Council wants a say in the expansion of long term care services in Smithers. Pictured here is the Bulkley Lodge facility in that community. (Google photo)

Long term care remains on council priority list

Wants to be involved in expansion plans in Smithers

Long term care continues to be on the District of Houston’s priority list, this time wanting to ensure the community’s interests were included in plans to expand care options in Smithers.

There are independent living units and assisted care units at Cottonwood Manor and the Houston Health Centre does have four beds but the District has been pressing Northern Health for higher care levels.

Council’s latest advocacy comes as Northern Health is beginning planning for an expansion of facilities in Smithers and in the Hazeltons and was raised at an April 6 council meeting by councillor Jonathan Van Barneveld.

Speaking afterward, mayor Shane Brienen said it’s important that Houston be heard because Smithers is a hub for many levels of health care services in the area.

“We do have beds in our community but when there isn’t room residents then have to go to either Smithers or to Burns Lake,” he said.

“For Smithers, because it is a central location, what happens there has an influence in Houston.”

How Houston is to be represented in the planning to expand long term care in Smithers has not yet been decided, but the North West Regional Hospital District, which extends from the north coast area to Houston, has committed to paying $1.5 million to develop business plans for a facility in Smithers and in the Hazeltons.

A business plan is not a guarantee the projects will go ahead as they do need the approval of the provincial government. It traditionally finances 60 per cent of the cost of building health care facilities with hospital districts contributing 40 per cent through property taxes.

“If provincial approval is obtained to proceed, a preliminary estimate of approximately $23 million [would be required from the North West Regional Hospital District,” a memo prepared for its board indicates.

Based on the $23 million being the 40 per cent contribution amount from the hospital district, the province’s 60 per cent would come to $34.5 millon for a potential combined cost of $57.5 million for the two facilities.

And even though the hospital district is paying the full $1.5 million for the two business plans, the Northern Health Authority will eventually reimburse it for 60 per cent of the cost.

Bulkley Lodge in Smithers has room for 70 residents with two units set aside for those with dementia. There are also three double occupancy rooms, something that is no longer the standard in new residences.

Wrinch Memorial Hospital is the home of long term care in the Hazeltons. It has 10 beds, all in double occupancy rooms and one is set aside for respite care.