Town of Huntsville, District of Muskoka, and senior levels of government representatives participated in a groundbreaking ceremony where the new Fairven Long-Term Care Home will be located off Centre Street North, on about seven acres donated by the Doughty and Cockwell families
The ceremony symbolized the beginning of a new long-term care facility in Huntsville. It is anticipated that the new home, described as a state-of-the-art facility, will be completed in 2025 and house 160 residents.
Ontario Minister of Long-Term Care, Paul Calandra, attended the ceremony. He described MPP Graydon Smith as a tenacious individual when it comes to championing the needs of his community. “Actually this is a very lucky community. You always had good representation at the federal level and at the provincial level,” he told those present.
He blamed governments of all stripes for failing the long-term care system but said that has changed with the Province making remarkable investments across the long-term care system.
“One of the things that we heard loud and clear during the pandemic was that people wanted to live in the communities that they helped build. They wanted to live near their family and friends, and that is what this is all about. We are building long-term care homes in small communities, large communities—in some of the communities that we are building long-term care in, it is the largest employer. It is the largest property taxpayer in the community but more importantly, it’s home…” he said, adding that the new Fairvern will be a state-of-the-art home, with bigger hallways, and more unique spaces for the residents to enjoy.
He gave a shoutout to the District of Muskoka for their work as well as community paramedic services and everyone who worked to make the new home a reality.
When it was his turn at the mic, MPP Smith noted that it was after Labour Day and pointed out that both the District Chair and the Minister were wearing jackets. “You guys need to lighten up. It’s Muskoka. It’s cottage country. It is now officially summer, so if you show up here in a jacket again I’m going to take it and I’m going to burn it,” he quipped to laughs.
He referred to the official groundbreaking ceremony as a monumental day to celebrate the vision that began many decades ago. He also said it was a testament to the vision of District council and “a testament to our recognition as government that we need to get these beds built in Ontario,” he said, adding that no one is more tenacious and more committed than Minister Calandra in ensuring that long-term care across the province has a great footing now and into the future. He thanked the Minister as well as Premier Doug Ford for their commitment to getting more long-term care beds built in Ontario.
He said it is important that the new home be centrally located in the town and thanked the donors of the land. He also thanked the residents, and the staff for what they do every day. “This is, again, the start of something incredibly special and I know that you all feel it and are excited to be a part of it. I’m excited to be a part of it as well, and that our government is behind us all the way, and I just, again, want to wish congratulations to everybody, from day one to today and into tomorrow, that has had the vision, the drive and the tenacity to see this though. Congratulations to all.”
District Chair Jeff Lehman described himself as the new guy and said it was a huge honour to say a few words on behalf of the District at such an occasion. He gave a shoutout to the chair of the District health committee, Lake of Bays Mayor Terry Glover, as well as the residents, volunteers, and former board members of Fairvern, some of whom spent years on the board, as well as the Friends of Fairvern for all their volunteering and fundraising.
“You know, Graydon used to say of District… ‘the District of Muskoka was created to do the big things in Muskoka, the big projects,’ well this is big…,” said Lehman, who spoke a bit about the history of Fairvern. He talked about Fairvern being the former hospital built by the Red Cross in 1948. “In 1982, of course, it became Fairvern and I’m the new guy, I just learned, and I should’ve figured this out, Fairvern… comes from the names of the two lakes, Fairy Lake and Vernon Lake, and that was named through a community contest in 1982, so credit to the 1982 residents of Huntsville for coming up with a name that continues to stand the test of time,” he said to applause. Fast forward to 2020, said Lehman, a big day for Muskoka when the Province announced additional beds for Fairvern bringing the number up to 160 from the current 76-bed facility.
He said the home is being designed on an entirely different model. Using the small home model rather than an institutional setting, which enables people to connect and live together in a different way. “I really feel honoured to be the District chair today for so many reasons but not least because there was a conscious choice made here to do more than the minimum. To build a better home. To try and create an environment for 160 residents in Muskoka to be able to live in a social setting, and we know just how important that is for overall wellbeing. It’s also going to create a leading-edge environment to work in.”
Lehman also thanked District staff for all their work, the contractor, project manager, and architect, and the Province for investing in Muskoka.
Huntsville Mayor Nancy Alcock thanked everyone including former Huntsville and District council members and former Huntsville Mayor Claude Doughty as well as former Huntsville Mayor Karin Terziano who worked hard to get District councillors to support the project. She also thanked former Councillor Tim Withey for his efforts and noted that the home will not only benefit Huntsville but the entire region.
Last but not least, MP Scott Aitchison was grateful for the lack of blackflies and said that in public life one could never find a better partner and champion to work with than Smith, “whether it’s hospitals or long-term care homes, that’s the guy you want in your corner.”
He said while Chair Lehman is calling himself the new guy, “he’s not new to Muskoka at all. His family has been residents here on Lake of Bays for many, many years and he cares about Muskoka as much as all of us do.”
Aitchison also thanked Mayor Alcock who he said he had the honour of serving with on council when he was mayor. He said she is “one of the most dedicated public servants, and Huntsville is very lucky to have her as our mayor.”
He also spoke of Huntsville’s first mayor after the District was created in 1971. “Norm Goodwin was the Mayor of Huntsville at the time, and he really believed that Huntsville needed a long-term care home and so he championed that cause from the very get-go. And we should be thankful too to Frank Miller and Norm Miller because Frank Miller was the Minister of Health at a time when they were closing hospitals in Ontario and they built a brand new one right here in Huntsville. And they realized they could use that old hospital, where I happen to have been born, actually, and turn it into a long-term care home,” he said, adding that Fairven has never been an institution, it has been a home and it continues to be a home today.”
Aitchison also gave a shoutout to Claude Doughty saying, “So many things in this community simply would not happen if it wasn’t for Claude Doughty… no one believes in Huntsville more than Claude Doughty.”
Two Fairvern residents attend the event, while the rest participated in spirit from the comfort of their current home at 14 Mill Street in Huntsville. However, their contribution to the ceremony was symbolized by a shovel signed by the residents of the existing home, describing what a new residence means to them, noted District CAO Julie Stevens.
“With its emphasis on resident dignity, quality care, and innovative technology, the new Fairvern Long-Term Care Home is scheduled for completion in late 2025, and demonstrates the District’s unwavering commitment to providing compassionate and quality care,” states a District release.
To find out more about Fairvern Long-Term Care Home and stay up to date as construction continues, visit www.engagemuskoka.ca/fairvern