Province announces approval for 160-bed long-term care home in The Blue Mountains

As part of a $6.4 billion investment in Ontario long term care facilities, the provincial government has approved a new 160-bed long term care home in The Town of The Blue Mountains.

The home will be located on a 32-acre site at 125 Peel Street in Thornbury, which the town purchased in 2021.

It will be one component of the town’s plans for a campus of care facility, which will also include attainable housing for staff, commercial space, multi-residential space, and senior’s housing.

“That’s 160 brand new beds for residents to call home near their family and friends in a community that they have helped build over the years, and this home has been made possible by an innovative partnership with The Town of The Blue Mountains,” said Minister of Long-Term Care Paul Calandra at a press conference Jan 28.

The question of who will be building the project still remains.

TBM will be issuing a request for proposal from firms interested in developing and operating parts of the campus of care, including the long-term care home, with the goal of awarding a contract by the end of 2022.

In June 2021, Southbridge Health Care, the owners and operators of Errinrung long-term care and retirement residence in Thornbury, pitched TBM council on a 160-bed facility suggesting the 16-acre property in Thornbury between Arthur and Alice Streets West would be a good home for the proposed six-story care facility. Southbridge said, at that time, it was committed to opening the facility by December 2023.

“We are incredibly pleased to be working with your ministry on this project,” said TBM Mayor Alar Soever. “We’re looking [to] start construction no later than 2024, maybe even 2023, but let’s see how fast we can get it done, and then occupancy by 2026,”

The new facility in TBM is part of the province’s plan to build 388 new and 316 upgraded long-term care beds across Gray County, on top of 30,000 new or upgraded beds planned to be built across the province by 2028.

“Seven-hundred-and-four new and upgraded long-term-care beds are in development or under construction in Gray County,” Calandra said. “It is an unprecedented investment that will see over 30,000 new long term care beds and 28,000 upgraded beds across the province of Ontario, and what is so exciting about these investments is that it is the largest rebuild and build out on long term care in Canadian History.”

Other Gray County communities receiving long term care upgrades are as follows:

Calandra also announced that the province will be recruiting thousands of new health care professionals to provide improved long term care for residents.

“It’s not just about the beds, it’s about the quality of care, and that is why we are investing … dramatically in ensuring top-notch quality of care with a groundbreaking four hours of care per resident per day,” he said.

“We are hiring over 27,000 new PSWs, we’re adding [over 2,000] nurses, we are … doubling the amount of inspectors so that we can work with our homes, and that we can guarantee the top-notch quality of care that our seniors deserve.”

In rural areas like TBM, where recruiting and retaining healthcare professionals can be an issue, Calandra said that attainable housing will be a key component in providing residents with four hours of care per day.

“Our plan is to get to the four hours of care over the next four years,” he said. “We’re doing it incrementally so that we can bring the staff along with us … we should be at the four hours of care tomorrow, but we can’t do that.”

“We also have to build the housing in the area that will help support the people who are going to come and live in the communities where they will be working, so that’s why it’s a bit of a phased approach to make sure that we can get there by working with the community, and bringing in PSWs, and the infrastructure.”

Mayor Soever said that the town will be requesting developers to include attainable housing units in their proposals for the long term care facility.

“To provide that four hours of care, I’m told by long term care providers that the ratio of staff to residents is about one-to-one,” he said. “Obviously, the price of housing in The Blue Mountains is a huge issue, and the staffing is a big issue.”

“We need not only the long-term care building, but we also need 100 to 160 people, so when we go out for [requests for proposal] these will be components, … and we also need some attainable senior’s housing because we would like our seniors, as they get older, to be able to settle down here rather than be forced to move.”

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