Pembroke — Marianhill, one of the Ottawa Valley’s largest long term care homes, is getting a little bit bigger thanks to a $59 million investment that will expand the 131-bed facility to a modern 160-bed home for seniors and those needing assisted care.

The June 13 announcement was made as part of a historic ground-breaking event featuring Paul Calandra, Ontario Minister of Long-Term Care and local Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski.

Linda Tracey, executive-director of the facility, originally built in 1954, welcomed those in attendance including Marianhill management, staff, advocates, volunteers and residents who call the site their home.

“I want to start by welcoming Minister Calandra and our local MPP and ardent supporter John Yakabuski,” she said. “I also want to acknowledge the efforts of the staff within the Minister’s office who guided us through this process and to the team at AdvantAge Ontario for advocating on our behalf with the Government of Ontario to ensure the best possible aging experience for local residents.”

Mrs. Tracey explained the redevelopment is an extension the Building Care Fundraising campaign that was originally launched just prior to the shutdown measures brought into effect with the COVID pandemic in early 2020.  At the time, Chair Hec Clouthier started the capital campaign and despite restrictions and setbacks, she credited Mr. Clouthier and his team with raising $1.1 million for the project.

She also credited Chair Glenn Casey and the ever-supportive members of the Marianhill Foundation who leveraged those funds to bring the Foundation’s total commitment for Building Care to $4 million.

“Thanks to the Government of Ontario’s generous and innovative approach to funding long-term care across the province, I am proud to announce that we have been able to ride the storm and realize our dream of breaking ground on Marian hill’s $59 million redevelopment project,” she added.

“I have been told that we are the first not-for-profit organization in Ontario to begin redeveloping under the Ministry’s new Construction Funding Program,” she said. “Thanks to this new and innovative approach to financing long-term care, we were able to unlock lending and reduce borrowing costs, allowing us to proceed with Building Care in a fiscally sustainable manner.”

Minister Calandra explained the process actually began in 2018 with a review of funding priorities.

“This really started back in 2018 and John (Yakabuski) was one of the first to lobby for upgrades to long term care homes in rural communities across the province,” he said. “So, the ministry began a review of what homes would benefit from this investment and which communities would support such a huge investment.

“Then COVID got in the way but the local partners and your MPP kept working to make it a reality and here we are today. Marianhill is one of the first non-profit homes to benefit from this funding formula,” he explained.

He noted one of the challenges faced by any infrastructure project during and after the COVID pandemic was the escalating costs of construction.  He acknowledged the cost of labour and products had soared and forced some projects to be either scaled back or put on hold until funding could be secured.

“We recognized that many non-profits just could not afford to build or expand and that was a real dilemma,” he said. “That is why our government made the decision to double the funding for long term care homes and as a result of that investment, this is one of 70 projects slated to move forward and that means an additional 11,000 beds will be made available in the next three years.”

MPP Yakabuski said he was proud of the efforts made by those in the community to make the day a reality.

“I really have to compliment the foundation board and all the volunteers who give so much to make it possible for our seniors to remain in their own community,” he said. “I am pleased our government is investing $6.4 billion to build and upgrade long-term care beds across the province. The redevelopment of 160 long-term care beds, which includes an additional 29 beds, will directly benefit our community.”

With the groundbreaking ceremony complete, Sullivan & Sons Construction of Arnprior is the primary contractor involved in the three-year project and the new facility will meet and exceed many of the accessibility factors that were not included in the original 1954 building.

Mrs. Tracey concluded the ceremony by asking all those in attendance to remember all those who have made Marianhill their home and those who will reside in the residence upon completion.

“In closing, I ask that we each take a moment to think of those in our lives who have benefited from the support of long-term care. We have all been impacted. It’s no wonder then that this project is the result of the overwhelming generosity of many: private individuals, community organizations, corporate partners and governments at every level. Because end-of-life care affects us all,” she said.

“Finally, I share the words of Pope John Paul II: ‘the future begins today, not tomorrow’.”