QP: Questions on use of $2.5 million in new homecare funds

Regular members were able to get $2.5 million in new funding for home care added to the Government’s 2017-2018 budget. I see this as a strategic investment that will help people stay in their own homes longer, reducing the need to for subsidized housing and long-term care, both of which are costlier options.

Below are the question I asked to the Minister of Health and Social Services. I wanted to know how the money would be spent. I understand that the Beaufort-Delta has around 40 homecare workers – mostly in Inuvik – while Hay River has around 10. I thought that adding a couple positions to Hay River would be an easy and simple way to begin addressing the apparent deficiency. However, the Minister said that we need to study the issue. 

SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The health Minister just talked about what they had to do to roll out the homecare money. It doesn’t seem that complicated if you look at the number of homecare workers in the different regions. Can’t you throw a couple of hundred thousand or a few hundred thousand to Hay River, and they can hire a couple of homecare workers and continue doing what they are doing? It doesn’t seem like there needs to be a plan necessarily. As for a study, they know how many homecare workers are in the region. We can see which regions are understaffed. Is that a possibility? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SPEAKER: Masi. Minister of Health and Social Services.

HON. GLEN ABERNETHY: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I wish it was that simple. The bottom line is there is no consistent application of home support workers across the Northwest Territories. We know what numbers exist today, but there has been no standard set as what every community should have. That is the work we are doing today. Once we know what a standard is, or a baseline is, then we can fix that by putting physicians in.

As I said in Committee of the Whole, it is not just home support care workers, Mr. Chair. We are looking at a different array of programs, family supports, that could be money that we could float to families to help them support. There are community supports we could put in, which require a new design of position, designing a new position, writing job descriptions, getting those evaluated, and putting them in place.

I am confident that we can move forward and start closing these gaps with these dollars, but it is not something we can do tomorrow. When the continuing care plan is done, I will meet with committee and we can work together to set our priorities for the remainder of this fiscal year and moving forward. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SIMPSON: I have a general idea of how many homecare worker are in each region. What is the issue with seeing that this region has significantly less per capita than other regions and putting the money in that region and putting out two jobs, let’s say, with the job descriptions that have already been created, and hiring two homecare workers? What is wrong with that plan? Is it too simple? Is it because it’s not related to an action plan or a framework? What is the problem here?

HON. GLEN ABERNETHY: As we look forward and we determine what the baseline is, what if Hay River is the baseline? What if that is the appropriate number of physicians? We don’t have that answer. Until we have that answer, we don’t know that putting physicians in one community over another is actually going to help us meet our needs.

Also, Mr. Speaker, the current plan is about home support workers. That is the way we have provided those services. Maybe it is not. Maybe we should have more homecare nurses. Maybe we should have community support workers. Maybe we should have family support workers. These are questions we don’t have answered. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, we have talked about this, it is like banging your head on a wall. It hurts after a while. It is time to do things right. It is time to do things better. That is what we are prepared to do.

SIMPSON: If Hay River is the baseline, I think you are going to have to fire a bunch of home support workers in the other regions. I am pretty sure that we are understaffed. I will just leave it at this. I know the answer that I am going to get. Will the Minister commit to adding a couple of more home support workers in Hay River with this money?

HON. GLEN ABERNETHY: Moving forward, I commit to providing and ensuring that all communities in the Northwest Territories have adequate homecare supports based on a formula, based on numbers that actually make sense.