Complex care will go elsewhere after council denied variances needed to replace Oak Bay Lodge with a modern care home.
“Baptist Housing is extremely disappointed with this decision. We have spent the past two years working with council and the community of Oak Bay on our proposal to build a resident-centred care facility that would have provided the level of care our seniors are so deserving of,” said Howard Johnson, CEO of Baptist Housing.
Oak Bay council denied height and parking variances needed to redevelop the lodge site as a 320-bed dementia care facility, operated by Baptist Housing on behalf of the Vancouver Island Health Authority.
“VIHA should have asked us at the outset what we thought was appropriate on the site,” said Mayor Nils Jensen, who cast the final vote opposed to the variances.
Councillors Tara Ney, Cairine Green and Michelle Kirby rounded out the opposed vote.
Most referenced the planning report offered to council last week saying that “the height of the building does not lend itself to the character of the existing community at its current location.”
“The design and scale is not keeping with Oak Bay and this neighbourhood in particular,” Ney said via Skype. “The shoe doesn’t fit. I don’t think this is the right building for this location. … We will get it right.”
Councillors Kevin Murdoch and John Herbert voted in favour of the height and parking variances required to give the build the go-ahead.
The 320-bed requirement drives the size of the proposal, Murdoch said. “Modern standards demand a bigger building.”
Had VIHA chosen a Langford site for the proposed facility, “I think we would have been hugely up in arms,” he added.
Another community is the option left says VIHA’s president and CEO.
“We have been in discussion with that for over two years … it’s been a long and at times difficult journey,” said Howard Waldner. “We will now move forward to find a location for these beds at some other location. We will build the beds elsewhere, outside of Oak Bay. … Oak Bay Lodge will close.”
Funding will transfer to the new facility.
“We’ll be giving the requisite one-year notice to families of the move,” Waldner said.
They’ll start another process to seek competitive bids to build the facility somewhere else in the Greater Victoria area, working alongside the Capital Regional Hospital District.
Once the new centre is complete, the residents and operating funding will go to the new facility. There is no immediate plan to use the Oak Bay Lodge building.
“The board has not determined what this will be used for. … It would be dependent on areas of greatest need in our population,” Waldner said. “VIHA would have a couple of options. We could sell it, we could use it for another ambulatory care purpose.”
Baptist Housing will continue with its other project for VIHA – Mount View Heights in Saanich. Mount View is a seven-storey, 260-bed facility on Carey Road.
“We’re going to be proceeding to finalizing that,” Waldner said, noting that Saanich approved the project more than a year ago. “They dealt with this very expeditiously and we’ll be moving forward to get that one under construction as soon as we can.”
Waldner said VIHA is already hearing from other municipalities interested in seeing a facility on their turf.
“We remain committed to providing the best service we can for the population and the population of Vancouver Island seniors which is growing exponentially. … Those beds were needed two years ago, so we’re going to be moving very quickly to re-provide those beds,” Waldner said. “My target would be to have these beds open within two years.”
Jobs leaving Oak Bay
VIHA’s talking with unions to ensure staff at Oak Bay Lodge are offered options with the facility slated for closure.
“We’re going to work very hard – there’s a shortage of health care workers on Vancouver Island – to make sure they have opportunities to work elsewhere in the system,” VIHA’s president said. “There are more jobs than there are people in this industry.”