Province unveils plans for 143-bed Steinbach care home, but withholds cost estimate
Step toward promise of 1,200 more beds by 2025, premier says; opposition say province is moving too slowly
The province revealed new details Thursday for a Steinbach care home announced 2½ years ago that's meant to meet rising demand in the southeastern Manitoba city, but opposition parties accuse the government of repackaging old news and failing to move quickly enough to address the province's care bed shortage.
Premier Brian Pallister and Health Minister Cameron Friesen unveiled plans for a 143-bed care home set to be built in the rapidly growing city of about 16,000, about 50 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg.
A Manitoba Health spokesperson said the hope is to get shovels in the ground by this fall and for the project to be completed within 24 to 36 months.
The province didn't provide a project cost estimate, but said it will provide capital funding and HavenGroup, which operates seniors' residences in Steinbach, is paying the rest.
The new care home will be built next to HavenGroup's Rest Haven personal care home, which has 60 beds, and the 86-suite seniors' housing complex of Woodhaven Manor.
"We're working hard as a government to ensure that all Manitobans get better health care and get it sooner, and in the case of personal care home services this is especially important," Pallister said at a Thursday news conference at Rest Haven.
"I speak as a son and grandson who had the joy and satisfaction and peace of mind of knowing that my mother and grandmother were able to get the kind of care they deserved," he said.
"I know how important it is for families to make sure that we give each other that support, and that care in their lives and in ours."
The new facility will be built in clusters of about a dozen rooms with private washrooms and shared dining, activity and multi-purpose spaces, the province said. Storage, offices, patios, and maintenance and laundry services will also be included.
The building will add capacity to Manitoba's system, which currently has 10,000 people living in 125 licensed care homes, Pallister said. It also gets the province closer to its commitment to add 1,200 personal care home beds by 2025, said Friesen.
The decision to build in Steinbach followed a 2016 review by the Southern Health-Santé Sud health authority that found there was a demand for more beds locally.
Friesen said families incur a "terrible burden" when a loved one is approved to go into a care home but is told there's nowhere for them to live near home.
"Too many of you have your own anecdotes of what happens when we do not have capacity to deliver personal care" spaces, Friesen told people at the news conference.
"We have seen these stories, we have lived these stories along with our constituents, and today what we're talking about is capacity in growing areas because our seniors need it. They deserve it."
'Recycled announcement': NDP
Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew and Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont both characterized the announcement as scant on new details and a rehash of an old commitment.
Then-health minister Kelvin Goertzen previously revealed preliminary plans for Steinbach, along with plans for new personal care home spaces in Winnipeg and Carman, in September 2017.
"Given that this project was already announced on September 8, 2017, it was hardly worth the premier's trip to Steinbach," Lamont said in a statement, riffing on city's famous "it's worth the trip" slogan.
Kinew echoed those words, adding Pallister's government isn't any closer to hitting its campaign promise of adding 1,200 beds.
"Today's recycled announcement provides no new money for this project," Kinew said.
"Meanwhile, emergency rooms in Winnipeg and rural Manitoba are forced to turn away patients because of Pallister's cuts. His plan to cut services and close facilities is hurting Manitoba families."
'Better value for money' than under NDP
Lamont wondered why project costs weren't announced Thursday.
"We would like to know why it has taken so long for this project to be put out to tender and why cost suddenly seems to be a secret," he said.
"The last time this was promised, the PCs said over and over again that it would only cost $133,000 per bed, which we have been told is a totally unrealistic, low-ball price."
Lamont said if those estimates have changed, Manitobans deserve to know.
A Manitoba Health spokesperson said project costs are being withheld so as not to affect the tendering process.
"However, we anticipate this project will provide far better value for money for taxpayers than the NDP was able to achieve on [personal care homes] while offering a more contemporary design that better meets the needs of residents," the spokesperson said in an email.