The provincial government will join the private sector in a pilot project to construct three new nursing homes in New Brunswick.

The government announced on Tuesday it has entered a partnership with Shannex New Brunswick, which will build and operate new facilities in Quispamsis, Riverview and Fredericton.

The housing will create 216 new nursing home beds in New Brunswick over the next two years. Each facility will also include apartments for independent living and individuals needing special care in their homes.

The 62 nursing homes currently in New Brunswick are privately owned and operated by boards of directors.

"This pilot enables the province to quickly open new beds to address bed shortages in the nursing-home sector," said Social Development Minister Mary Schryer.

The facilities are being established in areas that need immediate attention, Schryer said.

The $112-million project will give the province the opportunity to blend the two types of nursing homes, the minister said.

There will be no up-front money from the province, Schryer said. The Shannex nursing homes will just receive the per diem the government pays for care just as it does with not-for-profit nursing homes.

Shannex currently owns and operates six nursing homes and four retirement complexes in Atlantic Canada.

New beds in the province are good news, said Pat Diotte, president of the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes. However, Diotte said he is concerned about how the public-private partnership will work at the facilities.

"In service industries, if profit is there, profit can become the number one goal. If that happens, it's not so good for the public," Diotte said.

Construction on the three facilities will begin in July.

Shannex will need to recruit 450 new employees to staff the facilities, scheduled to open in 2009 and 2010.