Manitoulin Lodge again left out of LTC funding announcement

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Wikwemikong Nursing Home receives go-ahead to build 96-bed facility

Tom Sasvari with files from Michael Erskine

MANITOULIN – There is good and bad news in regards to an announcement by the provincial government last week concerning an investment of $933 million for 80 new long-term care projects, which will lead to thousands of additional new and upgraded long-term care spaces across the province. The March 18 announcement moves the government a step closer to fulfilling its commitment to add 30,000 much-needed long-term care spaces over 10 years.

The Wikwemikong Nursing Home (WNH) expansion plan has been approved, with funding of $10 million being provided towards 37 new and 59 upgraded spaces. The project will result in a 96-bed home through the construction of a new building in Wikwemikong. 

“Oh my, everyone is so excited,” said WNH administrator Cheryl Osawabine-Peltier. “As for what’s next, I don’t know. I just want to enjoy this moment.”

The announcement from the provincial government included news that the approval comes with a $10 million funding contribution. “That’s qualified,” said Ms. Osawabine-Peltier. “We still have to raise $15 million, but getting the official approval will make our capital campaigns so much stronger.”

“From the beginning of this pandemic, our government has made it clear that we will do whatever it takes to protect our long-term care residents,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford. “These historic investments will provide our seniors with the safe and modern living spaces they deserve, after decades of neglect and underinvestment by previous governments.” 

Stephanie Barber, community relations co-ordinator of Jarlette Health Services told the Recorder on Monday in an email, “while the new bed announcement for the WNH and other long term care homes across the province is very welcome news and a progressive step for the sector at large, I can confirm that Manitoulin Lodge was not included in this recent allocation of new beds,” wrote Ms. Barber. “We will continue to advocate for Manitoulin Lodge and look forward to having the opportunity to further extend our provision of care to a wider demographic of seniors in need in the future.” 

Dan Osborne, mayor of the Town of Gore Bay told the Recorder, “if in fact, Jarlette Health Services had applied for funding, it is disappointing to see our nursing home, Manitoulin Lodge, not receive funding, again. This affects all of Western Manitoulin.”

“The Manitoulin Lodge Nursing Home is very important, it is critical to our town and all of Western Manitoulin and has received no funding (in two rounds of funding),” said Mayor Osborne. “It is fantastic news that funding has been provided for the WNH, it is funding that is needed, but the Lodge needs funding as well, and it is very disappointing that funding was not received, especially since they as well have been mandated to meet a set of provincial standards in the next few years.” 

Mayor Osborne said it would be, “devastating to our community and Western Manitoulin if we didn’t have this local nursing home. Our provincial riding is not blue (Progressive Conservative), but I think we would have received funding if we were, or if our riding had been red (Liberal) when the Liberals were in power we would have received funding previously. You can’t tell me that politics isn’t involved.” He said the lack of funding issue for the Lodge project would be a good topic to bring up at the Manitoulin Municipal Association, and that he will be requesting Gore Bay council support his proposal to have a motion sent to all municipalities and First Nations on the Island for support in lobbying the province for funding. 

“Our most vulnerable deserve the support they need when they need it in a setting that provides comfort and caring,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, minister of long-term care. “Today’s investment is part of the government’s comprehensive plan to modernize long-term care for generations to come. It will increase access to long-term care, reduce waitlists, and ease hospital capacity pressures.”

“While COVID-19 threatens us all, it is the residents and staff in our long-term care homes who have suffered the most,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, minister of finance and president of the treasury board. “Ontario’s 2021 budget will build on our commitment to protect our seniors and provide the highest quality of care for loved ones when and where they need it. That includes the creation of new and upgraded long-term care spaces. These most recent allocations will result in a development pipeline of 20,161 new spaces representing more than two-thirds of the government’s commitment to build 30,000 new beds by 2028, as well as 15,918 upgraded spaces.”

A release noted the criteria for selecting the projects announced last week include: upgrading older homes in response to lessons learned around improved infection prevention and control (IPAC) measures, particularly the elimination of three and four bed rooms; adding spaces to areas where there is high need; addressing the growing needs of diverse groups, including Francophone and Indigenous communities; and/or promoting campuses of care to better address the specialized care needs of residents.

Ontario is investing $933 million in these projects, on top of the $1.75 billion already earmarked for the delivery of 30,000 new spaces over 10 years. 

Of the 80 projects, more than 60 involve the construction of brand-new buildings and 35 involve campuses of care where multiple services will be provided on the same site.