Sanctum, Saskatchewan’s first HIV transitional care home and hospice, opens its doors in Saskatoon to clients on November 3, 2015.

The ten-bed facility has been created for people living with HIV who require specialized assistance in managing their symptoms due to homelessness, poverty, addictions and/or mental health issues. For example, one common diagnosis for HIV positive patients with addictions is endocarditis, a bacterial infection around the heart. This often requires six weeks of IV antibiotic treatment.

Sanctum officially opened its doors during a ceremony November 2.

Sanctum, Saskatchewan’s first HIV transitional care home and hospice, officially opened its doors at a grand opening ceremony on November 2.

“Patients with housing can often receive their medication through home IV therapy as an outpatient after their first week in hospital, but those without stable housing, who also have ongoing addictions and mental health issues, cannot,” says Dr. Morris Markentin, President and co-founder of Sanctum. “They often discharge themselves against medical advice before completing their medication, leading to more severe complications. They then enter a cycle of emergency care and hospital re-admissions.”

Saskatoon Health Region partnered with Sanctum earlier this year during the Region’s 90 Days of Innovation: Ready Every Day patient flow initiative. Saskatoon Health Region has one of the highest rates of HIV positive individuals in the country, with intravenous drug use accounting for 54.5 per cent of HIV cases in 2014.

“It’s about getting the right patient, the right care, in the right place,” says Corey Miller, lead of the patient flow follow-on initiative. “By treating these patients in a community setting rather than in hospital, the healthcare team at Sanctum will provide holistic care to treat clients’ drug addiction and the root causes of this addiction, in addition to their HIV symptoms.”

One of two end-of-life care rooms at Sanctum.

One of two end-of-life care rooms at Sanctum.

Sanctum will offer three types of care: supportive, end of life and respite. A total of seven beds, available for up to three months per patient, have been allocated to clients who require supportive, sub-acute or rehabilitative care when they have been diagnosed with HIV, their level of care does not meet long-term care qualifications or they cannot access home care support due to their current housing situation or homelessness. An additional two beds will be prioritized for clients who require end-of-life care. The last bed is dedicated to respite care clients who need a place to stay for up to 14 days while recovering from an operation or waiting for appropriate supports.

Saskatoon Health Region will be providing operational funding in the amount of $836,000 to Sanctum for its first year. The care home will be located on the corner of 21st Street and Avenue O in a former Grey Nuns’ residence, owned by St. Paul’s Hospital.

Six people cut a ribbon to officially open Sanctum.

It took many hands to build and open Sanctum. The official ribbon cutting was manned by (from left): Katelyn Roberts of Sanctum; Shaun Dyck of Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership; Dr. Morris Markentin of Sanctum; Corey Miller of Saskatoon Health Region; Bill Edwards of St. Paul’s Hospital Board of Directors; and Crystal Dreaver of Sanctum Board of Directors.

“St. Paul’s Hospital has owned this residence for several years, and we have been searching for the right service to be delivered out of this facility,” says Bill Edwards, Past Chairperson of St. Paul’s Hospital Board of Directors. “We are pleased to partner with Sanctum to make this very important program available to our clients. Providing a transition service for people in need of stable housing to receive care is a perfect fit with St. Paul’s mission and the mission of the Grey Nun’s before us. We couldn’t have found a more appropriate use for this property or a more ideal group to partner with us.”

Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) and the Community Advisory Board on Saskatoon Homelessness have provided $180,000 in funding through the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy to renovate Sanctum.

The basement gathering space at Sanctum.

The basement gathering space at Sanctum.

“We are proud to support the Sanctum project,” says Shaun Dyck, Executive Director of SHIP. “Supported housing was a central recommendation from the community consultations. We know that people with extraordinary health issues and addictions struggle more often with homelessness. Specialized housing programs like Sanctum are a critical part of coordinated services to prevent and end homelessness.”

In addition to benefiting clients with HIV, Sanctum will have a direct benefit on the community.

“When people living with HIV take their medications regularly, they reduce their viral load (the amount of virus in their bloodstream), which virtually eliminates their risk of spreading disease,” says Dr. Markentin. “This in turn creates a safer community for both these clients and the general population as a whole.”

Sanctum is also expected to reduce healthcare spending by more than $800,000 annually after accounting for operational costs, by reducing HIV patient visits to the emergency department by 40 per cent (approximately 200 visits) and reducing inpatient bed utilization by 2,902 days, freeing up an average of eight hospital beds per year.