The Nelson Health Campus, a new 75-bed long-term care facility for seniors touted by the provincial government as the future of health care in B.C., will open in 2024.
Built on the former location of Mount St. Francis Hospital in Nelson’s Fairview neighbourhood, the campus will include private bedrooms and en suite bathrooms and integrate additional on-site services for residents such as dental and mental health care, speech pathology and recreation.
Nelson-Creston MLA Brittny Anderson, who was joined at Friday’s announcement by partners including Interior Health, Columbia Basin Trust, the City of Nelson and Golden Life Management, said the new facility will change how seniors are cared for locally.
“It means that we’re going to be able to better care for our seniors in Nelson and within this region, and really provide a space that’s state of the art. We’ve learned a lot from the pandemic, and so this is going to be a space that’s also safe, rooted in community and really allows people to age in a space in a dignified way.”
When it opens, the new facility will have been decades in the making.
Mount St. Francis had opened in the 1940s and was operated by The Sisters of St. Ann until 1996 when it was sold to the Nelson and Area Health Council. That organization was later absorbed into Interior Health, which shut down the hospital in 2005.
In July 2020, Interior Health announced the derelict building would be torn down and replaced by a 75-bed facility for seniors care. Demolition began in October 2021.
Nelson Mayor John Dooley said Friday the city had been lobbying the Ministry of Health since 1999, first for upgrades to Mount St. Francis and then for a replacement building.
“Basically it was demolition by neglect, really, and then eventually it closed. And that was a sad day, because we knew there was a need [and] so did the government,” said Dooley.
“To the credit of Interior Health, the provincial government, [former Nelson-Creston MLA] Michelle Mungall and Brittny Anderson, here we are today with a state-of-the-art facility for 75 people to be able to house in through their later years in life. It’s just absolutely outstanding.”
A price tag for the facility has yet to be announced. Columbia Basin Trust and Golden Life Management will construct and own the development, which will then in turn be leased and operated by Interior Health.
Mable Elmore, the parliamentary secretary for seniors’ services and long-term care, said the new facility’s design was informed by the COVID-19 pandemic that led to outbreaks, closures and deaths at seniors’ care homes across B.C. in 2020 and 2021.
Practically, she said, that means private rooms and ensuite bathrooms for each resident, new HVAC systems and dividing up the facility’s residents and staff into smaller cohorts to limit the potential spread of infections.
A team-based care model that incorporates physicians, nurse practitioners, social workers and other specialists will also be used at the facility.
“That’s really the different model that we want to bring together, which we’re looking at as the future of health care,” said Elmore.
The new facility comes as more seniors make their home in Nelson.
The city’s population of seniors ages 70 to 74 increased by 51 per cent to a total of 620 from 2016 to 2021, according to the latest census data provided by Statistics Canada. The number of residents ages 75 to 79 increased by 29 per cent over the same time span, while people 80 to 84 also grew by 19 per cent.
Nelson currently has two seniors-specific care facilities. The privately operated Mountain Lake Seniors’ Community, which is located next to the new campus site, has 92 beds, 85 of which are publicly funded.
Nelson Jubilee Manor, meanwhile, has 39 publicly funded beds operated by Interior Health. An Interior Health spokesperson said the new facility will not lead to any reduction in service at Nelson Jubilee Manor.
This summer, residents also began moving into Lakeside Place, a 47-unit affordable housing building run by Nelson CARES for seniors and adults with disabilities.
Friday’s announcement took place overlooking the construction site of the new facility. People who either worked at Mount St. Francis or had loved ones cared for there attended Friday’s event. Dooley said he knows what the hospital meant to the city, and believes the new campus will honour its legacy.
“There’s still a lot of people in our community that had relatives go through the old facility and it was very near and dear to them. They’re still in our community and I know that this announcement today will resonate very positively with people to see that this site has been rejuvenated again.”