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County applies for nursing home beds; success could help McFarland redevelopment

The H.J. McFarland Memorial Home in 1987. Operated by Prince Edward County, the H.J. McFarland Home for the Aged was named in memory of Picton’s longest-serving mayor Harvey McFarland, from 1951-1970 and 1973-74 (died in office). It opened in August 1975. Photo from the collection of Alan R. Capon

Facing a shortage of nursing home beds in Prince Edward County, Chief Administrative Officer James Hepburn reports the municipality has applied for more.

Hepburn told council at Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting that an application is being submitted Friday to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, for 76 beds under the province’s new ‘Aging with Confidence: Ontario’s Action Plan for Seniors’ plan announced in the fall.

McFarland Memorial Home site 2017.

“The 76 new beds would facilitate the redevelopment of a new HJ McFarland Home with 160 beds – based on the fact the new design guidelines the ministry put out in 2015 revolve around “pods” of 32,” said Hepburn. “Council is aware we are required to redevelop the current home of 84 ‘C’ class beds by 2025.”

The number, he said, is felt in the industry as a good number – a little on the low side – but will achieve economies of scale to help minimize the amount the County has to contribute in tax dollars to support redevelopment of the home.

The province’s plan announced in November, includes intention to build 5,000 new long-term care beds by 2022 and 30,000 beds over the next decade. It is also eliminating all four-bed wards in the province’s long-term care homes by 2025, by supporting the redevelopment of more than 30,000 existing long-term care beds in more than 300 homes.

The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care issued a call for applications on Feb. 12.

The County’s last bid in 2015 to the South East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), for the 78 beds that were made available from the closing of Picton Manor Nursing Home was unsuccessful.

“We were in discussion with the South East LHIN and incorporated a number of their priorities in this application,” said Hepburn, noting the County could hear whether it has been approved by May or June.

The fate of some of the smaller, existing nursing homes was also considered during the application process, he said – especially ones not on municipal services, under 50 beds that don’t make a lot of sense to redevelop on existing sites. Some are owned by larger corporations so these beds could leave the County if they decided to consolidate two or three homes that they owned in Eastern Ontario into one. We could end up with a real deficit of beds.”

The County has the second largest senior population ratio in Ontario, and the fifth largest in Canada.  Waiting times to gain admission to one of four nursing homes in the County can be up to six months.

“Based on the last application with the South East LHIN, they supplied us with a lot of demographic information and certainly we pointed that out to the Ministry that we are very much an aging community and we are going to have a deficit of long-term care beds in the very near future,” said Hepburn. “Exacerbated by the fact that if we do lose some of these homes – if they decide to redevelop, or decide to sell their licences – it could be an even bigger problem for us.”

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