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Province funding 450 new, upgraded long-term care beds in London, Elgin

Posted: March 19, 2021

(March 18, 2021)

By: Robin Harvey, St. Thomas Times-Journal

The London region is getting nearly 450 new or renovated long-term care home spaces as part of a $933 million provincewide investment by the Ontario government for such projects.

Two among 80 funded projects provincewide are in London and another in Port Stanley.

In the city, St. Joseph’s Health Care London will see upgrades to 160 spaces at its Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care. Chelsey Park will receive funding for 73 new spaces and 87 upgraded ones.

Port Stanley’s project by Extendicare includes 68 new and 60 upgrade spaces through the construction of a new building in the lakeside community south of London.

“We inherited a substantial capacity deficit from the previous government, where very few new spaces were created for loved ones and the COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted the urgent need for the development of long-term care spaces in Ontario,” said Jeff Yurek, the MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London, during Thursday’s announcement.

The London-region projects are part of the provincial government’s plan to create 30,000 long-term care spaces by 2028 in Ontario, which has more than 40,000 people on a waiting list for beds in these facilities.

“This is certainly a good step they announced today, but it’s not the answer,” said Don Pollock, head of the London-St. Thomas chapter of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons. “My sense is you’ve gotta throw money at it because a lot of times (the long-term care homes are) just too old.”

“We need the beds, but I think that’s an interim step,” Pollock added. “I’d like to see a model that’s a little bit different than (the current one).”

Pollock points out a sixty-something senior and a ninety-something senior have different needs.

He would like more resources put into initiatives that allow seniors to stay in their homes, as well as more resources to hire more workers and an attempt to build smaller, community-driven homes.

Natalie Mehra is the executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition. Her organization wants to see funding cut off to for-profit facilities.

“We are not supportive whatsoever of Southbridge getting a licence or an expansion,” she said. Southbridge Care Homes is the Cambridge-based company that owns Chelsey Park. Extendicare also is a for-profit entity.

“It’s sort of a local re-announcement of what’s been announced multiple times,” she said of Yurek’s event. “This is the local rollout.”

“In all the years leading into the pandemic there were serious problems (in for-profit homes),” she said.

She cites a lack of staff as one such issue. “There’s no care that happens in long-term care without enough staff,” she said.

The $933 million committed by the province means Ontario could have more than 20,000 new and nearly 16,000 upgraded spaces in development to meet that demand, said Yurek.

It wasn’t immediately clear how much of that money will to to the three local projects.

They were chosen based on location, need and how “shovel-ready” the projects were, said Yurek, adding he anticipates work will begin as soon as “they can get through the planning process and get the necessary permits.”

“It’s exciting that the three projects are going to move forward and bring those extra spaces to the people of London and St Thomas and area,” Yurek said.

Long-term care home conditions in Ontario and Canada have been in the spotlight since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic a year ago, with the majority of deaths in the country from the virus happening in these facilities.

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