County to get new long-term care home

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Haliburton County will have a new stateof-the-art long-term care home within three years. News of funding for the $41 million, 128- bed facility was announced by the province and Extendicare during a Feb. 14 Zoom press conference. 

Minister of Long-Term Care Paul Calandra, Haliburton-Kawartha LakesBrock MPP Laurie Scott, Extendicare president and CAO Michael Guerriere and County warden Liz Danielsen spoke during the call.

Danielsen said the County was “very excited to hear the announcement from the province.” She added the need for improvements in LTC have become critical over the last few years “and sadly COVID-19 has made that challenge very difficult for our health care professionals. Our thanks to the province for making long-term care a priority for Haliburton and beyond.” Extendicare currently operates a facility in Haliburton village and it’s expected its replacement will also be in Dysart et al, although there was no announcement as to location. 

The private company operates 96 homesin four provinces. Guerriere said this will be the seventh new home to be built in its chain.

“The Haliburton project will enable us to replace our current facility and build a brand new 128-room long-term care home, more than doubling our current capacity in the community,” Guerriere said.

 He added it will feature state-of-the-art design standards “to meet the current and future needs of seniors.” 

According to the president and CAO, it will equate to more space to connect with loved ones, increased privacy and comfort; be more conducive to resident quality of life; have enhanced resident activity areas and flexible space forrestorative and palliative services. “Extendicare is committed to serving seniors in this region long into the future,” he said. 

68 new and 60 upgraded beds

When asked by The Highlander about the actual number of new beds, once residents are moved into the facility, Guerriere said approximately 70. Asked about timelines, he said within three years. A follow-up press release said there would be 68 new and 60 upgraded beds. 

Scott called it “a great announcement for Haliburton County.” She said COVID had highlighted decadeslong challenges in the long-term care sector and the provincial government is continuing to deliver on its promise to fix the system via a three-pillar approach: improving staffing and care; better accountability, enforcement and transparency; and building modern, safe and comfortable homes for seniors. 

“After many years of listening to community members and working with Warden Liz Danielsen and councillors past and present … our government is investing to help those who are waiting for a bed and waiting to receive the care they need and deserve in their own community,” Scott said. 

She added it will help reduce pressure on local hospitals and the community paramedicine for long-term care program by creating a safe and appropriate care setting.

 As such, Haliburton Highlands Health Services president and CAO Carolyn Plummer also lauded the news. “This is exciting and welcome news; HHHS is pleased that the Government of Ontario continues to invest in the creation of new long-term care beds, especially in our region. We hope this helps with access and wait times for those waiting for a spot in a long-term care home in our community, whether it be individuals who are at home and needing to transition to long-term care, or those in hospital who are awaiting placement in a long-term care home,” she said.

Fears over staffing

Meanwhile, The Haliburton CKL LongTerm Care Coalition said it was surprised by the announcement to build a new, forprofit LTC Extendicare in Halburton. 

“Our coalition commends Extendicare Haliburton staff for keeping residents safe during the pandemic and for the high quality of care they provide,” spokesperson Bonnie Roe said. However, she asked, “at a time when nurses and PSWs are leaving the profession due to burnout and poor wages and working conditions, how will the new home find staff to provide the level of care needed and ensure training begins now?” 

She said the coalition believes this is a key opportunity to look at alternative living options for an aging population. 

“We need to take profit out of elder care. Families, residents and advocates have begged the Ford government to re-think our LTC system and put monies into home care to enable elders to live comfortably in their homes for as long as they can. We want our community to learn from countries worldwide that have built small, community models for our elders that are person-driven and feel like home.”