Despite positive ratings from residents and families, the pandemic continues to have a negative impact on occupancy levels at Chartwell retirement homes. In a business update issued September 15, Chartwell revealed that several restrictions have lifted since June, allowing for the gradual reopening of services, but the priority continues to be the health and wellness of its residents and staff.
As of September 14, 2020, COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in one Chartwell retirement residence and two long-term care homes. To reduce spread and exposure, precautions in place (in most provinces) include the requirement that new residents self-isolate for fourteen days—which Chartwell says could be an inhibitor to permanent move-in decisions, as well as to short-stay visits.
On the positive side, Chartwell says that the pace of decline in occupancy has slowed since the onset of the pandemic, with August representing approximately 65 per cent of previous-year volumes. Move-out activity continues to be below previous-year levels, and in August was approximately 75 per cent of previous-year volumes primarily due to reduced departures to long-term care, particularly in Ontario.
Ontario’s long-term care funding
On September 10, 2020, the Ontario government issued its previously-announced redesigned capital funding subsidy (“CFS”) program policy for long-term care. The policy includes a $1.75 billion investment to redevelop 12,000 beds and add an additional 8,000 beds over the next five years.
“We have 577 Class B and C beds that are eligible for this redevelopment program,” the Chartwell report revealed. “We are grateful to the Ontario government for taking this important step to improve the aging long-term care infrastructure in the province. We continue to work closely with our industry partners and the government to finalize the details of the new CFS program, to ensure the related approval and licensing process to expedite projects are feasible within this new program, and importantly to ensure the sustainability of long term care homes including adjusting operating funding to sufficient levels to absorb additional costs, particularly enhanced staffing, to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19.”
On September 9, 2020, the Ontario government announced further funding of $45 million for COVID-related expenses. Chartwell’s share of this funding is $1.7 million. While Chartwell acknowledges that it is welcome support to the sector, it says the funding is not sufficient to fully cover additional costs incurred by long-term care home operators to comply with government orders and directives.
“Our pandemic-related expenses in our Ontario Long-Term Care residences to August 31, 2020, exceeded the aggregate funding, including the funding announced on September 9, 2020, by approximately $3.0 million.”