Need cited for long term care beds in Houston

The goal is to keep seniors in the community

Elected officials here say they’ll keep up the call to add more long term care beds in the community.

With just four such beds, now more commonly known as complex care beds, at the Houston Health Care Centre, more are needed as more people age in the communnity, says Houston councillor Jon Van Barneveld.

“This is something we’ve been working on,” said Van Barveveld who just recently replaced Houston mayor Shane Brienen as the Houston representative on the North West Regional Hospital District.

That’s the regionial taxation authority which helps finance the purchase of medical equipment and health care facility construction by putting up 40 per cent of the cost of equipment and facilities with the province providing the remaining 60 per cent.

The Northern Health Authority has acknolwedged the call for more complex care beds by the regional hospital district and the District of Houston.

Last year it began what it calls a bed modeling project to determine the future requirement for complex care and other residential care arrangements that will be required throughout the north as the overall population ages.

It has also been emphasizing home support for seniors and others as an alternative to being housed in a facility.

“We recognize that there are waits for both long-term care and assisted living in communities including Houston,” said Ciro Panessa, the Northern Health Authority’s Northwest chief operating officer.

”We are working to reduce those waits by ensuring the best use of resources that support seniors to remain in their homes and independent for as long as possible — as well as planning for future needs and capacity.”

As it is, Van Barneveld said the Houston Health Centre is the smallest facility of its kind in the province to have complex care beds. It also has two respite or short term beds for specific needs.

The alternative is to move people away from their home community to Burns Lake and Smithers and away from family and social connections, he said.

“To not to have people leave, that’s an important consideration,” Van Barneveld continued.

“Seniors and others may not have the mobiliy to visit family members in another community.”

The councillor did acknowledge the six assisted living units at Cottonwood Manor but noted there is a waiting list.

And while Houston advocates for more complex care beds, the community also hopes a second physisican for the primary health care clinic at the health centre will be recruited.

“We’re still waiting,” said Van Barneveld.

He welcomed the addition at the Houston Health Centre of a nurse practitioner several years ago as way of expanding and securing health care in the community.

“Nurse practitioners are a growing component in rural medicine,” Van Barneveld said.

Although the Northern Health Authority was looking for a second primary care clinic physician last year, it is no longer doing so, said Northerh Health official Eryn Collins as there is sufficient capacity for now at the clinic.

“The clinic is accepting new patients. Houston also has another physician practice, the Steelhead Medical Clinic,” she said.

“Northern Health continues to be closely engaged and meet regularly with the community on the Houston Physician Recruitment Committee. We are not actively recruiting for a third physician in Houston at this time, but are committed to continuing to work with the committee, and will resume recruitment as additional need for primary care access is identified in the community,” Collins said.

Houston council has placed health care needs within its strategic plan for the community, encouraging the idea of rotating medical students through the health centre and looking to add other health care providers such as an optometrist.