Kamloops will receive about 20 per cent of 495 new long-term care beds the province plans to add across Interior Health beginning next year.
On Monday, provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix announced five requests for proposals have been issued and will be assessed this fall, with successful contracts announced in December.
Of the nearly 500 new spaces, Interior Health plans to place 140 beds in Kelowna, 100 beds in Kamloops, 90 beds in Vernon, 90 beds in Penticton and 75 beds in Nelson.
“We’ll start building in the beginning of 2021,” Dix said, noting that across the health authority, there are now about 6,000 long-term care beds.
The reason for the additional beds is to prepare for added demand from an expected 28 per cent increase in residents ages 75 and older in the Interior Health region within the next five years, health authority chief executive officer Susan Brown said.
“That is an enormous increase,” Dix said.
Brown said the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of continuing to strengthen B.C.’s long-term care system.
A site has already been earmarked for Nelson’s new beds, so the successful proponent will not be required to provide the land in that case, but sites for Kamloops and the other three communities will be chosen based on each successful RFP.
Dix said he expects the 100 new beds for Kamloops to all be located on one site.
Brown said population projections, wait times for admissions, different types of care needs, such as dementia, and a community’s demographics were among the factors that went into deciding where to place the new beds.
“Really analyzing the population, what we see as trends and where there’s a need — we’ll tailor the build toward that population,” Brown said.
Dix said the breakdown of the beds reflects the existing number of beds in each community and the demand for more, including the numbers of people over the age of 75.
According to Statistics Canada’s 2016 census, the number of people ages 65 and over that year totalled 32,900 in Kelowna, 16,400 in Kamloops, 11,800 in Vernon, 9,800 in Penticton and 2,000 in Nelson.
Once the new beds are open, the number of publicly funded long-term care beds available in the Interior Health region will increase by by about 10 per cent, to 6,550 beds.