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Northern Heights long-term care project is still a go despite delays

'While our experience with supply chain issues is similar to most construction projects in the province, it does not change our commitment or ability to build Northern Heights'

An initial flurry of activity following the official ground-breaking ceremony in July 2021 at the site of Sienna Senior Living's new long-term care project in North Bay has petered off, leaving observers wondering if the lack of activity meant the project had been scrapped.

BayToday received correspondence to that effect from concerned community members as work recently ground to a halt but according to Sienna, it still plans to build a 160-bed long-term care residence in North Bay on what was the McLaren site of the former St. Joseph's General Hospital are still a go.

See related: Local long-term care build gets a lofty new name

In a newsletter to Waters Edge stakeholders, Sienna reiterated that construction on the new Northern Heights Care Community is proceeding. Waters Edge residents and staff will transfer to the new building upon its completion.

"We are working through some delays due to the supply chain, resulting in new and ongoing negotiations with our contractor and sub-trades," says Executive Director Denis Filiatrault. "While our experience with supply chain issues is similar to most construction projects in the province, it does not change our commitment or ability to build Northern Heights."

Filiatrault writes, "Progress has been made on preparing the site, including demolition and removal of existing structures, blasting and excavating the existing building footprint. Despite the delays, we continue to move forward on other aspects of the project, and our forecast for completion is the end of 2023."

It has taken years to arrive even to this point. The current building lacks modern features and is nearing the end of its viability for patients and staff alike. Waters Edge has 148 total beds, including six convalescent care beds. However, as long-term care facilities are legislated away from operating with ward rooms (up to four residents per room), vacated beds are being left empty in those accommodations. It currently fluctuates around 110 beds in use.

In 2018, as part of the future redevelopment, 12 additional long-term beds for Waters Edge were announced by the Kathleen Wynne-led Liberal government's Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, bringing the total to 160. 

The design for the new three-storey facility includes five wings of 32 residents with dining rooms for each wing. There will be two shaded courtyards and private gardens that may be used for visits. Northern Heights is to include all one and two-bedroom retirement suites for both independent residents and those who require assisted-living situations and will close the William Street facility. No wards. This means all 160 beds will be available to residents.

See also: Company 'plans to move ahead' with new North Bay 160-bed long-term care facility

"This is one of the biggest development projects in the City of North Bay," Sienna CEO Nitin Jain said in July 2021. "Our company is committed to spending close to $55 million. We expect it to create many construction jobs and we will be adding additional jobs with the 12 new beds. We are very excited."