A $211,700 expense for a long-term care home drew questions from the Liberal bench in the P.E.I. legislature on Friday.
During question period, Liberal MLA Gord McNeilly asked about an allocation of $211,700 for Whisperwood Villa, which was included in a government update of COVID-19-related spending.
Whisperwood Villa is a private facility in Charlottetown that provides community and nursing care.
McNeilly noted that the expenditure was listed below a line item for a $61,200 expense for recommissioning of the Riverview Manor, for use in case of a COVID-19 outbreak.
“We know Riverview is supposed to be a central COVID facility and we would applaud that investment, but Whisperwood is listed specifically for a $211,000 package – three and a half times more funding,” McNeilly said.
“Question to the minister, why is Whisperwood Villa identified so clearly in the COVID Response document?”
Health Minister James Aylward’s said the funding for Whisperwood Villa was to provide for four additional long-term care beds.
“The money that is being expended at Riverview Manor is to bring the building back into a condition so that we can utilize it as our first line of defense with regards to a potential outbreak in any of our long-term facilities dealing with COVID,” Aylward said.
“The money that’s identified for Whisperwood Villa is for four additional beds that we felt were required for that facility to deal with COVID as well.”
Liberal MLAs have been raising criticisms of a government plan to establish segregated COVID units in two other long-term care facilities – the Prince Edward Home and Summerset Manor.
The province plans to keep these separate wings free of residents and to serve as back-up units to Riverview Manor if there is a COVID-19 outbreak.
Elsewhere in Canada, the spread of COVID-19 has been driven by conditions within long-term care homes.
P.E.I. long-term care facilities were closed to all visitors early on in the pandemic.
But the expense allocated to Whisperwood Villa is not related to COVID-19 units, Aylward told The Guardian.
In an interview, Aylward clarified that the $211,700 allocated to Whisperwood earlier in the pandemic allowed provincial acute care facilities to transfer four individuals awaiting long-term care.
At that time, the province was working to reduce the number of patients in health-care facilities to make way for potential COVID-19 patients.
“We were trying to reduce the population in our hospitals to prepare for what could have unfolded," said Aylward.
"When we started looking at our inventory of our long-term care facilities, Whisperwood Villa had capacity to take on another four long-term care patients."
To date, no one has been hospitalized in P.E.I. as a result of COVID-19.
Aylward said there are no plans to move potential COVID-19 patients into Whisperwood in the future, and no COVID-19 patients were moved into the facility.
Although the $211,700 cost may seem high for four beds, Aylward said this is in line with accommodation and nursing amounts paid out to private long-term care homes.
A representative with the Whisperwood Villa confirmed the province transferred residents to the facility in late March.
The provincial license for the four beds was temporary and is set to expire in the early fall.
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