Public-private partnerships chosen for new long-term care centres in central N.L.

Private companies will construct, design and maintain two new 60-bed long-term care centres in Grand Falls-Windsor and Gander, which are set to open in 2021.

Process similar to the one announced in Corner Brook

Premier Dwight Ball announced plans to use a public-private partnership to build a long-term care centre in Grand Falls-Windsor on Monday. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Private companies will design, build, finance and maintain a pair of new 60-bed long-term care centres in Grand Falls-Windsor and Gander, Premier Dwight Ball announced Monday.

The provincial government has decided to use public-private partnerships to build the two brand-new facilities, which are both expected to open in 2021.

This is smarter spending. It's based on evidence.- Dwight Ball

That's the same arrangement in place for construction of a new nursing home and hospital in Corner Brook. 

Ball said the P3 method was chosen because it means taxpayers will get better value for money, and it will reduce risk for the provincial government. 

However, Ball insisted it is different from a previous Progressive Conservative plan, which the Liberal government cancelled, because the centres will be staffed by public-sector employees.

"This is smarter spending, it's based on evidence, we're getting better value for money, everyone wins in all of this today," he told reporters.

"Taxpayers win, but more importantly seniors, the most vulnerable in our society and their families, they come out of this with a better, improved service." 

Mike Browne, deputy mayor of Grand Falls-Windsor, says the announcement is good news for his community and he hopes more local residents will not have to leave town for long-term care once it has begun operating. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Mike Browne, the deputy mayor of Grand Falls-Windsor, organized a rally in July calling for more long-term care spaces in the community.

He called Monday's announcement good news, but says the province's health authorities should also work to make sure seniors are not separated from their families by being asked to move to new communities to enter a long-term care facility.

"Our committee [hears] week after week, day after day, about people having to be relocated from their own homes. People who have lived here all their lives, people who have lived here 80 or 90 years," he said.

"For them to be coming near the end of life and having to be relocated from their own home, their own town, just unacceptable."

Private builders, public staff

The long-term care centres will be staffed with 140 to 180 public-sector employees, Ball said.

The building will be transferred to provincial government ownership after 30 years, and Ball said the terms of a contract will require the building operators to continuously re-invest in the property.

Staff at the Carmelite House in Grand Falls-Windsor look on as Premier Dwight Ball announces a new 60-bed long-term care facility in the community. Carmelite House will remain open after new second long-term care home is built. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Construction is set to begin in 2019. A Request for Qualifications will be issued in December, and then an RFP will be issued following that.

According to a news release, consulting firm EY will be hired as financial and procurement advisor. A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation and Works said the provincial government would not release a budget for the project because it "could influence bids and potential proponents."

Ball said that the Muskrat Falls project is proof that provincial governments are not always best to be the lead on construction projects.

"We see cost-overruns in just about every single project that the provincial governments … have taken on. And that goes to taxpayers money, that is not spending their money wisely," he said.

The power house at the Muskrat Falls generation facility is pictured in this May 29, 2017, handout image. (Courtesy Nalcor Energy)

He added that a public-private partnership will allow the project to be built faster.

The existing long-term care centres in Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor will remain open following the construction of the new buildings, and the provincial government said in a statement that it is developing options to replace Lakeside Homes in Gander, as it is expected more work will soon be needed to that building.

The provincial government Monday also announced a 20-bed extension to the protective long-term care unit at the Dr. Hugh Twomey health centre in Botwood, which will be built by the provincial government.