Saskatoon’s first HIV care home to help the sick and struggling

SASKATOON – It’s a home for those sick and struggling with addiction and mental illness. Modelled after various homes throughout the country, Saskatchewan is set to open its first HIV Transitional Care Home to patients on Tuesday.

Based out of the Saskatoon Health Region, the care home known as “Sanctum” is located on 21st Street and is a former Grey Nuns’ residence. Its been nearly two years in the works and experts say is needed more than ever before.

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“I saw patients younger than me dying of HIV/AIDS and in a time where that shouldn’t be happening in a first world country like Canada where we have access to health care and medications, it’s just not right,” said Dr. Morris Markentin, the president and co-founder of Sanctum.

Katelyn Roberts, the executive director for Sanctum, says the facility will deliver care that is dignified and unconditional for those most vulnerable who are living with HIV.

“We have literally pulled people out of crack houses into the hospital when it’s too late and so we knew that we needed a place where people could be safe and cared for and trust the environment so they could get the treatment that they need.”

According to officials, the Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) has one of highest rates of HIV positive individuals across the country, with intravenous drug users accounting for more than 54 per cent of all cases in 2014.

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“The Saskatoon Health Region’s mental health and addictions’ data shows us that people living with HIV who have concurrent drug addicts struggles have infections from time to time that require lengthy hospitals stays for their antibiotic treatment,” said Corey Miller with the Saskatoon Health Region.

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An infection such as endocarditis, a bacterial infection around the heart, can require six weeks of IV antibiotic treatment for HIV positive patients. The ten-bed facility will help redirect some of those patients.

“We know that this translates into about 200 less emergency visits a year,” added Miller.

“Those emergency visits for these clients turn into hospital admissions and we know from looking at our data will reduce our hospital bed requirements by up to eight clients all year round which will allow us to have those beds available for other urgent and critical patients that require that care in our community.”

According to Markentin, the first set of patients at Sanctum will be a group of four transitioning from hospital to the home.

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Two beds at Sanctum are dedicated for end-of-life care, another prioritized for respite. The remaining seven will be available to patients in need of supportive care for up to three months.

“It will give them time to heal, to get strength back so that they can move on with their lives and with the holistic care approach maybe we can deal with some of the mental health issues they have, maybe work on their addiction or just give them a safe place to be.”

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