Kelowna, Penticton, Kamloops, Vernon and Nelson will receive 495 new long-term care beds for seniors.
The Ministry of Health announced Monday it was increasing the number of beds to make up for an expected 28 per cent increase in the population of people aged 75 years and older over the next five years within the Interior Health region.
Kelowna will receive 140 beds, Kamloops will see 100 added, while Penticton and Vernon will have 90 added in each community. Nelson meanwhile will have 75 new beds.
The announcement will increase long-term care beds in Interior Health by nearly 10 per cent to 6,550.
“Across those communities, you’re going to see significant improvements in care,” said health minister Adrian Dix.
“We need to address long-term care and we’re doing it by improving staffing, improving standards, improving working conditions and across British Columbia increasing the number of beds.”
Five requests for proposals were issued last week. The ministry said it plans to consider proposals in the fall and award contracts in early 2021 when it also expects construction to begin.
Interior Health president Susan Brown said the communities chosen for the new beds were picked for their projected populations and demographics, admission wait times, and the complexities of care needed.
She added changes made to seniors care during the COVID-19 pandemic will also play a role in how the new facilities are built.
“We know that it has been especially challenging for those living in long-term care and their families,” said Brown. “We are committed to taking what we have learned over the past couple of months and applying it to these projects.”
No specific locations were mentioned in the announcement except for Nelson, where Brown said Interior Health wants to use land at an abandoned hospital.
Dix added he expects each project will be located on one site per community.
“What this reflects is existing numbers of beds in those communities and the demand of the population over 75.”
The ministry said in a statement that the average age of residents in care facilities is 84.
In 15 years, 25 per cent of B.C.’s population is projected to be 65 years and older, up from 19 per cent last year.
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