Ontario plans to spend $933 million to create more beds — including 288 in the Niagara region — in long-term care and upgrade facilities in the sector that’s been devastated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The money will go toward 80 projects and will help create 7,510 new beds in long-term care, upgrade 4,197 existing spaces, and reduce waitlists, the government announced Thursday.
The Niagara projects include:
- Niagara Health’s Welland Site which is being allocated 53 new spaces and 75 upgraded spaces. The project will result in a 128-bed home through the construction of a new building in Welland.
- The Regional Municipality of Niagara’s Gilmore Lodge in Fort Erie which is being allocated 160 spaces to construct a new building as part of a campus of care.
Premier Doug Ford called the initiative “historic,” and said the projects would provide seniors with “the safe and modern living spaces they deserve.”
The funding is part of the government’s commitment to add 30,00 new long-term care beds over a decade.
Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said the province’s 2021 budget – set to be tabled next week – “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.”
Some of the projects include upgrades to older homes stemming from “lessons learned” around infection prevention and control during the pandemic, the government said, “particularly the elimination of three- and four-bed rooms.”
Others projects will focus on adding beds to high-need area, creating spaces specifically for francophone and Indigenous communities and specialized care.
The government also announced it would extend a $3 wage increase for approximately 50,000 eligible personal-support workers in long-term care until June 30.
Ontario long-term care homes were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with 3,752 resident deaths and 11 staff deaths reported as of Thursday. More than 21,000 cases have been reported since the pandemic began.
A commission probing the government’s handling of the situation in long-term care during the pandemic is preparing a report with recommendations that’s expected at the end of April.
The Ontario Long Term Care Association applauded the new funding, saying it would expand the system and address overcrowded buildings that were “a root cause of the tragedy experienced through COVID-19.”
–With files from The Canadian Press