Province looking to set up temporary care homes and facilities to assist with self-isolation

Province says development permit not needed for temporary care homes and facilities, City of Prince Albert says in report

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The province is looking at setting up temporary care homes and facilities to assist with self-isolation due to COVID-19.

According to a report included as part of Monday’s Prince Albert City Council agenda, the province says it can set up the temporary facilities without applying for usual permits.

The province has not given the city any formal documentation to support its claim.

That means the potential locations for temporary care homes and facilities wouldn’t be subject to any city approvals.

“As COVID-19 infection rates continue to climb and as it is highly contagious, the Ministry of Social Services and those who own/operate care homes and facilities (which may include foster care homes or other Ministries) are being tasked with setting up secondary locations where they can safely separate and house those who need to self-isolate,” city administration wrote in their report.

“The need for such a home or facility can come up in a matter of days and needs to be established quickly.”

The city said that usually, establishing a care home or facility requires a development permit and a building permit.

Most city zoning districts list care homes as a discretionary use, meaning applications must be approved by council before they’re set up. 

That means each application must go through a process that usually lasts at least three weeks while administration reviews the project, the public is notified and council votes.

Because the temporary facilities will be needed fast and the permit process is slow, “the Ministry of Social Services, through continued correspondence with Administration, has stated that they believe they have the authority to forgo municipal permits during this time.”

In a statement, social services clarified that the facilities would be used to help kids in care isolate safely.

“Throughout the pandemic, the Ministry of Social Services has worked with its partners across the province to ensure children entering care have a safe and caring place to self-isolate if they test positive for the virus, or are symptomatic and being tested. This work has included developing a small number of temporary, home-based settings for children in care who are required to self-isolate,” said Mitch Tremblay, executive director of community services with Child and Family Programs here at the Ministry of Social Services.

“hese homes are intended solely for children in care, are fully staffed, and provide safe, 24-hour care and supervision. These temporary home-based care settings have been developed in a number of communities to date, including Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina.”

The permits are used to ensure that the facilities are established in an appropriate location, will not have an adverse impact on the neighbourhood and that the building is safe for those who live there.

The city said it can’t wait any longer for the province’s documentation of its powers to build temporary facilities without a permit.

But knowing that delays in delays in establishing temporary care homes or facilities could be “dangerous,” city administration worked with the City Solicitor’s Office to interpret the province’s powers as allowing them to develop and use temporary units without formal application for development permits under March’s declaration of a State of Emergency.

Any move to make those temporary locations permanent would have to go through the regular processes of applying for permits to ensure compliance with all municipal and National Building Code regulations. That could mean the location of the care home or facility would need to change should it become permanent.

The city said it will require temporary building permits, which will be valid for six months and can be renewed should the minister’s emergency order be extended.

The city said it expects it will receive formal documentation from the province, but because of tight timelines, they will manage temporary care homes in a similar way to how it’s managing shipping containers being used for COVID-19-related purposes.

In August, council allowed for the use of shipping containers for the temporary storage of PPE and related COVID-19 safety supplies so long as a letter was submitted detailing its need and date of removal and a basic site plan provided showing where the containers will go.

The report due to come before council Monday did not provide details as to how the shipping container rules will be adapted for care homes and facilities, nor how they would respond should the province refuse to apply for a construction permit or submit letters detailing temporary care home locations.

The report is one of 17 set to come before council Monday, in the first regular meeting since November’s election.

The meeting starts at 5 p.m. and also includes a request to move forward with issuing a request for proposals to update accessibility of council meetings, including live streaming, for an estimated $140,000.

The renovations could allow council to conduct live online streaming of its meetings, improve its video and audio conferencing and control systems as well as add a vote counting display.

Administration is also proposing a $55,000 year two project to install desktop monitors for councillors so they don’t have to rely on overhead screens, assisted listening and mobile display carts for the city hall lobby.

An item from an executive committee meeting earlier this month looking for approval to purchase land for a rapid housing initiative program run by the Friendship Centre is also on the agenda.

It received widespread support last time it came before council and is expected to formally pass Monday.

** story updated to provide response from Ministry of Social Services