Ontario Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra acknowledged Tuesday that the government has been aware, for some time, that a number of for-profit nursing homes plan to vacate the sector, and that he is turning to hospitals to fill the void.
The government hopes to replace the loss of beds in homes that have either closed, or are in the process of closing, with new, not-for-profit homes to be built on land owned by some of the province’s largest acute-care hospitals, Mr. Calandra told reporters.
A Globe and Mail investigation, published Tuesday, found three nursing homes in Canada’s largest city have sold their land to housing developers rather than undertake mandatory upgrades to their respective facilities, hindering the government’s promise of 60,000 new and upgraded beds by 2028.
The Globe’s investigation found that six for-profit homes in Toronto whose operating licences expire in June, 2025, are not planning to modernize their facilities to comply with design standards requiring single- or double-occupancy rooms. Those six homes, in a city where demand for beds is four times the provincial average, account for more than 9 per cent of the city’s long-term care beds.
The governing Progressive Conservatives made the commitment in 2018 – before the coronavirus pandemic began – to embark on the most ambitious expansion of long-term care in a generation because they knew that many homes built decades ago were “coming offline,” Mr. Calandra said.
“We did contemplate that there would be some transition in Toronto to be honest with you,” he said. “That is why we were very aggressive in searching out additional opportunities.”
Mr. Calandra did not answer questions on why his ministry did not block plans by three of the homes in Toronto to permanently close their facilities. Cedarvale Terrace was sold for $32-million, Vermont Square for $11-million and Garden Court Nursing Home for $5.5-million.
“We’re using all of the tools at our disposal to make sure that we can meet the needs of the city of Toronto,” Mr. Calandra said. “We went to our hospital partners that have land.”
In all, the government has allocated 4,400 new beds to hospitals across the province, allowing them to double their footprint in the sector, a Globe analysis has found.
Two long-term care projects are under construction in Toronto, both on hospital sites: a 320-bed facility at Humber River Hospital and a 200-bed facility at Runnymede Healthcare Centre. Sinai Health System and North York General Hospital are also planning to build new nursing homes in Toronto.
Elsewhere in the province, 44 projects comprising a total of 2,866 new beds and 4,056 upgraded ones have been completed or are under construction, according to a list of capital development projects the Ministry of Long-Term Care provided to The Globe.
One of the projects is Village of Winston Park in Kitchener, a 288-bed home. Mr. Calandra was on hand for the opening of the first two phases of the project on Tuesday. He noted that the design incorporates many private bedrooms, larger common areas and air conditioning throughout the building. The third phase will be completed in the spring of 2024.
Family-owned Schlegel Villages Inc. owns and operates the home as well as several others. The province has awarded the company 1,846 new beds, the single largest share of any operator.
In Toronto, Vermont Square and Garden Court have closed their doors. Mr. Calandra said on Tuesday that Cedarvale Terrace won’t close “until every resident has been accommodated in a new home.”
Sandra McCullough said in an interview that she felt numb when she learned that Cedarvale planned to close. Its new owner, Stafford Homes, has applied to the City of Toronto to tear it down and build a 19-storey condo on the site.
Ms. McCullough said her husband, Charles, has lived at Cedarvale for 14 months and is very happy there. She is going through the stressful process of trying to find a new nursing home for him, only to encounter long wait lists.
“You get to pick your home,” she said. “But if there is no vacancy, what are you going to do?”