Province approves 62 new beds for Grey Gables

Grey Gables long-term care home in Markdale. Rob Gowan / Sun Times

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The province has approved Grey County’s application for 62 new long-term care beds for Grey Gables in Markdale, part of a proposed county project to create a 128-bed facility in the Grey Highlands community.

Grey County Warden and Grey Highlands Mayor Paul McQueen said the announcement Friday comes nearly a year after he and long-term care director Jennifer Cornell hand-delivered a copy of the county’s application to Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Progressive Conservation MPP Bill Walker, a member of the Ontario government’s cabinet.

“As mayor and warden, I’m pretty ecstatic,” McQueen said in an interview shortly after Walker issued a news release to announce the province’s approval of the new beds.

“It’s great news moving forward with regards to the public and our residents and the ability to offer more opportunities for seniors. And also from an economic perspective and the opportunity for employment.”

Grey County is planning to upgrade the 66 beds at Grey Gables and add the now-approved 62 beds onto the facility to create a 128-bed home.

The project will involve constructing a new building and will be part of a “campus of care,” Walker’s release said.

McQueen said the proposed “campus of care” is to also include Grey Bruce Health Services’ new Markdale hospital next to Grey Gables and the nearby South East Grey Community Health Centre.

Ontario’s Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton announced Friday in Ottawa that the province will be moving ahead with 29 new long-term care projects, including the one in Markdale, that will lead to a combined 1,968 new and 1,015 upgraded long-term care spaces across the province.

The province, she said, is investing $1.75 billion to create 30,000 beds over 10 years. Friday’s announcement brings to 22,368 the total number of new and upgraded long-term care spaces in the pipeline. More than 38,500 people are on a waiting list for a long-term care bed.

“With this announcement, our government is taking another step towards creating a 21st century long-term care sector that provides the highest quality of care for our most vulnerable people, where and when they need it,” she said in a statement.

Grey County council decided in February 2019 to keep Grey Gables as a county-owned home by voting to rescind an earlier motion to sell the facility.

It also voted to amend a redevelopment application for the county’s Rockwood Terrace long-term care home in Durham to include 128 beds, instead of the original 100. That home must be upgraded from a Class B to a Class A facility by 2025. The province announced in September 2019 that it had approved 28 new and 100 redeveloped beds for Rockwood Terrace.

Two months later, Grey County council voted to apply for 62 additional beds for Grey Gables, revising an early plan to seek 96 new beds.

The proposals for both Grey Gables and Rockwood Terrace call for 128-bed facilities, as council heard 32-unit pods are the provincial standard and maximize efficiencies.

County staff estimated last year that the annual capital repayment and operating costs for the proposed new 128-bed Grey Gables would add at least $1 million to the county’s annual levy for long-term care, which was about $6.2 million for its three homes – Grey Gables, Rockwood Terrace and Lee Manor in Owen Sound.

McQueen said the county will explore whether it can achieve some savings by tackling the Grey Gables and Rockwood Terrace projects at the same time.

“If we had a design for Grey Gables and we were able to go out to tender both projects at the same time, the economies of scale having two facilities done at the same time, you would figure there would be some savings there,” he said, noting Markdale and Durham are about 20 minutes apart.

“The contractors could move back and forth quite easily, so that would be a real positive thing.”

Grey County communications manager Rob Hatten said a timeline for the Grey Gables project hasn’t been set yet and the county will be working with the province on next steps.

County council is to discuss the province’s announcement at its next meeting Thursday.

Walker, in his news release, noted that both Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Fullerton toured Grey Gables more than a year ago “and promised to make our seniors a priority.

“As a result, we have been taking historic steps to add capacity in health care and to upgrade long-term care homes across Bruce and Grey as we work towards our commitment to modernize this sector.”

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