It won’t be ready to move into for another six months, but health-care officials were eager to show off the new state-of-the-art long-term care facility in St. John’s Tuesday.
Health Minster Susan Sullivan and Eastern Health CEO Vickie Kaminski, along with members of the media, were given a tour of the $150-million building on Newfoundland Drive.
It’s open, airy and bright and will replace the antiquated Hoyles-Escasoni Complex — a 375-bed facility off Portugal Cove Road — in September.
Grant Vivian, area manager of infrastructure support for Eastern Health, said there will be no wards and each resident will have there own room with a shared washroom. There are also private bariatrics rooms for larger patients, and rooms for people who want to live together such as a married couple or relatives.
However, Kaminski pointed out the new facility is not a seniors home or retirement centre.
“It’s a facility for Level 3 and 4 people dependent on their caregivers for their daily needs. They are not able to look after themselves. They may not be able to get up to go to the bathroom or bathe themselves and provide their own day-to-day care,” she said, adding there are also residents who require complex care who are dependent on ventilators or feeding tubes.
For patients suffering from dementia there will be a place to wander freely, said Glenda Compton, director of long-term care for Eastern Health. Referred to as the protective care unit, Compton said this section of the facility is laid out differently.
In the centre of the large area is the nursing station which is shaped like a horse shoe.
“The intent is residents can walk around in a circle. The benefit of the layout is to help them wander without them getting agitated,” she said.
Compton said some residents with cognitive impairments exhibit some aggression as part of the advancement in their disease and research has shown it’s therapeutic if they are able to wander safely.
Kaminski said long-term care has grown in leaps and bounds and this design for residents suffering from dementia is one of the ways facilities are trying to address changes.
“It used to be very institutional, very sequestered. We tucked people away and it wasn’t meant to be a wide open kind of involved space like we have now for staff and residents and visitors for people to come in,” she said.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building, which means it is a high-performance, environmentally innovative building, has a therapeutic facility for residents who like to do their own laundry.
There will be about 135 new positions created as the facility opens, which could be challenging for Eastern Health as it has said over the past few months staff recruitment and retention is becoming a growing problem. However, Kaminski said human resources is already on it.
“That’s something everyone is facing at the moment. Where do you find staff? How do you get them? We’re bringing our staff with us, of course, (from Hoyles-Escasoni) that looks after the majority of the beds, but we do have to find new staff for the new beds,” she said.
She said human resources is looking at what will be needed for the 460-bed facility. With 375 residents coming from Hoyles Escasoni, and 25 from a long-term care unit at Waterford Hospital, the remaining 67 beds opening to new residents.
“It’s an issue for us right now and it’s going to continue to be an issue,” Kaminski said of staffing levels.
“The best we can do is look at creative ways to bring people into the service — a new building is a good idea. People are interested, enthusiastic. It’s a beautiful spot. There’s more of a willingness to think about a future here, but we also don’t want to deplete the rest of the services. We still have to provide care everywhere,” she said.
Kaminski said aside from recruiting, Eastern Health is also looking at some other ways of meeting staffing requirements such as what it can do through personal support-care workers’ programs that might offer some flexibility to staff to work at different health care facilities for different lengths of time.
The facility was expected to be open in June, however Kaminski said due to summer holidays for families, staff and some last-minute work they decided to open in September.