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Renovations on hold at Saskatchewan seniors home with building problems

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HUMBOLDT, Sask. - The Saskatoon Health Region is putting renovations on hold at a seniors home where there was a deadly carbon monoxide leak.

A wing at St. Mary's Villa in Humboldt was closed in early 2012 when structural problems were found during routine building reviews.

Nilesh Kavia, the region's vice-president of finance, says the region got $1.6 million from the Ministry of Health to repair Dust Wing and a report was done to determine the next step.

Kavia said in a news release Thursday that "the costs to bring it up to current long-term care standards is beyond our financial means this year."

The region says the preferred option "far exceeds the funding available." Ideally, the region wants structural remediation and renovation of interior spaces to meet current standards for level of care and accessibility — and that is pegged at $4.8 million.

"We know the community and the staff of St. Mary's will be disappointed in this decision," said Corey Miller, vice-president of integrated health services.

"The staff wants to ensure they can meet the needs of the residents, and the community wants a viable long-term care home for families in the area. We want the same thing, but we are unable to meet that expectation this year."

Part of the problem is that the wing was built on wooden trusses on dirt in the 1970s and was designed to handle a much lighter load.

Thirty-two residents with high medical needs who lived in Dust Wing were moved to another part of the home when the problems were found. But that caused issues, too, because 10 other residents in a form of assisted living were forced out.

Families of the 10 residents, with an average age of 89, said they were given a week to move. The health region said it helped move most of them to a private seniors housing complex.

Saskatchewan's ombudsman at the time weighed in later that year. He said in a report that the decision to close the wing with structural problems was reasonable. But Kevin Fenwick also said the deadline for the move and the way it was handled were not.

It's the same wing where a gas leak from a boiler contributed to the deaths of three residents and made dozens of others sick in December 2010.

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