Ontario accelerating construction of long-term care homes

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

The provincial funding model has been changed, to build more modern long-term care homes providing seniors with the quality care. This new approach will help break down historic barriers and accelerate the construction of urgently needed long-term care projects new and redeveloped beds.

Over the next five years, the government is investing $1.75 billion in long-term care homes and updating design standards to include air conditioning for any new and renovated homes, beginning immediately.

Details were provided last Wednesday by Premier Doug Ford.

Long-term care projects dating back to 2018 will be eligible for the new funding model. The modernized funding model will address concerns about the structure and sufficiency of funding raised during formal stakeholder consultations held in January 2020.

“After inheriting 15 years of underinvestment in long-term care and a massive waitlist of seniors, our government is putting forward bold new solutions to turbo charge the development of long-term care beds across the province and ensure our most vulnerable citizens can live in modern surroundings,” Ford said.

“That’s why our new funding model will not only encourage new beds to be built faster, but also upgrade existing older homes to meet high quality design standards, with features like air conditioning and private or semi-private rooms. Our seniors deserve nothing less.”

The new funding model will help speed up construction by:

  • Creating four new regional categories based on geographic location, each with a targeted home size: large urban, urban, mid-size, and rural. An increase to the province’s construction funding subsidy (CFS) will be tailored to each of these four categories, enabling the government to address the barriers and needs of different communities;
  • Providing development grants, between 10 per cent and 17 per cent depending on regional category, to cover upfront costs like development charges, land and other construction expenses;
  • Helping small operators in rural communities navigate the high cost of development, while ensuring larger urban centres can secure the loans and real estate they need; and
  • Increasing funding to incentivize the construction of basic accommodation and continuing top-ups for small and medium sized homes.

Ford’s announcement came a week after the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario (CDCO) said COVID-19 has created an opportune time to look at opportunities to overhaul these care facilities through renovations and updates to building infrastructure – improving care and housing for all residents.

“COVID-19 has highlighted the need to renovate these facilities,” said CDCO general counsel Mark Lewis.

“In so doing, we all need to reassess what the future of long-term care could look like, and this is a real opportunity to make all Ontario’s LTC facilities safer and much healthier for current and future residents.”

CDCO president Mike Yorke said the range of activities needed to bring these homes up to newer standards involve physical reconfiguring patient rooms, and addressing major structural issues such as outdated HVAC and electrical systems.

“Now’s the time to bring Ontario’s long-term care homes and hospitals into the 21st century.”

Ford says the changes will make it more attractive for operators to build long-term care homes and bring aging homes with three-to-four person ward rooms up to modern design standards. Currently, more than 38,000 people are on the waitlist to access a long-term care space, and new long-term care home construction has not kept pace. The previous “one-size-fits-all” funding model has not spurred development nor accounted for how regional differences impact land, construction and other development costs.

Working with the long-term care sector, the government will dedicate funding to ensure long-term care homes in need have working air conditioning ― a measure that should have been put in place many years ago.

With thousands of new and redeveloped beds on the way, the government is also going to be changing long-term care regulations and design standards to ensure that all new builds and redevelopments are mandated to have air conditioning.

“This newly designed model is a signature element of our government’s plan to address capacity in long-term care,” said Minister Fullerton. “This bold new plan will allow us to modernize a system that had been neglected for years, reduce the waiting list and ensure seniors live in a setting that is modern, clean and comfortable. In addition, this new investment will create jobs and contribute to our economic recovery.”

Between 2011 and 2018, there were 611 long-term care beds built across the province ― less than one bed per home. Ontario is now investing $1.75 billion to create more urgently needed long-term care beds and redevelop older beds to modern standards.

Nearly 78,000 Ontario residents currently live in 626 long-term care homes across the province.

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