Hillsborough seniors home gets licence by brent mazerolle times & transcript staff 05 Jan 2013 12:06PM

 Hillsborough seniors home gets licence
Operating permit presented to owner after three-year wait



After three years of being told no, the owner/operator of a Hillsborough seniors care facility has received a Christmas present directly from Premier David Alward - an operating licence.

The Times & Transcript first reported on Jerry Wilson's struggles to provide housing for aging New Brunswickers back in August 2011. At the time, Wilson had his brand new 28-bed facility just about completed, but no licence was forthcoming after what at the time had been a year-and-a-half of waiting.

Operating licence granted by province for seniors' home in Hillsborough

At the time, he felt he had nothing to lose by turning to the media to shine a light on the bureaucracy that kept him from providing a service there seems to be a great need for in greying New Brunswick.

Now, after another year-and-a-half has gone by, he has finally been told he will get a licence to provide Level 2 care and open for business, this just weeks after Premier David Alward, Social Development Minister Madeleine Dubé, and local MLA Wayne Steeves dropped by Fundy Royal Manor, the 24-unit home Wilson already operates in Hillsborough.

On Nov. 8, the premier, cabinet minister and MLA were in Riverside-Albert to snip the ribbon at the new Forest Dale Nursing Home.

At that public event, Alward said all New Brunswickers had a stake in the way we care for the elderly.

'It's one of the big picture things that we need to come to a better understanding of, not only as a government but as a whole society,' he said.

'In the next 20 years, we're going to see the number of seniors in our province double. We know how the system is stressed in terms of being able to provide the level of care. We know that there are seniors in hospitals that are waiting for placement in a nursing home and that it is only going to become more intense in coming years because of the sheer reality of how we are aging. We need to have a dialogue as New Brunswickers talking about the future and we need to have all the different partners at the table.' Apparently being true to those words, Alward and the others dropped in on Wilson for a private meeting on the way back to Moncton after the Riverside-Albert event.

It had taken Wilson three years to get the licence for his first facility, but hearing that he was next in line for a licence for the second one, he started construction.

He thinks that jumping the queue may have angered someone in officialdom.

'They were mad because I went ahead without a licence,' he said.

Licensing is not about the province deciding how many facilities it wants to help pay for, as such facilities are entirely funded privately.

'I spent $1.5 million with zero government dollars,' Wilson said.

There is however, the question of need.

Staff at the regional offices of Social Development are responsible for the as sessment of new applications to operate a special care home. Applications received by the Adult Residential Co-ordinator are placed on a waiting list in chronological order by date of receipt of the application until a decision is made to approve the request.

The applications are processed on a first come, first served basis, taking into account the vacancy rate in the region. Approvals for new facilities or additional beds may only be considered when the vacancy rate in a sub-region is less than 20 per cent. The vacancy rate for the subregion, which includes Hillsborough, was 24.83 per cent when Wilson first talked to the Times & Transcript.

Some might argue that's a figure not grossly above the 20 per cent ceiling, but others would argue that the whole business of setting a ceiling requires that it be adhered to.

However, Wilson said the vacancy rate figure was skewed at any rate, because the vacancies among the 41 beds in the area included a seven-bed facility that had ceased operation.

The Department of Social Development, however, didn't see those seven beds as out of the equation, since a new operator could buy the building and restart special care operations.

It's an unusual situation, given that the financial risks fall entirely to the operators of such homes. On the other hand, if the province allowed more facilities than the market could bear, you could have the spectre of elderly residents put into the street if a home fails financially.

Now, after being told just before Christmas his licence has been approved - he still does not have it in hand - Wilson says he has four people waiting to move in and expects to have a half dozen within a month.

'The other one took only six months to fill and there hasn't been a vacancy since,' he said yesterday.

About half of the residents at that home are from the Moncton area and Wilson suspects the private bedrooms and bathrooms the new Level 2 facility will offer will also draw people from Moncton.

'It's only 12 miles,' he said.

Right now, he's just looking forward to getting some return on his investment, saying it's been rough paying the mortgage and property tax and mowing the lawn of an empty building for well over a year.

'I'm 100 per cent happy now, but it was very stressful for a while.'


The 28-unit building owned by Jerry Wilson in Hillsborough is seen yesterday.