The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted more than ever the need for more spacious, modern long-term care homes in Ontario, says OMNI Health Care president and CEO Patrick McCarthy.
OMNI and other Ontario long-term care providers have been advocating for a program to redevelop older long-term care homes for more than a decade.
While there have been strides to make this happen, limited funding, increasing land and construction costs, lengthy approval processes and other factors continue to present barriers to operators seeking to rebuild and renovate long-term care homes in communities across Ontario, McCarthy says.
“Steps have been taken to address that situation, but we need this work to continue; we need to remove the barriers that are holding back the redevelopment of homes to provide safer, more comfortable space for residents,” McCarthy says.
In 2018, the Ontario government announced a plan to redevelop older long-term care homes and to develop 15,000 additional long-term care beds in the province.
The initial bed awards included upgrades and expansion to four OMNI homes – Country Terrace, Pleasant Meadow Manor, Woodland Villa and Almonte Country Haven – as well as a rebuild for a new 160-bed Riverview Manor in Peterborough.
Construction is expected to begin for three of these homes in the very near future.
Once these homes are redeveloped, they will be organized into smaller resident home areas, providing more space and amenities and quieter, more home-like dining and lounge spaces.
These new and redeveloped homes will also see the elimination of three- and four-bed wards, which will not only deliver residents more privacy, but also greater safety in the event of outbreaks.
Due to the pandemic, Ontario long-term care homes are not currently admitting new residents to three- or four-bed wards, a move which McCarthy says OMNI supports.
Funding to support this policy to the end of the year has been an important factor in maintaining stability and staff retention. However, it is important that the policy be extended beyond the end of the year to maintain that stability, he adds.
“This policy provides for greater space amongst the residents and reduces the risk of transmission,” McCarthy says.
“It has been shown that there is a correlation between outbreaks that occurred during the first round of COVID and the age of homes, so it’s important for the government to ensure the policy and related funding is maintained.”