Sunday March 19, 2023 | COLWOOD, BC [Last update March 22, 2023] | See shorter version of this article (March 22, 2023)
by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc. | Island Social Trends
Health Minister Adrian Dix was in Colwood on Thursday to announce the procurement phase for a three-story long-term care facility that will provide 306 new care home beds in the west shore region. Job creation for health-care workers is one of the benefits, as well as residents of the west shore knowing their loved ones — when needing long-term care — can age in place close to home.
That will add to the 811 long-term care beds already owned and operated by Island Health. Including contracted beds (through third party facilities) the total number of long-term care beds now on Vancouver Island is 2,170. Either way, an additional 306 beds (260 of them for seniors, 26 for brain injury and mental health and addictions care, and 20 for hospice) will be a significant boost to available spaces for aging and elderly people who need them.
“Ensuring that seniors in BC are able to live independently for as long as safely possible and have access to comfortable, home-like care services when they need it is a top priority for our government,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.
“That’s why we continue to invest in projects such as this Westshore long-term care project, to meet the growing demands for high-quality long-term community-based care,” he said.
The announcement was made outdoors on a cold but sunny afternoon in front of Colwood City Hall.
The provincially-hosted event was emceed by local MLA Mitzi Dean (Esquimalt-Metchosin) and attended by Island Health Chair Leah Hollins and Island Health CEO Kathy MacNeil, Colwood Mayor Doug Kobayashi and Colwood Councillors Kim Jordison and Misty Olsen, Metchosin Mayor Marie-Térèse Little, Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch who chairs the Capital Regional District (CRD) Hospital Board, City of Langford Councillor Lillian Szpak, Sooke School District 62 (SD62) Chair Ravi Parmar and SD62 Trustee Russ Chipps (Beecher Bay Chief), and former Colwood Mayor Dave Saunders who is president of the Saunders Family Foundation which has been running the Health West Shore project.
Long-term care profile by Minister Dix:
Health Minister Adrian Dix expressed his admiration for the ‘beautiful city hall’ and to have mayors, councillors and school trustees on hand for the announcement, describing them as “people who care about this community”. He said that long-term care has been “at the centre of what we’ve been trying to do for the last few years” … “because as all of us know, the COVID-19 pandemic affected people in long-term care more than anyone else”. He said he talked to families and staff virtually every day during the pandemic. “We know the importance and central role that long-term care plays in the community, and the role it will continue to play,” said Dix.
Dix said that people over age 75 are the primary group of people who need long-term care, but also that young adults with specialized needs also need institutional care. “We know that we need to substantially improve care in the community, but regardless of that we’re going to need a significant increase in long-term care beds,” said Dix. “We know that we need to keep and respect and recruit long-term care staff — medical professionals, doctors and nurses, health sciences professionals and health-care workers who were central and foundational during the pandemic.”
Dix is said he is pleased that government “treats health-care workers with respect now”. Salaries were lifted during the pandemic. As a result of the pandemic there is more public debate about long-term care — a good thing, says Dix, who underscored his view that long-term care will be even more important than hospital space as the number of people over age 75 increases.
- He noted that the funding for the Westshore long-term care project was in Budget 2023 that was released on February 28. He called it “a very significant investment”. The capital cost of the project is $224 million, with the CRHD contributing approximately $67 million and the Province investing $157 million.
- The 306 beds on Vancouver Island “recognizes the needs of the community”, said Dix in his remarks on Thursday. He noted the adjacent child-care facility as an important part of recruiting workers.
- Other publicly-owned and operated long-term care projects in other communities on Vancouver Island are coming in the months ahead, to “meet the needs of seniors care”, said Dix.
- Without enough long-term care spaces too many people end up staying in hospital longer than needed — especially those with dementia. “It is expensive to build long-term care beds. It’s more expensive to build and operate hospital beds, and it’s not the appropriate level of care,” said Dix.
He called the announcement “historic”, that it’s “because of the care of the community in this region that we’re able to do it”, said Dix, referring to the municipalities across the region that are supporting this project (he listed off Colwood, Langford, Metchosin, Sooke, View Royal and Esquimalt). “This is going to make a fundamental difference in the lives of many people in this region,” he concluded.
MLA Mitzi Dean:
MLA Mitzi Dean said she was very excited to be there with the gathered leaders for the day’s milestone achievement. Dean said people in the west shore community and across the province “want assurance that they and their loved ones will have access to high quality health care where and when they need it”.
It’s about “looking to the future” so loved ones can stay “here in the west shore”, said the MLA who has represented Esquimalt, Colwood, Metchosin and View Royal since 2017. She gave a shout out to the “developers at Royal Bay and the former Mayor of Colwood (Rob Martin) and Dave Saunders … and many others” who have been supporting us in this work.
Dean said the project location will be “bustling” in a beautiful part of her riding there in Royal Bay, noting the child care centre and the increasing amount of housing being built in the area.
Mitzi Dean is also the province’s Minister of Children and Family Development. She worked for over 10 years in the family support sector before becoming an MLA in 2017.
Island Health Board Chair:
Island Health Chair Leah Hollins noted the start of the procurement process for the new long-term care home.
She highlighted the importance of people being able to live and age in their own community. Hollins noted the partnership and collaboration between governments and Island Health “to come together to deliver this innovative long-term care facility”.
Hollins thanked the CRHD for their “vision and contribution of property to this project”. The collaboration and partnership “has the power to build positive change”.
Island Health says they are pleased that more long-term care beds are coming for people living throughout the Greater Victoria area as they prepare to build the new care west shore home.
Colwood Mayor Doug Kobayashi:
“We are honoured to have been selected as the host city for this facility,” said Colwood Mayor Doug Kobayashi.
“This announcement is the culmination of years of work and preparation by the City of Colwood, our Westshore neighbours, the Capital Region, Island Health and the Province,” he said. “It represents a huge step in the right direction for improving access to health care on the Westshore.”
“It’s an exciting project that will support seniors health in our region. He highlighted that the local Indigenous people “have been long stewards of nature and natural sources of healing on these lands, concepts we hope can be woven into this health-care facility in Colwood”.
He appreciates the opportunity “for more seniors to age in the community that they know and love, with dignity”. This is where people’s families, social networks and familiar places are, and having a local long-term care facility will ease the transition for seniors who need that care, said Kobayashi.
Capital Regional Hospital Board commitment to community:
“The Westshore long-term care project is a reflection of our commitment to our community and an investment in our future,” said Kevin Murdoch, CRHD chair.
“We are proud to be part of this partnership with Island Health and the Province, and we believe that this facility will provide a valuable service for many years to come,” said Murdoch. He acknowledged Island Health Chair Hollins for her support across the region. The CRD Hospital District is providing the land and 30 percent of the $224 million project build. He thanked the province for their 70 percent commitment to the build.
Murdoch called the project “innovative and responsive to community needs”.
“Our region has experienced tremendous growth and demographic change in recent years particularly here on the west shore. With this growth comes new opportunities and challenges and particularly in the area of health care,” said Murdoch in Colwood on Thursday. “There is a growing need for long-term care facilities within this region, and we want to assure that all of residents have access to the quality care and support that they need at all stages of their life.”
The CRHD board chair said there will be “up-to-date clinical best practices, pandemic considerations, and advanced service delivery models”.
The former CRHD board chair was Langford Councillor Denise Blackwell, during the time this long-term care project was being developed.
The three-story facility has entered the procurement phase and will be located near the corner of Metchosin Road and Latoria Boulevard in the Royal Bay area of Colwood. It will bring 306 new care home beds to the region, with construction expected to begin in 2025 and complete in 2027.
The 306 single-occupancy long-term care beds are for “ensuring comfortable and private living spaces for residents in need”, says the Ministry of Health, also providing this breakdown:
- The facility will also include a 20-bed hospice unit, providing compassionate end-of-life care in a supportive environment.
- A specialized 26-bed unit will cater to long-term care residents with mental health and substance use challenges or those requiring enhanced care planning for behavioural issues.
- The remaining 260 beds are seniors long-term care beds providing additional capacity in Westshore.
The facility will be on a two-hectare (five acres) parcel of land, recently acquired by the Capital Regional Hospital District (CRHD). Island Health will lease the land and build, own and operate the new facility.
“We are so pleased to be moving ahead with plans for a new long-term care home in the Westshore,” said Leah Hollins, board chair, Island Health. “Ensuring that seniors and younger adults who require long-term care have access to safe, compassionate care will allow them to age with dignity in a supportive and home-like environment.”
Specialized units and services:
The new facility will have a range of features:
- The care home will include a hospice unit and a specialized unit for younger adults who require long-term care.
- An adult day program will allow people to live independently in the community while receiving services to support their well-being and health.
- There will also be hairdressing and therapy services and a bistro for residents of the building, as well as an adjacent 37-space child care facility.
The mix of needs to be served by the 306-bed facility (elderly, mental health and addictions, brain injury, and hospice) certainly shows how the province is attempting to work cross-ministry and meet a range of needs in the growing regional population.
Public vs private:
Over the past five years, government has invested approximately $2 billion to improve care for seniors, including investments in primary care, home health, long-term care and assisted living.
Across BC there are 29,900 publicly-funded long-term care beds (about 31 percent are publicly owned and operated, and more are needed).
“Over 20 or 30 years we’ve seen the growth of the contracted sector,” said Minister Dix on March 16. “It’s not my idea that government reduce that number, but we do have to make investments in health-authority owned and operated beds such as these.” That’s for two sets of reasons:
- “For 20 years there has been little investment relative to the growth of the number of seniors in our communities, many of the existing public facilities are older and often don’t meet standards, such as door sizes and facilities. Some rooms housed four to six people. But that’s not the modern expectation or modern standard — in our own homes we generally don’t share our room. This is the move in that direction. It’s not a public vs private situation, but raising the number of beds we need.” He said all the currently contracted beds are needed, that the system is presently at capacity, and expansion is needed on both sides.
- Many of the non-profit beds (built in the 1960s to 1990s) are disproportionately non profit facilities, some of which are facing problems getting capital. All of the beds need to be integrated. All the beds are publicly funded. The previous government had a ‘first available bed’ policy, which offered no choice. The NDP government with Dix as Health Minister has given people a choice in terms of selection of a long-term care home, which means more demand for spaces in bigger communities (though fewer absolute choices). “Standards need to be high in all of them. It’s a matter of meeting demand; when you have twice as many people over 75 you’re going to need more beds.”
Meeting the need:
Following the event, former Colwood Mayor Dave Saunders said the Minister’s announcement about 306 long-term care beds was “a positive step forward” so that people as they age can stay in their own homes as long as they can.
Saunders also noted that a recent independent report identified the need for an additional 166 long-term care beds for elderly people in the Greater Victoria region, and it looks like 260 will be provided for the aging population. Of the total 306 beds, 26 will be for for brain injury and mental health an addictions residents, and 20 for hospice.
Saunders told Island Social Trends that all of the seniors in the west shore who contributed to his foundation’s work and the independent report on long-term care needs “are no longer with us”, as well as two others. “It’s too bad they didn’t get to see this,” said Saunders.
Time is ticking as the Greater Victoria region’s population grows, and within that the proportion of residents who are over age 75 years.
Mental health needs:
Not at Thursday’s event but contributing a comment through the Ministry of Health news release, Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions implied that some of the spaces will be for youth with mental health and addictions needs: “People need access to high-quality mental health and addiction care close to home. With the opening of the new blended community health centre, and urgent and primary care centre, more people in Sooke and the surrounding area will now be able to connect to the local mental-health-and-addiction supports they need and deserve.”
===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Island Social Trends is a professional news portal at islandsocialtrends.ca .
Fully online since mid-2020, Island Social Trends emerged from the extensive groundwork of previous print publications in the west shore, all similarly published by Brookeline Publishing House Inc: MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), and West Shore Voice News (2014-2020).
Since 2008, journalist, photojournalist and editor Mary P Brooke has taken a socioeconomic lens to news analysis about the west shore and south Vancouver Island region, including BC provincial news, and national news impacts. She is a professional communicator, with a Certificate in Public Relations and career-long credentials in journalism and publishing.