent living units at Cottonwood Manor were opened just a year ago as new construction, replacing two wings which were condemned several years ago and which have now been demolished.

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