Friday, June 6, 2008

More long-term care beds for Timmins

Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has brought welcome news to the city with the promise that there will be funding for 64 new long-term care beds to the tune of $2 million per year. The announcement was made by Mathilde Gravelle-Bazinet, chair of the North East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), right. Her news was welcomed by local politicians and health care providers who have been concerned for several years that there were not enough local beds to care for elderly and chronically ill patients. It has meant that scores of patients have been assigned to acute-care beds at the Timmins and District Hospital, putting a huge strain on the hospital’s ability to accept medical and surgical patients.
Currently there are 296 long-term care beds in the city; 177 at Golden Manor and 119 at Extendicare Timmins.
While there is no indication yet where the new beds will be located, Mayor Tom Laughren said it would likely mean building an addition onto one or the other of the Manor or the Extendicare.
It’s expected the RFP (request for proposal) will likely go out by the end of the summer and the usual procedure is that contractors will respond early in the new year, with plans to begin building by spring of 2009.
Gravelle-Bazinet said it is hoped that construction will be completed by 2011.
While the gathered officials could not comment on the value of a new facility, it is understood that any new project encompassing 64 beds would be in the tens of millions of dollars.
“This is a substantial project,” said Timmins mayor Tom Laughren, who expressed to thanks to all the various individuals and community groups that worked together to get the message through to officials at Queen’s Park. “Now we’ll have to start working really hard on the capital side, and that work starts right after this meeting today.”
Laughren, who himself have made several presentations on the issue, said he knew the message would get through about how urgently a solution was needed.
“In all of those presentations I never once felt that people didn’t understand the need that we had in Timmins. This is something that’s been going on since 2004,” said Laughren.
Laughren also praised the efforts of Timmins-James Bay MPP Gilles Bisson “for being passionate on this issue”.
Bisson, who was stranded at Pearson airport Thursday morning, could not attend the news conference.
“This is great news for the city of Timmins,” he told The Timmins Times afterwards. Bisson said it was the coordinated effort of dozens of caring citizens and health care providers who made the announcement possible.
“I want to publicly thank George Smitherman, the minister of health. I have been dealing with him on this particular file for some time now. But as of last fall, after the last provincial election, managed to get a commitment from him that he was going to look at this seriously and try to find a resolution,” said Bisson.
Gravelle-Bazinet also thanked Timmins businessman J.P. Aube who wrote several letters on behalf of the Network 13 lobby group urging Smitherman to take action.
“He made such a strong case that this really had an impression with our minister,” said Gravelle-Bazinet.
One of the happiest persons at the announcement event was hospital executive director Esko Vainio who thanked all the community leaders “who worked so tirelessly” on the project.
“It’s a red letter day for Timmins and District Hospital but particularly for our community,” said Vainio. He said long-term care beds are sorely needed and he welcomed the project even though it will take many months to come.
“As many of you made have heard, yesterday (Wednesday) was a record day in occupancy at the hospital. We were just overloaded with patients through emergency and all our floors and this is a bit of respite for us, recognizing it will take awhile to build these beds but I am glad we’re getting started right away,” Vainio added.

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