After a nine-month $1.9 million renovation, Deni House has officially reopened.
Two residents have been admitted to the 28-bed residential care facility daily since Nov. 28 and it is expected the rest of the tenants will be moved in by the middle of December in time for the holidays, said Interior Health Authority residential nurse manager Karen Brunoro at an opening celebration held at the facility Monday.
Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett said Deni House has been enthusiastically supported by Williams Lake and the surrounding area.
“Today is an exciting day,” Barnett said. “I remember it was eight or nine months ago that we knocked the wall out not believing this day would come this quick.”
Barnett thanked the Cariboo Regional District Hospital Society for funding the capital for the renovation and Kevin Falcon, the minister of health at the time, for committing $2 million a year for the operation of the facility. She also offered accolades to the Central Cariboo Hospice Palliative Care Society for furnishing the palliative care family rooms and Williams Lake city council, past and present.
“Without their support I don’t think this project would have come to fruition.”
Cariboo Chilcotin Regional Hospital District chair Rick Mumford said the re-opening was good news for residents of the Cariboo Chilcotin region and credited the Williams Lake Seniors Advisory Council and the White Cane Society for being the “spirit and the push” behind the project.
About 18 months ago members from the two groups came to a regional hospital board meeting to talk about the need for additional residential care space and asked for the board’s assistance to re-open Deni House. Over the next few nights Mumford received several phone calls from some of the “grand matriarchs” of the Chilcotin, he recalled.
“They didn’t beat around the bush. They gave me my marching orders to re-open Deni House. I found out later that was part of the Seniors Council’s strategy — the phone calls.”
Those phone calls were then followed up by two petitions — one from the Chilcotin region and one from Williams Lake — that garnered more than 3,000 signatures in three weeks. A couple of months later Interior Health assessed the building and eventually came to the regional hospital board asking for the $1.9 million.
“We had this ask on one hand and this petition in the other and quite frankly it was a fairly easy decision for the board,” Mumford said.
Williams Lake Seniors Advisory Council chair Audrey MacLise said she was pleased with the renovation and the badly needed reopening, but warned it’s important not to become complacent.
“It will take some of the pressure off our hospital, but our senior population will increase to the year 2033 and will triple by that time,” MacLise said. “At that time it will not dip, it will simply level off.”
Insisting the community should be planning for more facilities, MacLise pointed to the plan to give Cariboo Memorial Hospital a face lift.
“We need to get on with that,” MacLise said, adding if seniors can get the care they need they would rather stay in the community. Interior Health’s residential health services administrator Deborah Smith echoed MacLise’s concerns and said it is a challenge to provide appropriate care for the region’s aging population.
“It can be difficult to leave home when one comes to a point in life when 24-hour care is required,” Smith said. “It can be a challenging step for many families. This investment allows Interior Health to ensure those residents who require 24-hour care are receiving it in an environment that is warm, welcoming and as comforting as possible.”