April 17, 2010

CANADA: Elderly patients forced out to make way for mentally ill

. VANCOUVER, British Columbia / The Vancouver Sun / Health / Seniors / April 17, 2010 Elderly patients forced out of long-term care facility to make way for mentally ill Officials say displaced residents at Youville in Vancouver will be found new places to live By Chad Skelton and Darah Hansen, Vancouver Sun A concerned Lucille Chlan, 77, sits in her room at the Youville Residence in Vancouver on Friday. Some patents from this care facility are being relocated when mentally ill patients from Riverview are moved to this facility. Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG As many as a dozen elderly residents of the Youville long-term care facility in Vancouver will be moved out within the year to make way for mentally ill patients from Riverview. At a meeting on Thursday, Providence Health Care assured residents and their families it would find a new home for all of the displaced residents. The news came as a nasty surprise to Lucille Chlan, 77, who has called the facility home for four years after multiple sclerosis left her unable to walk. "It's very upsetting," she said. "I have a lot of friends here ... and the staff is very good. I don't want to get involved in finding another place and getting used to it all again." Sandra Catchlove expressed similar concern for her 94-year-old mother, who was moved into Youville at 4950 Heather St. in August after she began wandering and could no longer take care of herself. "She's happy and settled and knows her way to the dining room and knows the staff. It means so much to these really elderly people to feel safe and recognize the staff people," said Catchlove. "You zip them out of there and put them in another facility and they don't know how to find the bathroom." In February, the provincial government announced plans to create new mental health beds across the region as part of its plan to, over time, close down Riverview and move its patients into the community. Youville was included in that list but no mention was made at the time that some of the residents who already lived there would have to leave. Health Minister Kevin Falcon, who announced the new projects in February, refused to comment Friday on the displacement of Youville residents, referring all questions to the health authority. David Thompson, corporate director of seniors care at Providence Health Care, said a new Older Adult Behaviour Stabilization Service will take over two of Youville's four floors in spring 2011 to care for 42 patients from Riverview with severe dementia. While that represents half of Youville's 84 beds, Thompson said far fewer than 42 residents will be affected. "It would probably be, at the most, 12," said Thompson, noting Youville stopped accepting new residents in February and beds regularly become vacant due to deaths and patient-requested transfers. Thompson said Youville staff are meeting with all residents who moved in after 2005 to begin discussing where they could be moved to. He said all displaced residents will be found a new place to live within Vancouver. Thompson added that the patients from Riverview will be on two separate floors at Youville and security measures will be in place to keep the other residents safe. Chlan said she didn't find the health authority's words very reassuring. Even if she is allowed to stay, "my son does not want me to be here," she said. NDP health critic Adrian Dix said the government should have tried harder to accommodate mental health patients without displacing the elderly. "I don't know if kicking long-term residents out in this way is appropriate. Especially given the fact that we know ... there's a shortage of long-term care for seniors," he said. "It's like the seniors don't count in their equation." Thompson said Providence originally wanted to create a new facility for the Riverview patients rather than move them to an existing care home. "Our preference was to build new facilities for these services but due to the funding available we're not able to do that," he said. In addition to Youville, a new unit for 24 younger neuropsychiatry patients from Riverview will be created at St. Vincent's Hospital Langara in Vancouver. Thompson said while some Langara patients will have to move to a different room, none will be forced to leave the facility as a result of that project. Both Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health said all of the other mental health projects for Riverview patients involve facilities that are already empty, meaning no permanent residents will be displaced. [rc] cskelton@vancouversun.com dahansen@vancouversun.com © Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun