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Patients on medical travel report negative experiences at downtown Yellowknife hotel

Some advocates in the Northwest Territories are calling on Keskorie Boarding Home to stop placing medical travel patients at the Quality Inn in downtown Yellowknife (Travis Burke/CBC - image credit)
Some advocates in the Northwest Territories are calling on Keskorie Boarding Home to stop placing medical travel patients at the Quality Inn in downtown Yellowknife (Travis Burke/CBC - image credit)

Some patients and advocates in the Northwest Territories are calling on Yellowknife's Keskorie Boarding Home to stop placing medical travel patients at the Quality Inn hotel, saying many residents report negative experiences there.

The boarding home, which is owned and operated by Det'on Cho Corporation, is contracted by the territorial government to provide room, board, and transportation services to all N.W.T. residents who are on medical travel to Yellowknife. Patients will typically stay at the actual boarding home, but if it is full the home will book local hotels, including the Quality Inn in downtown Yellowknife.

This is where Tsiigehtchic resident Edward Wright was placed while on a one-day medical trip to Yellowknife in September 2023.

He said that when he arrived at the hotel to check-in for his appointment, he and several other patients who were placed there waited about three hours for their rooms to be ready.

He also said he heard shouting and loud noises throughout the night which made it hard for him to sleep.

Wright said that for many people he knows from smaller communities, these conditions are stressful and frightening.

"It's not a pleasant experience for someone like myself, let alone people who are more vulnerable and older or who have young children," he said.

"This is a serious issue that really needs improvement or changing."

Gwich'in Tribal Council Grand Chief Ken Kyikavichik has publicly called on Keskorie Boarding Home to stop sending patients to the Quality Inn.

About two weeks ago, he sent a letter to Det'On Cho Corporation and the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority calling for "an immediate change in the location of the supporting hotel" from the Quality Inn, in response to complaints he has heard about the hotel.

In an interview with CBC News, Kyikavichik said that many people started reaching out to him about bad experiences staying at the Quality Inn for medical travel last fall.

He said people spoke about problems with cleanliness of the hotel, rooms being cold and staff being rude, but his greatest concern is that many residents reported feeling unsafe during their stays there.

"There was physical violence, there was people being pushed, there was people witnessing physical altercations… people afraid [of] either accessing or exiting the building, people afraid staying in their room and hearing loud parties," he said.

CBC News reached out to Quality Inn about the complaints, but didn't receive a response.

Det'on Cho working to address problem

Rebecca Connolly is the vice president of strategy and engagement for Det'on Cho Corporation.

Connolly said that when the boarding home is full, Keskorie staff book rooms for patients at local hotels so they can meet that obligation, while still providing meals and transportation directly.

Connolly says that since the beginning of 2023, the boarding home has been experiencing a "significant increase" in the number of patients.

"Our first wish is always to accommodate people at Keskorie, where we have the processes, the procedures, and the service and space in place to guarantee our guest experience," she said.

"When we move into an overflow situation, we use multiple hotels across the city and do what we can to try and maintain those guest standards."

When asked what Det'on Cho was doing to address patient concerns about the Quality Inn, she gave the following response.

"We have received some feedback from our guests, and again, we've expanded the number of hotels that we work with. However, we are still constrained by their availability," she said.

"Given what I perceive as high demand for rooms… we are finding space as we can to accommodate guests."