"For us, we feel we're again at a critical point, much similar to what we were 10 years ago," says SONS President Jean Leahy. "Even with the 123 beds, we still do not have enough to meet the increased demand of our community. We need to get our seniors out of the hospital, so that the hospital can be a hospital."
Leahy points out that there are currently 12 people in the hospital waiting to be put in a care home, and others are waiting for placement in varying degrees of support, as well as on wait lists for Peace Lutheran Apartments. She also argues that many of the people in Peace Lutheran Apartments should be in a care facility, and that Heritage Manor 1, which was designated as accessible units for seniors, is being used for low-cost housing instead.
A third house at Peace Villa would be a solution that could accommodate at least an additional 26 residents. Northern Health Chief Operating Officer for the Northeast Betty Morris explains that when the new hospital and Peace Villa was built, space was left so a another building could be built in the future.
"When we were planning the space, we did take into account that into the future, there is a potential that another residential care facility for the northeast would be needed, and so the actual site plan was considered, and there's a space that was left in the event that that should happen."
She also adds that having another facility wouldn't be a huge issue, as there is already services like food and laundry in place. However, she says that there would have to be "compelling evidence" of the need, a sufficient budget, and commitment from the provincial government and the Peace River Regional Hospital District before another building would be considered.
Instead, she says Northern Health's focus is on having the types of support in place to keep people in their homes as long as possible living normal, active, social lives, while receiving the support they need.
"[SONS is] highlighting that they really think that there is a need, and we're not in any way saying no there isn't, but we certainly are looking at how do we then put better supports for people who could stay at home."
That could mean support workers visiting to help with bathing or shopping, and training families how to do simple tasks like changing dressing.
In the interim, SONS also suggests opening the extra 10 beds at the hospital, which aren't open due to recruitment issues, or building a transition house, as well as ensuring Heritage Manor 1 is used for local seniors who receive home support.