PCs forced to defend record on adding care-home beds

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The Progressive Conservatives ran on a campaign to create 1,200 new personal care home beds in Manitoba, but more than six years after taking office, the bed count has only dropped.

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The Progressive Conservatives ran on a campaign to create 1,200 new personal care home beds in Manitoba, but more than six years after taking office, the bed count has only dropped.

There were 9,698 licensed personal care home beds when the Tories formed government.

As of September, there were 9,549 beds in use or available for use in Manitoba, a freedom of information request obtained by the NDP shows.

Health Minister Audrey Gordon said the provinical government established a ministry of seniors and long term care to focus on the needs of seniors. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The Opposition has repeatedly gone after the government for “breaking its promise” of 1,200 new beds, and it did so again Friday.

“After the COVID-19 pandemic, when we all agreed we had to invest in long-term care, they reduced the number of beds,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.

“How do they justify cutting personal care home beds after everything we’ve seen seniors go through the last few years?”

During the pandemic, the province lost 260 personal care home beds after Revera announced it would close its downtown Parkview Place Care Centre because it couldn’t be renovated to meet current standards.

Health Minister Audrey Gordon told the house Friday her government established a ministry of seniors and long term care to focus on the needs of seniors and ensure a “very comprehensive seniors strategy” is in place to assist seniors.

“We are intent on ensuring that Manitobans, our seniors, have they care they need at the time they need it,” she said in question period.

On Friday, 46 patients in Winnipeg hospitals were either in the process of being panelled or waiting for a placement to a long-term care facility, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said.

“The demand for personal care home and supportive housing beds has not wavered,” said Julie Turenne-Maynard, executive director of the Manitoba Association of Residential and Community Care Homes for the Elderly.

“Although it goes up and down weekly, there are always hundreds waiting to have access,” she said Friday.

The health minister said her government is working with regional health authorities to address their needs when it comes to personal care home beds.

“There are times health authorities have said they want to change the types of beds that are being offered, from traditional personal care home beds to sometimes behavioural unit beds,” for those with dementia, Gordon said. “We want to be able to help to support their needs as it relates to their jurisdiction.”

Turenne-Maynard said more beds are needed, period.

“There is a huge need for new construction using the smaller housing model, and specialized beds for behavioural, high dementia, and very complex residents,” she said in an e-mail.

New beds aren’t being built because the government hasn’t raised its cap on construction cost that’s been set at $133,000 per personal care home bed for years. Although the province hasn’t budged on the cap, it has a consultant looking at some of the construction-ready projects that have been on the table for the past several years, Turenne-Maynard said.

In a statement sent late Friday, a spokesman for the health minister claimed that since the PCs took office, 506 new personal care home beds have been built, and in their first two years of government they built almost twice as many PCH beds in Winnipeg as the NDP did between 2010 and 2016.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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Updated on Friday, November 18, 2022 8:11 PM CST: Adds picture of Audrey Gordon

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