If District councillors do not vote in favour of having the District of Muskoka take over the Fairvern home and applying for an expansion to 160 beds by the deadline at the end of March, it could close indefinitely.
“We’ve got to convince some of our compatriots, our colleagues, that we need to keep this going and whatever the expense is to do that,” urged Huntsville and District Councillor Tim Withey at Huntsville Council’s Jan. 27 meeting. Withey was referring to his colleagues around the District table.
“Hopefully with all of our efforts… and certainly, I know Mayor Terziano has been hard at work on it, we’ve got to get this across the finish line. It’s vitally important to our community, vitally important to maintaining our hospital and building out on our campus of care.”
Withey said Fairvern’s current configuration of 76 beds is unsustainable. It then applied for a 96-bed license and it was approved by the Province with the District committing to help fund the redevelopment with a $10.5 million contribution, but it was determined that 96 beds would also not work. “The 96-bed configuration that we had gotten approval for a number of years ago is also unsustainable,” Withey, a former Fairvern board member, told his fellow councillors. “The 160 [bed]expansion effectively doubles what the budget for that build would be, so therefore there is a shortfall as far as what we would have to come up with because the Ministry pays for half of those capital builds.”
After the meeting, Huntsville Mayor Karin Terziano explained that the volunteer board of Fairvern has determined that it cannot build a 160-bed facility, nor likely operate one.
“And the province has dictated that they want one owner to build and operate a long-term care home, so that pretty much puts it at District,” she said. “The problem that we have at District right now is they’re preparing an application to submit it but we don’t have full support of District council for District to assume Fairvern.”
She said if the District does not assume the long-term care home, and an application does not go in for additional beds in order to make it sustainable, Fairvern could close within five years or sooner.
District council is comprised of 23 councillors including the District chair and has representation from all six municipalities across Muskoka. “There is an issue at the District table about who funds what and who should fund what and who has the larger assessment and pays more, so those issues have been at the table for quite some time and I think Fairvern is getting caught in the middle of those issues right now.”
Terziano said additional beds do benefit all of Muskoka but councillors have concerns with the cost. “The District is mandated to run one long-term care home, they’re not mandated to run a second so there is definitely some push-back at the District council table about not wanting to take on that added expense,” she said.
Since the time District committed $10.5 million when Fairvern had been granted a license to build a 96-bed facility, the province released more long-term care licenses. “When the Province released a whole bunch of new licenses they said you need to now apply for 160 [beds], which drove the cost of the new build up significantly,” said Terziano.
She said there are rumblings that the Province may be looking at funding a larger share of new or expanded facilities as a result of more beds. In the meantime, “we’re lobbying our District counterparts to try to get them to support this project.”
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