Providence Healthcare will construct a new building at its Scarborough campus to add 180 new beds. Below right, an aerial view shows where the construction is soon to begin. Photos courtesy of Providence Healthcare

Expansion plans to Providence Healthcare include quality of life

  • June 24, 2021

Adding 180 new long-term care beds and a whole new building to Unity Health’s Providence Healthcare site is just the beginning of the Catholic hospital’s plans for seniors in Toronto’s east end.

“It’s a little bit bigger than just the beds,” said Providence vice president of clinical programs Melissa Morey-Hollis. “It’s really about creating a system that helps to support people to live in place and to age in place.”

The new long-term care building adding 180 beds to Providence Healthcare’s existing 288 is part of a provincial plan to add 30,000 new long-term care beds by 2028, and to upgrade another 15,918 existing spaces that were built to standards set in the early 1970s. The 2021 provincial budget committed $933 million for 80 new long-term care projects that will add 7,510 new beds and upgrade 4,197 existing spaces.

Given Canada’s rapidly aging population, the mere addition of beds won’t come close to meeting the health care challenge, said Providence chief and director of medical affairs Dr. Ashley Verduyn.

“The government really does need to step up and enhance home care and enhance programming, to really help our population, our seniors to really have the best quality of life wherever they choose to live,” Verduyn told The Catholic Register.

Adding beds then filling them doesn’t really help an aging population live better lives, according to Morey-Hollis.

“It’s more than just creating a bed, it’s about creating a quality of life,” she said.

Unity Health won’t talk about how much it’s going to cost just yet, but expects the new building to be up and running in two years.

“Our redevelopment team has a lot of experience in moving quickly to get the best possible design in place and to get things open sooner rather than later,” said Morey-Hollis.

With the added building, Providence will present itself to the community as a “campus of care” hosting a “Centre of Excellence for Rehabilitation Science and Healthy Living.” Research in aging, rehabilitation medicine, community care and dementia will position Providence as a model in the field.

The campus will also be a community hub for patients, caregivers and outpatient programming.

“What we do is wrap those services around our seniors, to help them live in place and engage in life — and really have a high quality of life,” Morey-Hollis said.

“A lot of our vision will also support healthy aging at home,” said Verduyn. “Most seniors actually want to stay at home.”

Over 80 per cent of Canadians living in long-term care have a dementia diagnosis. There’s real urgency about the need to help people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia live fuller lives away from long-term care facilities, said Morey-Hollis.

“We know people are living longer. We know that people can live healthy lives even with dementia,” she said.

“Without a strategy to help those who experience dementia and their caregivers, who are looking after them, those beds will fill very rapidly and we won’t have achieved our goal of creating quality of life for people.”

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