Town of Huntsville CAO Denise Corry told Huntsville Council at its April meeting that with the Province’s recent announcement that it would be adding more long-term care beds to the system, Fairvern’s redevelopment plans are on hold.
Currently, the redevelopment plans call for a new 96-bed facility on lands behind the Huntsville hospital. “They do have their schematic design that they’re trying to finalize with the consultant but until there’s a final number [of beds], pending what the Province has recently announced, they are sort of in a hold mode right now,” said Corry, who sits on Fairvern’s capital redevelopment committee.
Mayor Scott Aitchison told his colleagues that in order for the new Fairvern to be successful it will require more than 96 beds.
One of the things that the folks at Fairvern have brought to our attention is that at 96 beds, the new Fairvern still won’t be quite big enough and generate enough revenue to really be sustainable long-term.Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison on Fairvern’s redevelopment plans
At 96 beds they would probably start running into some of the very same issues that plagued them in the past. “They would get a little bit of money saved and something would go wrong with the elevator and they’d be broke and scrambling for money,” said Aitchison. “So what they have analyzed is that if they had a minimum of 32 more beds on top of the 96, that would be approaching the right critical mass of size and revenue at a minimum [so]that it could continue to operate as a not-for-profit community home.”
The Province has announced that it plans to add another 15,000 long-term care beds to the system in the next five years, of which approximately 6,500 of those will be added this year, said Aitchison. In that context, Aitchison said the board of Fairvern asked him to reach out to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott and Premier Doug Ford to see if they’d consider approving more beds for Fairvern “because now is the perfect time. You know they’re ready right now to add those beds,” said Aitchison, noting that if beds were added in future it would be costlier and more disruptive.
Aitchison told his fellow councillors that he wrote a letter to the Minister as well as the Premier and was pleasantly surprised to get a call from the latter.
“I explained it to him in a little more detail and he was very supportive of the idea and said that he’d be talking to the Minister and see what they could do to make sure we got some extra beds here,” said Aitchison of his conversation with Premier Ford. He said the Premier also recognized that long-term care beds in communities like Huntsville are very much needed, as many people chose to retire here.
Councillor Tim Withey, who previously sat on the Fairvern redevelopment committee, said the approval process for initially going from 76 to 96 beds “was unbelievably brutal.”
He said the project cost, half of which was being provided by the District of Muskoka which had committed to $10.5 million in funding at the time, had gone from an estimated $22 million to “I believe $26 [million]and climbing” without adding more beds.
He said part of the deal with the Ministry is that Fairvern come up with 50 per cent of the project cost and take out a loan for the remainder, which would then be paid back by the Ministry over a number of years.
“I remain bullish on this project. It’s something that’s dear to my heart having been closely involved with it. I hope that this new government can move things a little bit quicker than in the past and I don’t know where the extra funds are going to come from,” Withey said, adding that perhaps another visit to the District may be in order.
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