Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Nova Scotia government plans to spend $96.5 million in improving long-term care in the province.
A number of local facilities are in line for some of that cash, according to a news release issued by the province on July 9, including Hillsview Acres Home for Special Care in Middlefield, Queens Manor in Queens County and Harbour View Haven in Lunenburg.
In all, 17 facilities in the province are earmarked to be either renovated or replaced. At the time of the announcement, there was no indication what treatment each facility would receive.
Region of Queens Municipality (RQM) Mayor Darlene Norman confirmed the municipality had not been given any more details, however she was optimistic about the outcome.
RQM owns and operates Hillsview Acres, which was established almost 130 years ago and, as such, is the oldest continuing care facility in the province and one of only a few that is municipally-run.
"We're excited. It's a step forward," said Norman. "I am 99.9 per cent sure that the facility will be replaced."
According to Norman, RQM's council and staff have been planning and hoping for money to replace the facility for years. A past council "had the wisdom of hiring an architectural firm to draw up plans for a new facility," said the mayor. She's hoping this will give them a leg up in getting such a replacement project off the ground quickly.
A media release regarding the long-term-care investment indicated that the newest of the 17 earmarked facilities would not come online until 2026-27. However, Norman doesn't think the municipality can wait that long because of the state of Hillsview Acres.
The 30-bed residential facility is located in Middlefield and employs 25 people.
"We will work really hard to make the best out of every penny and nickel we get," said Norman. "We will create a facility that the residents will be very pleased about and happy to call home."
Nova Scotia Minister of Health and Wellness Zach Churchill indicated in a phone interview with LighthouseNOW most of the projects will be new builds.
"We will work with the operators and do an analysis of the facility, then determine whether it's a major renovation or a new build," he said. "Generally speaking, it's going to be a new build depending on the state of the facility, so most people should expect new builds."
The announcement is the provincial government's third major capital announcement for long-term care in the past couple of years.
"It's going to have a pretty significant impact on wait times once the new beds are up and running and, of course, it's critical to replace some of our aging infrastructure to make sure people are having a safe, high-quality place to live," said Churchill.
In January, the government announced 236 new long-term care beds, the replacement or renovation of seven long-term facilities and an increase to the annual budget for capital repairs and equipment upgrades available to all long-term care facilities.
In 2019-20, the province announced 197 new nursing home beds for six communities including Mahone Bay.
According to Churchill, the province is starting to see the new beds becoming available from the 2019 announcement. The beds announced in January will start to come online in 2024, and those from this latest announcement 2026.
"We learned a lot through COVID-19 in terms of the safety in our buildings and we want to ensure that more buildings, particularly those that have multiple occupancies in one room, that we replace those," he said. "Every new build, every replacement bed, will be for single occupancy, but of course people will still have the option to have someone live with them, like their spouse or partner if requested."
He added that the government is investing in a bed vacancy management program as well, which will help with efficiencies to get people into long-term care centres quicker and reduce wait time. The minister reported that, on average, wait times to get into a long-term care facility is about five to six months. Once all the beds come online from the newest announcements, it will reduce the wait time to just two months.
Harbour View Haven Nursing Home in Lunenburg opened its doors in 1971 and has 143 long-term care beds and one respite care bed available. It's run by the non-profit organization the Lunenburg Home for Special Care Corporation.
Tim McAuley, Harbour View Haven's CEO, said the facility's staff are "absolutely thrilled" that the place has been included in the government's long-term care strategy.
"We are excited to consult with the government in the coming weeks to consider possible changes to best meet the needs of our residents and staff," he commented in an email.
Queens Manor is a 61-bed long-term care facility that opened in Liverpool in 1981. It's run by a not-for-profit organization under the direction of a board of directors.
Attempts to reach Andrew MacVicar, executive director, were unsuccessful, however he did post his thoughts on the Queens Manor Facebook page.
"Queens Manor is happy to be one of the Long Term Care Facilities included in this announcement for future replacement/upgrading. This announcement moves us one step closer to a facility designed for the care needs of our residents with private rooms and bathrooms, enhanced infection prevention and control standards and an enhanced work environment for our hard-working staff. We look forward to working closely with the Department of Health and Wellness in the near future to take the next steps towards this vision."