$60 million budgeted for new senior homes in Abbotsford & Chilliwack

Projects await provincial green light after local health district sets aside $60 million for desperately needed new seniors facilities.

By Tyler Olsen | March 23, 2022 |5:00 am

Urgently needed long-term care projects in Chilliwack and Abbotsford may finally be on the way.

No announcement has been made, but the Fraser Valley Regional Hospital District has budgeted $28 million for a long-term care project in Chilliwack and $31.6 million for a facility in Abbotsford. The hospital district will also contribute land valued at $6.6 million.

The projects are in the “approval stage” according to FVRD staff and details have not yet been made public. (Being in the approval stage often means a project is waiting for final sign-off from provincial government financial planners.)

But the nearly $60 million pledged by the Fraser Valley Regional Hospital District will be only a portion of the total funding for the two projects.

Historically, hospital districts (which operate alongside regional districts and collect money through property taxes) provide about 40% of funding for new capital projects. That means the total budget for the two long-term care facilities is likely to exceed $150 million.

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The region has long had a shortage of hundreds of long-term care beds and many care homes have wait times exceeding six months. Fraser Health first floated plans for a new long-term care facility in Abbotsford more than a decade ago, but ran into difficulties in the planning stages to redevelop the former site of MSA Hospital. (After eventually deciding to sell the site, the land was transferred to Matsqui First Nation, which has indicated that it would like to partner with Fraser Health on a future health care project. Fraser.)

Although Fraser Health has focused on increasing care supports to allow seniors to remain longer in their homes, those results have also been mixed, with only about half of clients provided with home health services on time. There have also been high rates of low-urgency emergency room visits by those receiving home health care.

Addressing the long-term care shortage could help the region’s chronically congested hospitals, with large numbers of beds tied up by seniors waiting for care that could be provided in the community—were those resources to exist.

Predating COVID, the hospitals in Chilliwack and Abbotsford had been the most-crowded large facilities in the province for several years. Three-quarters of patients admitted to Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Chilliwack General Hospital spend more than 10 hours in the emergency room waiting for a bed. One in ten wait at least two days in the ER.

Of the nearly $59.6 million pledged by the hospital district for the new long-term care projects, $35 million will come from reserves. The rest, about $25 million, will be borrowed. The district notes that the interest payments on that money will depend on interest rates and the timing of the borrowing.

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Tyler Olsen

Managing Editor at Fraser Valley Current

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