With the goal of having a new building for seniors care open to the community by spring 2024, members from Providence Living presented Comox council with updated information about the project at the March 3 council meeting.
Jane Murphy, president and CEO of Providence Living along with Chris Kelsey, director and officer for the organization told council the goal of the new facility – at the site of the former St. Joseph’s General Hospital – is to “revolutionize seniors care.”
“We really believe this project will be a major benefit to the town and its residents,” noted Kelsey.
Murphy explained the $52.6 million project will be home to 156 residents and will be the first publicly-funded development of this type using the concept of a dementia village. She added the design and care promotes resident autonomy and choice, freedom of movement and access to the outdoors, engagement in everyday living that brings joy and engagement with the broader community, including children.
Amenities will include an art studio, community hall and spaces where residents, family and friends can spend time together. Additionally, there will also be a daycare; Comox Valley Children’s Day Care Society will partner with Providence and operate the facility with 32 spaces for children.
After feedback from the community, it was determined the project will not be built higher than two storeys – 3.5 acres of land will be used to support a horizontal development, said Murphy.
“Households within the village are designed to each to accommodate 12 residents. At courtyard level, each household has a front door into the courtyard to promote a feeling of home and direct access to outdoors. On the second level, households will have direct access to a deck and an elevator to the courtyard.”
Due to the slope of the property, she noted there will be a partial entry-level floor off Rodello Street in order to support some underground parking.
Following community consultation, Murphy explained Providence received many favourable responses to the project, particularly the need for additional support for seniors within the community. The main issues of concern from the feedback was the blocking of views within the area.
A geotechnical study determined there was significant water tables issues on the northwest corner of the property, therefore, it was determined the northeast corner was best to support the project’s footprint.
“(The project) will minimize the impact with its height – it’s two-storey height with a flat roof,” she added.
Coun. Pat McKenna inquired if there was any way the building could be moved further back on the site in order to not impede views of the marina.
“The challenge is certainly sighting and the other challenge is the existing buildings. They need to stay intact until the new village is open. In part, because there is care being provided to seniors … and the acute care building also supplies the utilities for The Views and we’re also providing care in the acute care building. There really isn’t any other options,” noted Murphy.
As Providence is a faith-based organization, Coun. Stephanie McGowan inquired if the facility would be LGBTQIA+ inclusive and if residents would have the option to access MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying) if that was their wish.
Murphy noted currently at The Views and at the future site, “we do not discriminate on any ground – we feel privileged to care for the unique individuals that wish to live in our homes and consider it a privilege to come alongside them and be respectful for their choices in their lives.”
In regards to MAiD, she said as Providence is a faith-based organization, they work with the policies of the province and Island Health, an assessment can be done on site.
“We support that. Based on our ethics, the provision of MAiD is provided elsewhere and we manage that in a very careful and respectful way working within the policies of Island Health. We have had a few cases … that we respectfully work with that, the physician, the family and the resident to have that service at a site that is able to provide that.”