Main image: MPP Norm Miller announces the approval of 64 new beds for Fairvern Nursing home with (from back left) Fairvern Board Chair Dana Murdy, District Chair John Klinck, Greystone owner Pat Dubé, and Huntsville Mayor Karin Terziano
It was long-awaited, welcome news: the redevelopment of Fairvern Nursing Home has been approved for 160 beds, an overall increase of 84 from its current 76.
MPP Norm Miller made the announcement at Fairvern this afternoon, on the heels of an earlier announcement in Ottawa by Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care, that the Province will be adding almost 3,000 new long-term care spaces in 29 different projects across the province.
“This added capacity will reduce waitlists and improve access to quality care for seniors and ease hallway healthcare,” said Miller. He later told Doppler that he worked hard to communicate with the Minister of Long-Term Care how urgently more beds were needed in the area. “We have a great demand in Muskoka for more beds and I’m very happy that it’s been approved.”
Fairvern board chair, Dana Murdy, called it a “historic day for long-term care and elder care in Muskoka” and thanked the District of Muskoka for its willingness to take on the operation of Fairvern.
In February 2020, District Council agreed that Fairvern should be taken under the upper-tier municipality’s wing—the District already operates The Pines, a 160-bed long-term care home in Bracebridge—after the not-for-profit’s board of directors asked for intervention. An expanded Fairvern would be too large for a small group of volunteers to fundraise for, they said, but its expansion was necessary to make the facility viable.
Public consultation on the transition from Fairvern’s not-for-profit model to the District will begin on Monday, noted Miller. “I’m confident that the majority of people in and around Huntsville will support that transfer.”
District Chair John Klinck said that Fairvern will be in good hands with the District. “We have a good frame of reference,” he said. “Like all upper-tier municipalities, we are legislated to operate a long-term care home. [With District operation of The Pines], we know the business, we know the challenges. If there is going to be an integration of the two facilities, that in itself is somewhat exciting because the economies of scale might kick in.”
Fairvern’s redevelopment is “a facility that Huntsville deserves,” added Klinck. “This facility has served the community so exceptionally well. The current and future residents deserve the latest in design standards in long-term care.”
Huntsville Mayor Karin Terziano, who also sits on District Council, had been a strong advocate for both the increase in beds at Fairvern and for the facility coming under District control. “I’m just thrilled that we’re finally across the goal line,” she said. In addition to the extra capacity for residents, Terziano added that “it’s going to be terrific to have increased jobs here, and just the building of it will be an economic boon for the town.”
Today’s announcement of 64 new beds for Fairvern will be combined with 20 that had been approved in 2018 to bring the total to 160. Fairvern currently has 76 beds, but COVID-19 safety measures have necessitated a gradual reduction of that number, via attrition, to just 56, noted Murdy. Earlier this year, Fairvern had a waitlist of 163.
The new Fairvern will be located near the Huntsville Hospital site, at the new Campus Trails development on five acres of land donated by Pat Dubé of Greystone, a local project management company. At the time of the land donation in 2016, the Town of Huntsville committed to provide the required services and road to the site.
“We’re committed to the cause,” said Dubé, who has had a vision for a campus of care near the hospital for many years. “A campus of care will be so great for our community… We’re excited to have Fairvern join us.” Campus Trails already has a medical centre open and the first of several condominium buildings is under construction.
Dubé added that the addition of Fairvern to the development may allow for some transitional housing. “Something that is adjacent Fairvern that would suit perhaps more of a rental market where folks would have perhaps a spouse at Fairvern. It’s a great need.”
The cost of a 160-bed build for Fairvern was previously estimated at more than $50 million. With design work well underway, Klinck said that the cost of the new development, and what the District’s share of that cost will be, should be known soon, and that he’s heard that the province has “been giving consideration to increasing their contribution so we’re hopeful of that. We believe they should participate in a bigger way.”
The new build is slated to begin in May 2021; construction is expected to take at least two years.
The land that Fairvern currently sits on, a Mill Street property that faces the Muskoka River just south of the swing bridge, is owned by Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare.
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