Blue Mountain Ratepayers' Association

Grey Gables LTC beds to move to Durham

Grey Gables LTC beds to move to Durham.

Originally Published by, Rob Gowan on Thursday, May 25, 2017 3:27:07 EDT PM.

Grey County is moving forward with a plan to build a new amalgamated long-term care home in Durham and eventually sell Grey Gables in Markdale.
In a weighted vote of 54 to 33, with Southgate deputy-Mayor Norman Jack absent, county council approved a motion during its committee of the whole meeting on Thursday that begins the process to build the new 166-bed facility in Durham. It is to be operational by 2025 to replace the aging Rockwood Terrace, with the plan to also include selling Grey Gables as a retirement/assisted living facility and use the funds to offset the cost to build the new home.
“We have discussed and debated this for quite a length of time,” Warden Al Barfoot said following the decision. “You can tell around the table it is a passionate vote that had to happen.”
A large crowd filled the gallery for the meeting, with many wearing shirts with the words “Save Grey Gables” and “Save Rockwood” written across them. Outside, the county council building in Owen Sound, sat dozens of signs with messages like, “Not for Sale, Grey Gables Belongs to You,” and “Respect Our Seniors.”
The decision made inside came after more than two hours of discussion on the matter, which included delegations pleading their cases to keep facilities in both Durham and Markdale. There was a staff report containing financial projections, including redevelopment costs and annual operating costs of proposals to build one new home and keep two homes open. Grey Highlands Mayor Paul McQueen at one point urged council to consider putting in a request to add beds at Grey Gables in Markdale. He said he had recently had discussions with Health Minister Eric Hoskins and his senior policy advisor that indicated the government is aware there is huge pressure in the province to fund more long-term care beds, and the county should put in an application for more.
“Certainly there is an election coming. What better time to get that application in, what better time to get an announcement with Grey County for more long-term care beds,” said McQueen. But county staff said under current provincial legislation there are no new long-term care beds available and the province hasn’t announced any programs to add beds.
Before council voted on the motion, Southgate Mayor Anna-Marie Fosbrooke asked that the motion be amended to separate issues, something staff advised against because of the nature of the motion. As chair of the meeting, Barfoot overruled Fosbrooke’s motion, which led Grey Highlands Deputy-mayor Stewart Halliday to challenge his ruling.
But in the end, county council defeated Halliday’s challenge and went on to approve the motion to move forward with the plan. When the votes were counted, many in the audience gasped, while some shouted “shame” to the councillors around the table, which led Barfoot to call an immediate recess of the meeting.
Afterwards Halliday said he was entirely disappointed by the decision.
“I thought that the presentations made by the public and the public engagement pointed to retaining the status quo,” Halliday said. “Even though it might be slightly more costly, obviously moving the beds from Grey Gables to another area leaves the whole eastern side of Grey County without a long-term care facility that is easily accessible for families. I am flabbergasted quite frankly.”
The motion that passed on Thursday, which will go before council for final approval on June 8, calls for council to direct staff to prepare a request for proposal to obtain the services of a management company to provide input into the planning and development of the new larger long-term care home in Durham, and for it to be operational by 2025. The company would also administer the day-to-day operations of the current homes and the new home once operational.
The motion also calls for staff to prepare a plan to support the sale of Grey Gables as a retirement/assisted living facility to align with the completion of the new facility in Durham.
In the motion staff is also asked to bring forward a report with a draft terms of reference for an RFP Project Committee made up of council members and staff for consideration in July.
Grey County council deferred the recommendation on May 11 as it gathered input and feedback, including at public meetings that were held in both Durham and Markdale. Rallies were also held in both communities.
The decision comes after the county conducted a review of its long-term care facilities, brought on by the need to make a decision on Rockwood Terrace.
The province is requiring that all long-term care facilities be upgraded to meet Class A standards by 2025. Grey County currently operates three long-term care homes — Rockwood Terrace with 100 beds, Grey Gables with 66 and Lee Manor in Owen Sound with 150. While Lee Manor and Grey Gables are both Class A facilities, Rockwood Terrace, built in 1984, is a Class B facility, and would require millions of dollars in upgrades to achieve A classification.
Blue Mountains resident and former Grey County warden Rod Knott, who spoke in favour of keeping three long-term care homes in Grey during a deputation earlier on Thursday, said council has abandoned eastern Grey County with the decision.
“Before we were strategically located to serve the population of Grey County,” Knott said. “It is just an abandonment of east Grey.”
Knott said residents will be watching to see if the cost to operate two larger homes is much different than operating three.
“It is going to cost more in the future, but it is going to cost more for a loaf of bread or a tank of gas, that is life,” said Knott. “We have to look after our aging population. We are all getting there.”
West Grey Mayor Kevin Eccles said his decision to vote in favour of Thursday’s motion was not about taking from one community and giving to another.
“It was saving and maintaining 166 beds and being able to put something in place so our employees could deliver the care of service going forward for the next 25 years for those residents who are going to be customers that we are going to have to serve,” said Eccles.
“The number one priority for me is what is the capacity we have to be at to be able to give and deliver.”
Renee Bourque, a personal support worker at Rockwood Terrace and chairwoman of the Unifor unit that represents about 150 employees at the home, said she had mixed feeling about Thursday’s decision.
“We worried about Rockwood closing for a year and a half, so for us it was a relief,” said Bourque. “But the possibility that their beds are coming from Markdale is not what we wanted from the beginning. We wanted the beds to stay in Markdale. We wanted the status quo.”
The estimated cost of building the new 166-bed home in Durham is $38 million. The building will be funded through reserve savings, proceeds from the sale of Grey Gables and ministry funding of $635,000 per year for 25 years. Annual tax levy contributions will drop by just over $1 million in the first year.
Construction of the new home is years away. All plans must be approved by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and a new site for the building needs to be found. Once plans are approved, Grey County will issue a public request for proposal to find an architect and later a public tender will be issued to find a builder.
“There is an awful lot of work that has to come forward from this,” said Barfoot. “It is a new chapter to move forward with.”

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