FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — An 84-bed long-term care facility that will focus on flexible care is coming to Fort St. John.

Designed to serve the future needs of the area, the single-location-based plan is currently in the process of provincial approval. According to Northern Health officials, the project is the first of several long-term care plans for the region.

Angela De Smit, chief operating officer for Northern Health in Northeast B.C., presented an update to the Peace River Regional Hospital District, which will fund the project, at the board’s last meeting. She described it as an “unusual” project.

“It’s unique [that we have] developed a universal bed model…within one campus, largely because our numbers are small,” she said.

“We want to actually have a building that individuals would be able to transition to in care.”

The universal bed model she described would let individuals move through levels of care, from supportive living to assisted living to long-term care, but remain in the same building and even the same room.

“We find that individuals end up going into long-term care quite early and can stay there for ten years,” De Smit said. This, she said, was above the provincial average. 

A universal bed model, she says, will help people spend more time in “other suitable housing, and then go into the full 24-hour care for the last two to three years of their life.”

The location—or rather, the plan for a single location—for the facility was questioned by some board members.

“Is that one facility in Fort St. John going to serve the needs of the entire Northeast, as far as these 84 beds are concerned?” Dan Rose, director of Electoral Area E, asked. 

“It sounds efficient, but pulling people…away from their family units and removing that support network where there’s a lot of help—a lot of folks visit every day that are able to,” he said.

Mike Hoefer, capital planning director with Northern Health, said this project would not be the last long-term care facility to arrive in the region.

“What this is,” he said, “is the first five business plans. We have data for the whole region, and we will be starting on the next work.” 

But, he continued, there was special permission to progress with the 84-bed facility that is currently waiting for provincial approval.

“That doesn’t mean we’re not going to continue…we have to chunk it out into projects based on the demand we see coming,” he said.

No details were available on these future plans in the presentation, Hoefer said, because they did not receive what he calls the “very unusual” special permission to move directly to business planning that the 84-bed facility did.

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Grace Giesbrecht

Grace Giesbrecht is a news reporter for who recently graduated from Trinity Western University with a bachelor of arts in Media + Communications. She was born and raised just outside of Fort St. John. She began reporting for her university’s student newspaper and interned with Ottawa Life Magazine where she developed a passion for asking questions, telling stories, and the written word. In her free time, you can find her drinking coffee, snowboarding, or reading novels.