Salt Spring Hospital takes keys to former inn where it plans to house staff

The old hotel is set to be turned into accommodation for much-needed hospital workers by next year

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The waiting room at Lady Minto Hospital on Salt Spring Island erupted with joy Monday afternoon when the hospital foundation took possession of a former hotel that is slated to be converted into housing for much-needed employees here next year.

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The only hospital in the southern Gulf Islands, Lady Minto is struggling to fill 35 vacancies – from cleaners and cooks to technicians and nurses – on an island where any kind of accommodation is extremely scarce.

Terms of sale for the Seabreeze Inne near Ganges were lifted on February 28 and the hospital foundation’s purchase of the hotel from owner Jack Max for $4million ended with a handover ceremony keys.

The foundation raised $5.6 million, including $2.5 million from its endowment fund, to cover both the purchase price and renovation costs.

Renovations are expected to begin in the fall, pending approvals and permits, and design work has begun with architects Don Brown and Andrew Jost of the Jensen Group.

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The hospital foundation plans to convert the Seabreeze’s 28 rooms into 14 to 20 rental apartments for staff. Lady Minto believes the property will be ‘a key recruitment tool’ to attract and retain staff, so that existing staff do not have to take extra shifts and risk burnout.

Lady Minto Hospital Foundation Board Chairman Dave Taylor praised the support of Salt Spring Islanders in fundraising “which has strengthened our foundation to the point where we can do this type of strategic investment to address the housing shortage we face for staff.

The foundation has launched other initiatives to increase the number of rental units for hospital employees, including online portals for residents to list vacation rentals, cabins and basement suites.

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The timing of the deal also clarifies some of the negative perceptions of the foundation buying the Seabreeze Inne, which was used to house more than 20 of the island’s homeless people.

Roberta Martell, executive director of the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation, said a lease has been negotiated with BC Housing to continue housing existing residents while the province assembles permanent supportive housing on Drake Road.

The foundation had repeatedly delayed closing the Seabreeze deal to give the province time to find alternate housing for the residents.

Salt Spring Island Community Services had wanted to buy the Seabreeze with funding from BC Housing, but the government agency chose not to buy the property after renting it out on three-month contracts since the pandemic began. That’s when the hospital foundation made its purchase offer.

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Now BC Housing plans to build permanent housing for the vulnerable in the form of pre-engineered modules that will be moved to the site at the 161 Drake Rd. site for quick assembly.

In a statement, BC Housing said the development will provide long-term housing for many people currently living in the Seabreeze Inne and those sleeping on mats at the In from the Cold shelter at 268 Fulford-Ganges Rd.

It will have 28 modular units, which is not enough to accommodate everyone at Seabreeze Inne and In from the Cold.

“We will work closely with people to identify their individual needs,” the statement said. “The most vulnerable will be offered places at 161 Drake Road and we will work to find other housing solutions for those who require less support. We are committed to ensuring that no one ends up on the streets. »

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