Long-term care homes anxiously await details of provincial funding promise
Many homes have already developed plans for renovations or new facilities
For the seven long-term care homes tapped by the Nova Scotia government for upgrades, the promise is welcome — but most know little about what exactly awaits them.
Last week, Premier Stephen McNeil announced the government would more than quadruple its annual budget for capital repairs and equipment upgrades at long-term care facilities. In addition, he said seven homes would either receive major renovations or be replaced.
After McNeil's announcement, CBC News spoke to administrators at the seven homes slated for upgrades, and they all said they're expecting more details from the province this month about what comes next.
But they already have some ideas about what they'd like to see happen.
All the facilities share a few common factors: their buildings are several decades old (all date back to the 1970s or earlier), and many of the administrators said they've been wanting, planning — and in some instances, pitching their plans to the province — for years.
The Birches, Musquodoboit Harbour
Dion Mouland was pleasantly surprised when he got a call from health officials Friday morning, telling him The Birches had been chosen for an overhaul.
"I really thought it was a hoax," said Mouland, CEO of the 42-bed facility. "We're so delighted."
Sections of the home were built in the 1950s, others in the 1970s, and there are "lots of challenges" that come along with that age, he said. Kitchen facilities are borrowed from the adjacent Twin Oaks Memorial Hospital and there is no modern elevator between the two floors.
Mouland said he's hoping for a totally new build rather than a renovation, but he's waiting to hear what vision the province has.
Last January, The Birches went to tender to cost the options for either a major renovation or rebuild, but the process was interrupted by COVID-19 and never completed.
Now Mouland said he's "anxiously awaiting to have some conversations with government around what our next steps are."
Mouland said he sees a need for more long-term care beds on the Eastern Shore in the communities around The Birches. That area is in the central health zone where the province committed last week to adding 236 long-term care beds — 192 of which have yet to be tied to a specific location or facility.
Mouland said he expects to discuss the possibility of expanding The Birches' capacity to take on some of those new beds with the government.
Mountain Lea Lodge, Bridgetown
Since it was built in 1966, Mountain Lea Lodge has seen a significant shift in its clients, CEO Joyce d'Entremont said.
"It used to be that residents would be admitted in long-term care and they'd park their cars in the parking lot and go for rides on Sunday. Now, with the acuity we're seeing, the frail elderly, we're basically providing end-of-life care."
D'Entremont said millions of dollars have been spent in recent years on repairs and upgrades to the 107-bed facility "and we still have an old building that doesn't meet our residents' needs."
That's why she's hoping the province will agree to build a new facility for Mountain Lea Lodge — a project she estimates would cost upward of $40 million. That price tag is based on a plan that was just completed, which d'Entremont said she had been preparing to present to the government before last week's announcement.
Foyer Pere Fiset, Cheticamp
Administrator Mona Poirier said the 50-year-old Foyer Pere Fiset has been asking the province to help expand for the past seven years. Poirier said there are plans for two new wings and to eliminate double rooms.
Until now, the facility had been told its plans would be considered "later on," said Poirier.
It seems that time has come for the 70-bed facility. Poirier said the only information she's received from the province so far is that Foyer Pere Fiset was selected for infrastructure funding and to expect another call within a few weeks. She's hoping that means the existing plans will finally get the support she's been asking for.
The last time Poirier pitched the expansion to the provincial government was in 2019, at which point the cost estimate was $5 million. Poirier said she suspects the price would be higher now, given the rising cost of building supplies since the start of the pandemic.
R.C. MacGillivray Guest Home, Sydney
At 54 years old, the R.C. MacGillivray Guest Home holds a host of challenges, which CEO Jody Gentile said she suspects are common to all homes of that vintage.
"The shared rooms are obviously a big issue, accessible washrooms are an issue, the aging electrical, plumbing, air handling systems," she said.
Like her counterparts, Gentile said she's expecting to hear more from the province within the next few weeks about its plans. Her hope is for a new facility.
"But certainly that's not my area of expertise," she said. "We'll have to leave that to the experts to do an evaluation of our facility, and cost replacement versus renovation."
Shoreham Village, Chester
The 90-bed facility in Chester was built in 1975 and CEO Janet Simm said it has some significant infrastructural challenges.
A 2018 assessment resulted in a laundry list of items needing repair. Work on the elevator, water lines and windows were all done in the past few years, but other items remain, including the construction of a new wing and upgrades to the ventilation system.
In the next couple of weeks, Simm said she expects an assessment will get underway to determine the best next step: continue with the current plan for repairs and renovations, or start from scratch with a new facility.
Simm is also the CEO of Northwood, which has the most detailed plan from the province so far.
Northwood slashed capacity at its Halifax campus by 100 beds during the first wave of COVID-19, which hit the facility hard. More than 300 staff and residents were infected and 53 residents died.
Those 100 beds will be replaced and relocated to a new facility to be built in the Halifax suburb of Fall River, along with an additional 44 beds.
Simm said the new campus will be designed similarly to Northwood's 10-year-old Bedford campus, which primarily has single rooms.
The Bedford campus has been testing new technology for some of its residents since last year, which Simm said allows them to control electronics, lights and doors in their rooms with voice activation. Some of those features could be included in Fall River.
"With a new building we'll be able to really build that into the walls," Simm said.
She said she hopes to begin discussions with the province on the new facility this week.
Grand View Manor, Berwick
Over the past few years, Grand View Manor has created its own detailed plan to replace its 50-year-old facility, which houses 142 people.
That plan was presented to the province last year with an ask for a $900,000 contribution to cover engineering schematics for the $69-million project.
Pauline Ravine, chair of the facility's board, told CBC News last week she hopes the province's new commitment means it will cover the $900,000 that's already been requested.
with files from CBC Radio's Information Morning