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Dementia centre group weighs options

Jason Unrau
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 29/06) - Tight territorial government purse strings may force proponents of a territorial dementia care facility for Yellowknife to seek funding alternatives.

At the end of September, then Health Minister Michael Miltenberger informed the Yellowknife Association of Concerned Citizens for Seniors (YACCS) that the GNWT could only provide $12 million towards a dementia care centre, little more than half the money required to build the 24-bed facility.

"It's our opinion that this can never be off the drawing board because it's so desperately needed," said YACCS executive director Greg Debogorski.

If the architectural plans are scrapped for another option, it will be $1 million in planning dollars gone with nothing to show for it, he said.

"I know that health and social services has a fiscal reality but we have a care reality on our end and I hope we can meet in the middle," said Deborgorski.

He said he hopes to meet with Floyd Roland, the new health minister, in mid-December to look at the options. Roland was out of town this week and unavailable for comment.

While the GNWT has earmarked $1.2 million towards renovations and upgrades of existing long-term care facilities around the North to accommodate dementia clients, apart from Stanton Hospital or the homecare option, the NWT remains without dedicated dementia care.

After getting schematic drawings from Pin/Taylor architects in Yellowknife, Debogorski said construction estimates to build the two-floor dementia facility that would adjoin with Aven Manor is $20 million. What Debogorski fears is that with each passing year, that figure will increase along with increasing material and labour costs.

When serious discussions began on building the dementia care facility, YACCS offered to finance the project with GNWT supporting the mortgage through a contribution agreement. Then, according to Debogorski, the GNWT offered to pay for the project when it believed there was federal money on the table.

As things stand, Debogorski said YACCS may have to revisit the original mortgage scheme.

According to a 2002 YACCS commissioned study on caring for the elderly, demand in Yellowknife and surrounding areas for dementia care would require 29 beds by 2006.

Additional research on seniors' needs indicate that eight per cent of the elderly population will develop some form of dementia.