Construction is underway on a 125-bed publicly funded seniors residential care building expected to relieve waiting lists that stretch as long as two years.
Officials from Interior Health Authority and private operator Buron Healthcare gathered Friday morning for a groundbreaking ceremony.
Machines and construction crews are already on site for the building on Tranquille Road, beside the privately operated Riverbend, an assisted living complex.
Deborah Smith, a regional residential health care service administrator for IHA, said some of those new beds will be filled with seniors at the outdated Ponderosa Lodge, which has been temporarily expanded.
Completion of the building next year is expected to help relieve pressure at Royal Inland Hospital, where seniors with complex care needs who are not in stable condition end up residing.
“Some people who need residential care don’t have the ability to go somewhere,” said Smith. “They may end up in hospital.”
Mary McDougall, from Buron Healthcare, said the company will pay $1.8 million to IHA for the land beside Riverbend. It will enter into a contract to provide beds for IHA.
Seniors who live at the facility will pay a portion of the cost, based on income. IHA contributes the rest.
Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake said the number of beds for seniors in the Interior has increased by 32 per cent since 2001, to 6,300.
“We’ve gone (in Kamloops) from 507 in 2001 to 776, an increase of over 50 per cent.”
Buron operates seniors’ facilities in Prince George and Penticton.
The seniors’ centre will employ about 180 full- and part-time workers.
McDougall said employees will determine whether they are certified under a union contract.
“That’s not a decision I make. Employees make that decision. Most (senior facilities) are certified. We wouldn’t be surprised if employees did that. We’d welcome that.”
Buron has not yet named the building and is welcoming suggestions through its website.