Through its Public Assistance Program, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded the Human Services Department $65.7 million to construct a new 52,000-square-foot, long-term care nursing home on St. Thomas, according to the Office of Disaster Recovery.
In September 2021, FEMA made good on its word to provide a decision on the prudent replacement of Queen Louise Home for the Aged by October 2021, the Office of Disaster Recovery said in a press release Thursday announcing the funding. The current two-story, 16,000-square-foot facility will be replaced entirely to prevailing industry standards due to the structural damages endured after hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, it said.
Now that the territory has received approval from FEMA, the Human Services Department, with the assistance of the Department of Property and Procurement, can continue negotiations to secure land in Sugar Estate to build a state-of-the-art facility and begin designs, the office said.
“Patient care is our priority, and providing the best care possible as well as maximizing the quality of life is important when serving our most frail elderly. This award represents a tremendous opportunity for the Virgin Islands to continue to provide quality care in a safe environment for individuals who require nursing home treatment,” said Human Services Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez. “This funding will allow us to construct a 60-bed, Skilled Nursing Facility and Nursing Home that meets industry standards and is eligible for certification through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.”
The once 30-bed facility, spread over two floors, had to be reduced to 17 beds. Now housing less than half of its original capacity, the 24-hour care facility is home to about 13 residents on one floor, according to the release.
“This obligation is the long-awaited step towards improving the system of care for our elderly and falls right in line with the governor’s V.I. Healthy Housing Initiative, which calls for all healthcare facilities to be CMS certified,” said Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien, director of the Office of Disaster Recovery. “Since 2017, the staff of the Department of Human Services has done a commendable job, maintaining services and operations for a population of residents with nowhere else to turn.”
To continue providing quality care to residents, the facility will undergo temporary repairs while the new Queen Louise is being constructed, according to the release. In addition, the department plans to relocate residents temporarily while repairs are being made.