TIMMINS -- While the COVID-19 pandemic has been demanding for long-term care homes, the team at the Golden Manor Home for the Aged in Timmins didn't let it impact their plans to develop a new facility.

The home's administrator, Carol Halt, presented a preliminary report to city council Tuesday with early designs and the estimated cost of the project. The plan includes a three-floor, 192-bed facility, with two residential wings and a core services centre.

Funded by the province as part of its promise to redevelop care beds and add new ones, the project is currently estimated to cost $76 million.

Halt said the goal of the project is to put more focus on smaller, home-style living.

"We don't want to create an institution-like setting for our residents," Halt said. "We really want something that's more home-like and I think that's what we've accomplished with the small home model."

Small homes for comfortable living

The small home model involves splitting each of the three floors in the facility's two residential wards into two small home areas. Each small home would have a social heart area for dining, lounging and activities.

Halt said choosing this format instead of traditional long-term care planning is intended to promote a community atmosphere, encourage smaller gatherings and limit the distance residents need to travel to reach amenities.

City councillor Joe Campbell, who chairs the Golden Manor's board, said everyone involved in the planning process is working to develop the best facility possible that will stand the test of time — and he's confident that the challenge is being met.

"We have one kick of the can for 100 years to get this right," Campbell said. "I think we've come up with something that people will be proud of."

Campbell added that he admires the work Halt and the staff at the Golden Manor put into making sure people's needs and concerns were reflected in the planning of the facility.

He said with a large aging population in the area, people need a place that will boost their quality of life.

"They're the pioneers of this community, in many cases, and they have a great responsibility for what we are as a community," Campbell said. "They deserve what we're offering right now."

Infection control top of mind

Over the course of this pandemic, issues around infection control have been raised in long-term care homes. One of the main concerns has been shared washrooms.

That's why city officials said having individual washrooms for each resident is a major element of the plan.

"It would definitely have saved the outbreaks from getting any worse in some of those buildings," said city councillor John Curley, who's also a member of the Golden Manor's board. "We said right from the get-go that we wanted private washrooms and we stuck with our guns."

With unanimous approval from the city to move forward, work now begins to design the finer details of the facility.

Construction is expected to start in April 2022 and the project to be fully completed and residents moved in by the end of 2024, in keeping with the province's promised deadline.

Vision for a 'campus of care'

As for what will be done with the current Golden Manor building, Halt said there may be an opportunity to renovate it into supportive housing or retail space, but plans for that are not solid at the moment.

There are talks of further expansions in the future, Halt said, and she eventually sees the area developing into a hub for the senior community.

"This property is perfect for a campus of care, where we can have different levels of housing and supportive housing on one campus," Halt said.

"That's a vision for the future, so we want to make sure we're bringing those elements into our design, as well."