Councillors dig in. 1st row from left to right: Mr. Normand Riopel (Mayor Champlain) Ms. Paula Assaly (Mayor Hawkesbury) Mr. Stephane Sarrazin (Mayor Alfred-Plantagenet) and Mr. Robert Kirby (Mayor Hawkesbury East), 2rd row left to right: Mr. Guy Desjardins (Mayor Clarence-Rockland), Mr. Daniel Lafleur (Mayor Casselman), Mr. Francois St-Amour (Mayor Nation), Mr. Pierre Leroux (Mayor of Russell) and Mr. Stephane Parisien (Executive Director of CRF). Courtesy Photo

Sandy Casselman 
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

HAWKESBURY – The United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) invited residents to attend the virtual ground-breaking ceremony for the Prescott and Russell Residence Redevelopment Project last week.

“We’re finally here,” said UCPR CAO Stéphane Parisien, referring to the postponement of the ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Things kicked off with town of Hawkesbury Mayor Paula Assaly welcoming both dignitaries and viewers to the virtual event. Ontario Minister of Long-term Care Merrilee Fullerton and Ontario Minister of Infrastructure Laurie Scott both attended the virtual ceremony, along with UCPR warden Stéphane Sarrazin. Colliers project leaders’ senior project manager Andrew Rodrigues also spoke during the roughly 25-minute event.

“Our number one goal for the new residence is to offer all residents a place where they will feel right at home and provide an inclusive environment regardless of language preference, culture, or belief,” Sarrazin said. “The people of Prescott-Russell are known to be welcoming and caring, they also hold a strong tradition of family gatherings and the new residence was designed to reflect their culture and core values. We also want this new living environment to be welcoming to families, friends, and visitors, as they are extremely important to the well-being of the residents.”

Sarrazin praised the current residence’s high-quality care. He attributed the facility’s excellence to its more than 200 dedicated professionals, including caregivers, nurses, doctors, receptionists, administrative assistants, and maintenance workers.

“They all come from different fields, but they all have one thing in common,” Sarrazin said; “It is to have the well-being, dignity, and safety of every resident at heart. Today, I want to recognize and thank each and every employee for their excellent work, engagement, and professionalism. The commitment you demonstrate every day and especially during this pandemic makes all the difference in the lives of our residents and for that we are extremely grateful.”

Located near the Hawkesbury and District General Hospital, the new long-term care facility will have 224 beds, 78 more than the current facility.

There will be a mix of basic, semi-private, and private rooms. The roughly multi-million-dollar project includes a central public courtyard, lots of windows, a large multi-purpose room, dining room, beauty salon, as well as landscaped outdoor space.

“I do feel the tremendous hope for areas like this and across the country with these new developments,” Fullerton said. “To the passionate and hardworking community behind this redevelopment project, I often say the long-term care homes are really the hearts of the communities that they’re in, so I just appreciate all the people coming together to get this done.”

Rodrigues said he expects construction to be completed by the end of 2023. If everything goes as planned, he said residents should be able to relocate to the new facility by the second quarter of 2024.

“The people of Ontario deserve access to quality long-term care in a safe homelike environment when and where they need it,” Scott said. “Today is a step forward, doing that here in the UCPR. We are getting shovels moving and providing 21st century integrative long-term care infrastructure for our most vulnerable in communities across the province.”

Residents throughout UCPR will benefit from the new and improved facility.

“Russell Township is a proud member of the UCPR, and the Prescott Russell Residence, along with its increased bed capacity, will be a welcome addition to our region,” township of Russell Mayor Pierre Leroux said.