Nation Valley News
DUNDAS COUNTY — The operators of Dundas County’s only nursing home believe they are only several weeks away from the provincial government’s OK — and expected two-thirds funding of $21-million — for a much anticipated major rebuild of the aging facility in Winchester.
In the meantime, two key members of the Manor’s board — CEO Cholly Boland and Chair Bill Smirle — have been pitching local municipal councils in recent days to help fund the balance of the estimated $31-million project.
“We’re told the provincial announcement is pending,” Smirle told NVN after their latest presentation in Morrisburg, suggesting he hopes the Ford government commits in “closer to 30 days rather than 90 days.”
The duo have asked the councils of South Dundas (Nov. 18) and North Dundas (Nov. 12) to respectively commit to $500,000 apiece. The Council of the United Counties of SD&G was similarly pitched for $3-million last month.
Smirle confirmed for South Dundas Mayor Steven Byvelds last night that requests will be formally made at the council tables in North Stormont ($300,000) and Russell ($200,000) as well.
Although they have yet to meet with those townships, “the letters have gone out Mr. Mayor,” Smirle said to Byvelds.
They aim to raise $11-million locally, including the requests to municipalities. Project finances are premised on that all-important contribution from the Ontario government.
Once the province greenlights the initiative, it will still be up to four years before the ribbon is cut on a new Dundas Manor. This includes one and a half to two years of planning, plus a similar period for construction, according to the Chair.
Built to accommodate 60 people in 1976, the Manor was later expanded three times to reach the current bed capacity of 98. Up to four people are housed per room by the standards then allowed (but not today). And yet, the kitchen, dining and common areas facilities were never expanded for more than the original population of 60, Boland pointed out.
It’s “an archaic building but our staff does absolute magic inside it,” he said.
“We’ve got a home that was designed at time when people didn’t have walkers and wheelchairs, and now we’ve got all those,” Boland added, further describing the cramped conditions: “There’s a lot of talk about hallway medicine. What we have at Dundas Manor, sadly, is hallway dining. Because we don’t have enough space in our dining room, we have some residents who eat all meals — breakfast, lunch and supper — in hallways.”
“We have some of the smallest closets used as offices,” he also noted as photos flashed up on screens in the Council Chambers.
An architectural firm has already come up with a preliminary design for an entirely new and much larger building — to be constructed a stone’s throw from the current site — that would house 128 residents, no more than two per room, on two floors.
“We’ve got tentative approval to add those 30 beds,” Boland said.
Byvelds noted the current facility is “not the right way for people to finish off their lives. I think the Chair knows I’ve been screaming at our MPP … so hopefully they will start to listen and get that job done.”
“It’s not the way folks should be spending their last years,” agreed Deputy Mayor Kirsten Gardner, also expressing her “kudos” to the Manor staff for working in the current conditions.
“Shouldn’t the province be coming up with a bigger chunk of change?” asked Councillor Archie Mellan.
Setting aside the expected two-thirds funding from Toronto, Boland cited the “‘true” catchphrase that the province “doesn’t pay for capital” at hospitals and long-term care facilities.
Boland also disabused the councillor of the notion that the old Manor could be sold off and help towards the bottom line. “We’re taking more into consideration what it might cost [to dispose of]. That’s a more tangible number than what it’s worth.”
“We’re afraid it may not be much of an asset,” added Smirle of the aging, existing Manor building.
“There’s no doubt the Manor needs it,” Mellan said of the reconstruction proposal. “Something needs to be done.”
“Things are tight. Definitely something has to be done,” agreed Councillor Lloyd Wells. “I’m definitely for as much as we can help you,” the councillor added, despite “the bad state” the municipality currently finds itself in.
As “salt of the earth people” who built the community, residents of the Manor “deserve the best,” said Smirle, emphasizing the sentiment in the room.
If nothing’s done, according to Boland, the current Manor will otherwise have to cease operations in 2025 when institutions with a ‘C’ classification lose their grandfathered status.
Though there was no official commitment from South Dundas that evening, the Manor’s request will be added to South Dundas’s budget deliberations in December. Boland confirmed that South Dundas would be welcome to make its donation over a period of time, as the municipality did during the capital rebuild of Winchester District Memorial Hospital.
“To raise $50,000 off our tax base is 0.9 percent of an increase,” noted Byvelds. “I’m not saying it’s not worthy, we just need to know how we’re going to do this with our budget.”
A similar friendly welcome greeted the Manor’s presentation in North Dundas, where Deputy Mayor Al Armstrong expressed a strong desire to see MPP Jim McDonell ensure action on the file.
“It would be nice to see him do something besides promise that we’re going to get it, and actually step up what needs to be done,” said Armstrong, noting he meant “no disrespect” to the MPP “who is a friend of all of ours.”
A separate entity from Winchester District Memorial Hospital, the Manor is operated by an independent community board but does shares a couple of senior staff positions with the nearby hospital. That includes Boland, who also holds the position of WDMH CEO. However, there will soon be a new interconnection between the institutions as WDMH’s fundraising Foundation will have its mandate expanded to include Dundas Manor, Boland reported.