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Broken elevator poses problems for Indigenous patients in Winnipeg – Winnipeg Free Press

Broken elevator poses problems for Indigenous patients in Winnipeg – Winnipeg Free Press
Broken elevator poses problems for Indigenous patients in Winnipeg – Winnipeg Free Press

Dozens of Indigenous people in Winnipeg receiving medical treatment have been locked out of their six-storey medical facility after an elevator motor caught fire.

The tenants, some of whom require acute care and others have chronic conditions, were forced to leave Keewatin House on Keewatin Street, near Logan Avenue, when smoke began billowing from the elevator shaft on July 4.

Executives Ken Carroll and Gwen Flett of Cormorant Group, which operates three medical housing facilities in the city to house people from northern Manitoba and Nunavut, said the evacuation went smoothly.

NIC ADAM/FREE PRESS Indigenous patients in town for medical treatment had to move to other facilities after the elevator motor at Keewatin House Lodge (86 Keewatin St.) caught fire on July 4.

“We practiced and ran drills and the staff went straight to people in wheelchairs and people with amputated limbs to get them out first,” Carroll said Tuesday.

“All our employees have walkie-talkies so they can stay in touch with each other.”

Flett said their clients who use wheelchairs and have other mobility issues are housed at their Burnell Street or Sherbrook Street facility.

“Everyone is okay,” she said.

Carroll said people who are able to climb stairs again on their own have been given the option of returning to Keewatin House or waiting for the elevator to be repaired.

“It could take up to two weeks for repairs,” he said. “They’re going to try to speed it up, but the engine had to be rebuilt.

“We would like people to come back.”

Ryan Tyndall, spokesperson for Indigenous Services Canada, said staff were working with the facility to relocate clients.

“The safety and well-being of those affected is our highest priority,” he said.

Tyndall said Keewatin House is one of 34 commercial lodging providers in Winnipeg. He said clients do not have to pay for the cost of lodging because the provider bills the government directly.

Winnipeg Fire Department spokeswoman Erin Madden said that when firefighters arrived, they found smoke in the elevator shaft and were able to trace the fire to an equipment room.

“The fire was quickly extinguished with a water pump,” Madden said.

“The crew reset the building’s alarm system before evacuating the scene. None of the suites were damaged by the fire, so there was no need for lengthy evacuations.”