Kamsack will be down 10 long-term care beds after this month when a group of residents currently living in the Kamsack Hospital are moved into Kamsack & District Nursing Home and the beds they occupied are permanently closed.
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 4980 is protesting the closures, arguing that a reduction in spaces will only make it more difficult for aging residents to find a home in a local facility.
“It’s very important to those people to be able to have the long-term care facilities in their home community,” said CUPE representative Patty Brockman. “People have lived in those communities for a very long time, and that’s home to them.”
In its communications on the subject, the Sunrise Health Region calls the decision a positive change made to provide residents with the best possible living environment.
“Our concern is that we want to make sure we’re delivering optimal long-term care in the best setting possible,” said Christina Denysek, Sunrise’s vice-president of human resources. “We think the time is right to make that change and have long-term care delivered exclusively out of the long-term care wing in Kamsack.”
But when pressed, Denysek acknowledged that money is a factor.
“We anticipate there will be some cost savings, but we don’t know when we’ll realize all of those,” she said.
The Sunrise Health Region was driven to reduce costs in this year’s budget by a lower-than-expected funding increase from the provincial government.
CUPE is now circulating a petition through Kamsack calling for Sunrise to reverse its decision.
The union argues that the move is shortsighted, citing data from Statistics Canada that projects a rising senior population for Saskatchewan and Kamsack in the coming decades. Denysek replied that the region’s care needs are evaluated on an ongoing basis, and changes will be made as required.
“We still believe that we have sufficient long-term care beds to meet the needs that we have right now for our population,” she said.
Kamsack currently has 71 long-term care beds available – 61 after the closures. As of June 26, two people were on the waiting list for long-term care beds in Kamsack. Placements have been found for all clients deemed “high priority” by the health region.
Brockman paints the move as part of a troubling pattern of bed closures in the region. In 2010, Sunrise closed 45 long-term care beds at facilities around the region as part of its budget cuts.
“So in three years, that’s 55 long-term care beds, and it frightens me.”
Neither CUPE nor Sunrise is talking about job losses at this time, but some “reorganization” is expected.
“We want to avoid layoffs, and we’re prepared to work very creatively and collaboratively with [the union] to avoid any of that,” said Denysek.