Province approves new 256 bed replacement for Revera’s Sumac Lodge


Callandra vague about non-profit care options

Ontario Minister of Long Term Care is being vague about whether the province plans to use non-profit care providers in nursing homes instead of for-profit companies.

It was a recommendation made by the Ontario Long Term Care Commission in April 2021.

Paul Callandra was part of a virtual announcement for a new long term care home in Sarnia Friday. Revera Canada will replace the 100-bed Sumac Lodge and add another 156 beds to the home which will be near Sarnia’s industrial park on London Line.

Revera Canada President JP Cadeau said the new home is a major milestone in the for-profit company’s “journey to redevelop our older long term care homes.

“The redeveloped and expanded Sumac Lodge will be built to the latest design standards and incorporate evidence-based features to create a safe home-like environment for residents, better working conditions for our staff, and greater access to care in the surrounding Sarnia community,” he said. “There will be greater privacy; 60 per cent of the rooms are single accommodation, and the rest are dual accommodation with private sleeping areas.”

Older homes with ward rooms are a breading ground for COVID-19. Sumac Lodge has been struggling with an Omicron outbreak since Dec. 31. Over one-third of the 100 residents and 36 staff members have tested positive for the virus.

The age of homes was one of the many issues raised by the Ontario Long Term Care Commission which looked at why nearly 4,000 long-term care residents and 11 staff died of COVID-19 in the first year of the pandemic. It also provided ideas for what could be done to prevent it in the future.

The commission said while private companies could be involved in the building of the infrastructure for long term care, not-for-profit care organizations should be taking care of the people in the homes, instead of for-profit entities.

Since the report was released in April 2021, the province has been awarding 30 year long term care home licenses to large for-profit companies like Revera and Chartwell. Health care advocates have protested, saying for-profits had a much higher death rate than non-profit homes during the pandemic. Revera had the fourth highest death rate from COVID per 100 beds in Ontario.

Callandra was evasive when asked Friday if the provincial government would start following the recommendation to take for-profit companies out of the business of direct care of seniors.

“We’re going to continue to work with all partners in the long term care system; we all share the same goal of ensuring that we have the highest quality of care for the residents in long term care,” he said. The minister added the province is committed to four hours of care per resident and has plans to train and hire 27,000 more personal support workers.

“There is a lot of work being done to ensure that we have the highest quality of care for registered to long term care working with our partners. And I think we’re we’re very much on on the right track.”

But a man who identified himself only as Eric who said he works with the staff at Sumac Lodge was skeptical.

He told Callandra he was pleased there will be more beds to serve Sarnia seniors but “we’re having issues staffing 100 beds at this point time.”

He also asked Callandra when all long term care employees would be getting wage increases. There was no firm answer to that question although the minister said the province was working to improve working conditions, including building new homes.

Meantime, the minister said he was reviewing the current restrictions at long term care homes. The province is beginning to reopen bars and restaurants Monday however long term care residents are being locked down as the COVID-19 virus continues to move within the homes.

Ontario government protocols currently say when there is one COVID-19 positive test, the home is locked down with residents confined to their rooms instead of interacting with others. The number of family members allowed into the homes is restricted to just two essential care givers right now. Residents with a spouse and multiple children are cut off from some of their immediate family.

Thursday, the Health Standards Organization released its draft of National Standards for Long Term care, which included giving residents more autonomy to take risks, allowing more family members to visit them, even in an outbreak.

Asked when the province might allow that, the minister responded. “I’m reviewing that right now.”

Callandra said he will look at the recommendations from the organization adding he looks forward to the federal parties which promised to provide more money for long term care, following through on the promise.