Construction issues will delay opening of 2 N.L. long-term care homes

Inspectors found hundreds of issues in long-term care homes in Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor earlier this year, and they won't be fixed until 2022.

Homes won't open to patients until 2022

Though major exterior work appears finished, construction deficiencies inside the new Gander long-term care home will delay its opening until 2022. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

About 100 deficiencies found in the construction of two long-term care homes in central Newfoundland will delay their opening until the new year, according to the provincial government.

Elvis Loveless, minister of transportation and works, says work continues to address the remaining issues with the buildings in Grand Falls-Windsor and Gander — but it's taking longer than he would like.

Inspectors identified 400 pages' worth of problems this year, according to a document tabled in the House of Assembly — and not all of them have been fixed.

Loveless said Wednesday there are about 100 problems still left with the buildings, out of the thousands that were first spotted.

"I wish they had been dealt with before, but they're not. We're dealing with a contractor and due diligence is being done. It's taking more time than we want it to take," Loveless told reporters.

"But I've said before in the House of Assembly that I'd rather for it to be dealt with now before residents are in the home occupying the facility, rather than after they're in it, because that would be another story in itself."

Elvis Loveless is the provincial minister of transportation and infrastructure. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Loveless would not give a new estimated date for the opening of the facilities, but said he hopes it will be in early 2022.

According to documents obtained through access-to-information requests by the Progressive Conservative opposition, problems identified this year included improper installation of elevators, ventilation systems, security systems, nurse-calling systems and systems that wandering-patient guard systems.

Loveless said he could not comment on specifics about discussions with contractors, but pointed to COVID-19 as a cause for delays in getting certain parts.

Barry Petten, PC critic for transportation and infrastructure, said he believes the saga shows government officials need to provide more oversight to the project and the companies involved in constructing the homes.

"We got three other big projects coming down the chute," he said, referencing the provincial government's plans to build a new mental health and addictions facility, replace the penitentiary in St. John's, and build a new hospital in Corner Brook.

"Government needs to get it right because it's too important not to have it. We can't have this happen again."

Barry Petten is the Progressive Conservative critic for transportation and infrastructure. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

He said some of the problems revealed by the inspectors are "unbelievable" — like issues with the accessibility ramps near the loading dock at the Gander location, and remarks by Central Health officials in their own briefing notes that wrong elevator tolerances will result in staff injuries.

"Accessibility issues for seniors? Just think about that for a second," he said. "These are seniors' homes. I mean, big demand, 120 beds for seniors, and you have accessibility issues." 

Loveless said there will be no further cost to the public to have the construction issues addressed, and said the process is evidence that the government's public-private partnership model for constructing the buildings is working.

"We're holding the company's feet to the fire," he said. "They've been co-operative. We're not happy that we're here at this time frame. But it is a reality right now."

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