By Mike Anderson
York-Simcoe MPP Caroline Mulroney announced on Friday the Ford government is providing funding to bring 192 long-term care beds to Keswick.
The funding will kick-start the construction of a new long-term care home by Rykka Care Centres, which owns 11 long-term care homes and 18 retirement homes in Ontario.
The Keswick Rykka Centre will be managed by Responsive Management Inc (RMI), a business unit of Responsive Group Inc.
“These beds are a key part of our government’s $6.4 billion commitment to build more than 30,000 net new long-term care beds by 2028,” said MPP Mulroney at a media event held at Club 55 in Keswick on April 22.
“More than 4,700 new and 1,400 upgraded long-term care beds are in development, under construction, or have been recently completed in York Region and Simcoe County.”
“This investment will help make sure that our seniors get the quality care they deserve. And it’ll also help make life easier for our frontline workers who care for our residents.”
“This is a significant milestone for the Keswick Georgina area and the broader long-term care system,” added Greg Bowman, vice-president of development for Responsive Group Inc.
“New long-term care homes provide seniors and their families with increased access to much needed modern, safe, and comfortable homes.”
“Our new Keswick home will be more residential in scale and feel, including wider hallways, more intimate dining rooms, more private and semi-private rooms and greater access to outdoor space for residents and their visiting families.”
Bowman says the new Rykka Centre will cost $70 million to build and employ 200 healthcare professionals.
Although the exact location was not disclosed, Bowman says it will be located near the Walmart Supercentre on Woodbine Ave., with construction slated to begin in 2023 and an estimated completion date of 2025.
While the 192 beds are new to Georgina, they are being moved or redeveloped from an existing facility in Toronto.
Still, they will double the amount of LTC beds in Georgina — adding to the 57 LTC beds at Cedarvale Lodge in Keswick, and the 119 LTC beds at River Glen Haven in Sutton.
According to the provincial media release, these facilities will also be adding new beds – 25 at RGH and 12 at Cedarvale.
Bowman says roughly half the 192 beds at the Rykka Centre will be designated basic, and the other half private.
Basic rooms, which are semi-private, will have a shared washroom. Private rooms will have their own washroom.
According to the Ministry of Long-Term Care, the current maximum rate for long-stay basic is $62.18 per day and $1,891.31 per month. Long-stay private is $88.82 per day and $2,701.61 per month. These rates are standard in all long-term care homes across Ontario.
If residents don’t have enough income to pay for a basic room, they may be eligible for a subsidy through the Long-Term Care Home Rate Reduction Program.
According to a Global News report, 5 out of 9 Rykka Centres experienced COVID-19 outbreaks during the pandemic, resulting in 132 deaths. Among for-profit LTC home operators in Ontario, only Sienna and Revera experienced more deaths, 295 and 239.
But Bowman says many tough lessons were learned, and the company has changed its practices to minimize the risk of infection.
“We were hit very early in the pandemic before anybody really knew what was happening. We had our first cases in early March 2020, almost right away. So people didn’t know anything at that point,” he said.
“We’ve done a lot of looking at lessons learned and changed a lot of practices. We actually published a pandemic playbook that we provided to the entire Ontario long-term care sector.”
While no LTC home can guarantee it won’t experience an outbreak, Bowman says the design of its new homes will reduce its severity.
“Our new homes have this concept of a resident home area, which is 32 residents living in one area of the home. They have their own dining, activity, leisure and therapy spaces. So if something does happen in a home area, they’re in a smaller subset, a smaller cohort, so there is more protection from infection,” he said.
“We’re also widening our hallways to allow for social distancing. And the rooms provide greater privacy and protection from whatever infection your neighbour might have.”
“We’ve also done huge upgrades on air quality, including increasing the number of times we exchange first air. And every home now has an IPAC control person, whose job is to look after infection control measures.”
Bowman believes the criticism levelled against the for-profit LTC home sector during the pandemic was unfair, pointing out that LTC homes run by municipalities were also hit hard.
He says the long-term care sector works best with a mix of public and private LTC homes.
And he says smaller municipalities, like Georgina, don’t have the tax base to build and operate new LTC homes. So, for-profit LTC homes help fill the gap.
“I don’t see governments, provincial or municipal, funding the construction of new LTC homes. We’re going to be funding this new building. Certainly, we are getting some funding from the province, but it’s not covering even half the cost. So, the cost to the Ontario taxpayer, if the province was to take over all this development, would be immense.”