Kitchener-Waterloo

Saint Luke's Place to close its retirement home in Cambridge

Several seniors still seeking alternate housing as retirement home set to close Oct. 2

June 22, 2018

Saint Luke’s Place, a long-term care home and seniors residence in Cambridge, is closing its retirement home division on Oct. 2. (Google Street View)

Saint Luke's Place, a long term care home and seniors residence in Cambridge, is closing its retirement home division on Oct. 2. Of the 24 residents in the 30-suite facility, 18 still need to find alternate housing.

The retirement home is closing due to changes to Ontario's fire code, according to Saint Luke's CEO Staci Bartlett.

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By January 2019, all retirement homes in the province must be equipped with automatic fire sprinkler systems.

"It was a difficult decision for the Board to make but in the end, in a building this old, we just didn't feel it was a worthwhile investment," said Bartlett.

Bartlett said that quotes to retrofit the retirement home ranged from $250,000 to $500,000. She also said that Saint Luke's did not apply to the province's Fire Sprinkler Retrofit Program for funding.

The funding would have covered up to 75 per cent of eligible expenses for the not-for-profit retirement home.

Eligible costs include: increasing water capacity to meet the demand of automatic fire sprinklers, system installation and remediation work like asbestos control or removal.

"We have 30 suites but 24 residents right now, and when you have such a small number, looking at possibly as high as a half a million dollar expense, it's just too hard to fit into the budget," she told CBC News.

Bartlett believes the retrofit affects small independent retirement homes more than it does larger businesses.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Senior Affairs said that the new fire code requirements permitted lower cost and lower maintenance residential sprinkler systems for all but high-rise buildings. 

The fire code changes were phased in over a five-year period to give operators time to install high cost items.

The Senior Affairs Ministry spokesperson said of the 750 licensed retirement homes in Ontario, over 70 per cent reported to the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA) that they have automatic fire sprinkler systems.

Including Saint Luke's Place, four retirement homes in Ontario have surrendered their licenses citing "financial viability to install sprinklers," according to the RHRA.

Saint Luke's Place is working with the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network to identify residents who need to be on the long-term care wait list, said Bartlett.

Other retirement homes are taking Saint Luke's residents on tours of their facilities.

"Something that's coming to us from the community is that there is a general feeling that Saint Luke's Place is closing, and it really isn't," said Bartlett.

As part of the province's action plan for seniors, Saint Luke's long-term care division has been approved for redevelopment.

Under the redevelopment program, Bartlett said, Saint Luke's will, by 2025, expand from 114 to 165 beds and be in a newly constructed building.

"It's very difficult to have to displace the 24 people but that is 24 of the 300 people who live under our various roofs," said Bartlett. "It is a small portion of our population that we are working really hard to help find a new place."

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