Those in the eastern districts will have to wait a while longer for a new retirement home as Premier Alden McLaughlin said on Thursday that government will not be embarking on any new capital projects.
McLaughlin was, at the time, responding to Opposition questions in the Legislative Assembly about plans for a new facility to replace the now-defunct Sunrise Cottage in East End.
He said a replacement retirement home was not deemed a “priority at this time” during the preparation of the current budget, as residents who were at Sunrise Cottage had been transitioned to the Golden Age Home, in West Bay, when the former was closed last May.
Outside of that decision, McLaughlin pointed out that the economic situation in Cayman and globally is also weighing on government’s decisions when it comes to capital projects.
“In the current sort of crisis situation we are in now, we are further reducing the number of capital projects that the government will attempt to proceed with for the balance of the term. And then, of course, there is the intervening elections in the middle of next year,” he told fellow lawmakers.
He said at that point, following elections, whichever administration assumes responsibility for the next four-year term, will have to make “some critical decisions” given the state of the world economy and the challenges Cayman is facing.
“Hopefully, things will be clearer by the time we turn the corner at the end of the year, but the government does not plan to engage in any new capital projects at this point given the challenges that we are facing with respect to the budget going forward,” he added.
On Thursday, Bodden Town West MLA Chris Saunders raised the issue of the closure of the East End home in the Legislative Assembly when he asked why the doors were shut at the facility.
The Premier, who is also Community Affairs Minister, said the Ministry decided to close the facility last year after a Fire Service inspection report found that it was not in compliance with the fire code and was “therefore not fit for purpose”.
A total of six elderly residents were moved from the Sunrise Cottage to West Bay.
McLaughlin said plans were undertaken for a new retirement home for the eastern districts and a larger facility for West Bay was also being contemplated, as well as a new facility in George Town.
He said the Ministry and Lands and Survey had identified a number of parcels of crown land for construction of a purpose-built facility.
The land behind the William Allen McLaughlin Civic Centre had been earmarked as the most appropriate site for the new home, he said.
Opposition Leader Arden McLean asked what happened to the buildings that he viewed last year with the Ministry, but the Premier indicated that he could not provide that information as no one from Community Affairs was present in the LA to update him.
McLean also asked for an update on the plans in place for the old Sunrise Cottage building.
McLaughlin said based on instructions from the Fire Service and Public Works, the building can be repurposed.
He said one of the options being proposed for the building is a day centre for community-based activities.
George Town Central MLA Kenneth Bryan questioned whether government would consider options such as private businesses that may be inclined to construct homes for the elderly.
McLaughlin said he would, but it would have to meet planning and health care requirements.
“There’s absolutely nothing to prevent some private sector entity or individual from developing a privately-owned/run seniors home or rest home, whatever you want to call it,” he said.
He said, from a government perspective – depending on what sort of arrangements could be made with respect to price – he would expect that if there is a need or the demand for the housing “government would consider supporting it in the sense of paying as we do with The Pines”.
Government, McLaughlin said, pays a certain amount of money to support some people at The Pines, who are government’s responsibility because they are indigent.
Saunders questioned whether the national census was still going to be conducted this year and whether that data will be used to formulate a long-term housing plan for Cayman’s seniors.
The Premier said, as far as he was aware, the census was on target for October/November.
He said he was certainly open to a data-driven approach to long-term planning.
“I do agree we need more long-term planning. If we don’t die young we are all going to grow old,” he added.