Featured image: Mayor Scott Aitchison and Fairvern Redevelopment Committee chair Bev MacWilliams (foreground) answer questions at a special council meeting as (background from right) Pat Dubé, owner of Greystone, Rob Laver, chair of the Fairvern board, and Tim Withey, Fairvern Redevelopment Committee member, look on.
Huntsville Council has shown unanimous support for the redevelopment of Fairvern Nursing Home on donated lands near Huntsville Hospital. At a special council meeting on August 8, councillors voted 9-0 in favour of acquiring those lands with the intent of later turning them over to Fairvern.
The lands have been offered up by local businessman Pat Dubé, with the Town providing the required services and road to the site at a cost of about $300,000. (See background on the donation on Doppler here.) And with Fairvern moving to a new site, the land it sits on – which is owned by Muskoka Algonquin Healtcare (MAHC) – could be sold to help fill hospital coffers.
“I’m a member of the Huntsville Hospital Fountation and we are fundraising all the time. It’s a big challenge,” said Dubé. “The feel-good story is MAHC gets the land back. That’s waterfront land, so it’s quite valuable – that’s a boost for the hospital. And we’ve had this vision of creating a campus of care. (Fairvern) is a catalyst for the whole project. It’s not unlike a Wal-Mart in a commerce park – that starts the whole development and from here there will be other things that we’ll be able to build.”
Dubé said that he has plans to build an apartment building that’s geared to seniors adjacent to the new Fairvern which could benefit from services at Fairvern and allow the home to receive additional income as a result. Another area on the adjacent property is slated for a retirement home, and there could also be some independent living housing.
“It makes sense to get this synergy going between all of these buildings,” said Dubé. “It’s a win-win for everybody. Fairvern gets to build immediately, and it doesn’t disturb their residents to build on their property which would be very, very challenging and expensive. They get title to land immediately which has value to them – all of the sudden they have equity in the project of their own. I can’t think of a side that wouldn’t benefit from this, plus you feel good about doing it.”
Strong municipal support
If funding for the project falls into place, Fairvern could break ground at the new site as soon as June of 2017. To help secure that funding, Mayor Scott Aitchison said that it’s important for Town Council to show its strong support for the redevelopment.
“The Town of Huntsville is serious about this project,” said Aitchison. “It’s important to not just Huntsville, but it’s important to all of Muskoka. One of the big holes is that the Ministry of Health only funds a percentage of the capital cost of redevelopment so we really do need municipal support.”
This Council and this community needs to send a strong message to our colleagues at District that we’re not just sitting back and hoping that someone solves the problem for us, but that we’re actively engaged and we are working together and we will make some contribution to help make it possible as well.Mayor Scott Aitchison
What will it cost?
How much the project will cost is a bit of a moving target. It depends in part on how many beds Fairvern will be allowed – a number determined by the North Muskoka Local Health Integration Unit (LHIN) and which could be decided by late September. Currently the facility has 76 beds. Its “sweet spot”, according to Fairvern Redevelopment Committee chair Bev MacWilliams, is 96, a number that will allow the facility to operate sustainably and efficiently.
With a $250,000 grant to be awarded from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC) upon its approval for the project, projected fundraising of approximately $200,000, and Ministry financing of about $10 million, that leaves the project with an estimated shortfall of between $8.25 million and $12.35 million depending on the number of beds. If MOHLTC agrees to provide funding for additional beds if they are approved, the latter number would drop to $10.4 million.
Will District support the project?
Bev MacWilliams and Tim Withey of Fairvern’s redevelopment committee were before the District of Muskoka’s Community Services Committee Monday afternoon – with the support of Mayor Aitchison and Councillor Nancy Alcock in the gallery – to ask for an estimated $10 million for the project.
Fairvern is one of four long-term care homes in the District, the only one that’s not-for-profit. It’s very important to Muskoka. We have to redevelop…time is running out.
Tim Withey, Fairvern Redevelopment Committee
The level of care that the facility provides has changed over the years, Withey added. “We are seeing older patients, a lot more dementia. One of the questions I had (upon returning to Fairvern’s board) is how many residents feed into the local residential hospice and the answer was basically zero. We are essentially operating a 76-bed hospice right now.”
The facility has a waitlist of 40-50 people every month, said Withey, and added that it’s important particularly for people with limited income who can’t afford other facilities or types of care.
Mayor Scott Aitchison stepped in to add that Fairvern is now labelled as a Class D facility. “If it’s not redeveloped, it’s going to be shut down.”
A visionary project
District Chair John Klinck called the proposed project visionary and praised Huntsville Council for its efforts, while recognizing the challenges of funding a project of this size.
“The reality is this type of structure is exceptionally challenged and it’s even more challenged in a neighbourhood like ours. Despite the exceptional benevolence that exists not only in Huntsville but throughout Muskoka, the reality is I don’t believe the Town of Huntsville, the citizenry and the corporate entities within will have the ability to come up with dollars of that order of magnitude. I think it’s far too much of a stretch for the community with other priorities and other necessities, some of which are healthcare related.”
Klinck also acknowledged the need for affordable long-term care.
Private opportunities for long term care will be beyond the reach of an exceptional number of Muskoka residents in the future… I think we will see a strain on this cohort (of aging adults) and the sooner we can get at creating more beds, the better off we are going to be. We are legislated as an upper tier municipality to own at least one facility of this type, although we haven’t talked about the possibility… I think we are being visionary in getting into this business.
District Chair John Klinck
And he voiced his support for the project as one that’s critical for the region.
“I salute the town of Huntsville… it makes good sense to integrated social health and service delivery in Muskoka. I think they are on the leading edge in creating a mass of services that are appropriate for that region and beyond. And it’s nice to see the private sector, the lower tier and potentially the upper tier working together to create sustainability. I think it would be appropriate for us to send a signal to the Ministry that the District does believe that the redevelopment of Fairvern is critical not only to the Town of Huntsville and the District of Muskoka but to what they are trying to do throughout the province. I will be supporting the resolution.”
The Community Services Committee voted unanimously to direct District staff to “prepare options related to funding the capital redevelopment of Fairvern in concert with contributions from local municipalities and… prepare options for the creation of a sustainable business plan that best ensures Fairvern with a future that is stable, efficient and operationally effective.”
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