Region embarking on massive long-term care redevelopment

Region embarking on massive long-term care redevelopment

Part of a provincial program to overhaul aging infrastructure and improve care

Photo: sc-LO06-LongTermCare A artist rendering of what the new Linhaven long-term care facility will look like. Uploaded by: Sawchuk, Bill – Sawchuk, William,Niagara Region

When it comes to redeveloping the network of long-term care homes in Niagara, the risks of doing nothing outweigh the costs of going ahead with major projects.

That’s what Niagara’s Director Seniors Services Henri Koning told Regional Council as they begin the process of finding funds for a major makeover of the aging infrastructure.

“This is a sizable project,” Koning said. “We are looking at with an estimate of $175 million – and that includes $15 million that’s been approved to date.”

There are 33 long-term care homes in Niagara with 3,717 beds. Some run by the Region. Others are privately owned or nonprofits.

Two of the Region’s flagship homes — Linhaven in St. Catharines and Gilmore Lodge in Fort Erie — will be demolished and rebuilt to the modern standards.

Koning said the Niagara’s projects will be funded using several different methods including cost-recovery from partner agencies of about $6 million and another $26 million from development charges.

That means there is $128 million in new debt waiting to be approved by council in the 2020 budget. The ministry is kicking in $66 million over 25 years to cover the debt charges.

The improvements are as part of a provincial program with a goal of making sure Ontario’s aging population has homes that are safe and offering high-quality care.

The government began by hiring 80 new inspectors to examine all the long-term care homes across the province in a process that started almost a decade ago.

Beginning in 2015, the government started assisting long-term care home operators across the province redevelop more than 300 older homes to bring them up to modern standards.

Seventeen of the long-term care homes in Niagara are slated for redeveloped.

Koning said the Region is following a set of “guiding principles” that includes campus-style development — considered the best practice for delivering client care.

The time-lines are tight. The province set the deadline for the Linhaven project at December 2022. Gilmore Lodge’s deadline is December 2024.

“We would prefer to move both projects closer together in time, so we can use better economies of scale,” Koning said.

“It is a joint provincial and municipal project with interrelated deadlines. We need to get the sequencing right to keep moving things forward.

“Also, long-term care homes are a bit of a niche construction industry, and with 17 homes up for redevelopment, we are certainly looking at competition for trades and some cost escalation issues related to that.”

Anthony Greenberg from SVN, an architectural and urban planning firm, gave councillors a sneak peek at what the final product could look like if approved.

The schematic designs will be finished in the fall with the ministry conducting a review in the new year. When that is complete, councillors will get an update that will mark the end of Phase 1. Phase 2, the detailed facility design stage, is set to begin in February.

The new Linhaven will be located on the same property in St. Catharines on Ontario Street and feature in a five-storey structure that will replace the large sprawling one-storey structure there today. The Hospice Niagara building will remain where it is. The future of the Alzheimer Society building is yet to be determined — though Adrienne Jugley, the commissioner of community services, assured council the Region is committed to working with the agency on a solution that works for everyone.

Greenberg said the new Linhaven structure’s footprint will free-up space on the site for more car-related development, and be much more efficient for staff and residents to use. The siting of the building, which will be closer to Ontario Street, was constrained by the need to keep the old building running and serving residents until the new building is finished.

In Fort Erie, the new Gilmore Lodge will turn an asphalt parking lot at 200 Garrison Road (the site of the former County Fair Mall) into an inviting space for residents and staff, Greenberg said. The beer store on the property has a 10-year lease and will remain where it is for the time being.

“There was less concern about height and density and more excitement,” Greenberg said of the public consultation process in Fort Erie.

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Source: St. Catharines Standard