Construction has now officially started on the expansion at Rest Haven in Steinbach. A sod turning ceremony was held Thursday morning.

The personal care home today is a 60 bed facility. Once the project is complete, which involves tearing down the west wing, it will have 143 brand new suites. The new facility, expected to be complete in 2021, will include resident rooms with private washrooms and showers in clusters of 11 or 12.

(Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen)"In the 1950's the institutional system was designed with long hallways," explains Abe Bergen, Board Chair for Southern Health. "What we're going to see in this construction project is pods of twelve rooms, around a living room, kitchen area. And so each pod is going to feel like a home."

The new facility will also include maintenance, laundry and housekeeping service areas, storage, offices, staff areas and exterior patios, walkways and parking.

"Today it really feels real," says Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen. "I've been involved from the beginning of the planning on this as Health Minister and until you start to see dirt moved and those big graders here it doesn't quite feel real until it feels real, which is a really nice feeling."

(Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen)Goertzen says in the 17 years he has served the constituency, he does not think there has been a health issue as dominant as the need for PCH beds. He notes the story he hears most often is of people who grew up in the community but are forced out during the last years of their life.

"The lack of dignity that is, the challenge it is for family," he says. "I think that this will help to address that once it's open for a number of years."

Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen was present for Thursday's sod turning ceremony. He says the expansion reflects his government's commitment to provide seniors and all Manitobans with the consistent, reliable services they need.

"Steinbach and this region of Manitoba continues to grow rapidly," says Friesen. "I know this area very well, the growth in population means that we have that pressure to provide services for people. I could not be more happy to be here."

Bergen says the work is expected to take 24 months to complete.

The provincial government has committed to opening 1,200 new personal care home beds by 2025.