Gibsons Garden Inn owner Irma Hohn is appealing the Office of the Assisted Living Registrar's decision to move residents from her assisted living facility. She says her establishment meets all the registrar's requirements for health and safety.
The clients who are being moved from the facility have been "assessed to need a higher level of care," said Clay Adams, media spokesperson for Vancouver Coastal Health.
When the Office of the Assisted Living Registrar was created in Nov. 2003, all facilities operating as assisted living establishments needed to register and meet certain requirements.
Hohn said health officials completed her registration form for her and she "just signed it," before it was sent in. Shortly after an on-site visit was conducted, Hohn found she had failed to meet the requirements and was denied registration in a letter from the registrar, Susan Adams, on Jan. 28, 2005.
Hohn appealed the decision. The registrar has until Feb. 28 to reach a decision on the appeal.
However, in the meantime, clients are leaving the Gibsons Garden Inn daily for care homes such as Kiwanis and Shorncliffe. Residents and family members seem confused and upset with the abrupt change.
"Anyone who is moving out is moving out because they need more care than can be provided at the Gibsons Garden Inn," said Adams. "Even if the Gibsons Garden Inn appeal is successful, they will still have only assisted living status, not complex care status, which is what these clients have been assessed to need. So they wouldn't be able to stay there anyway, unfortunately."
But people are getting mixed messages from caseworkers, the health authority and Gibsons Garden Inn.
Family members like Judith Renaud, whose 93-year-old mother, May Newbergher, has been assessed to need complex care and is being moved to Kiwanis, say the lack of clear communication from Gibsons Garden Inn staff, the health authority and case workers have left her unsure what to do and afraid to "rock the boat" for fear of losing her mother's government subsidy.
"We were told Mom had to move for her safety, but she's nearly 94. If she doesn't absolutely have to move, I want to know, because I don't want to move her twice in one year," said Renaud. She noted the Good Samaritan facility will be opening early next year, and clients like her mother were slated to move there upon opening.
Until Coast Reporter ran an article last week describing the health authority's take on the situation at Gibsons Garden Inn, manager Cheryl Veley said they were not permitted to talk about what was happening with anyone.
"We were under a gag order from the ministry," said Veley.
Vancouver Coastal Health denies any "gag order" but agrees the change came suddenly without much public consultation.
"This situation did seem to come up as a surprise," said Adams. "It was not something that was in the making for six to 12 months like other programs. Usually we'll do things in phases over the long term, but this issue recently came to a head and we had to act."
At the same time this issue "came to a head," residential program manager India Taylor took an extended holiday, much to the dismay of locals trying to get answers.
"I don't think this was something she did to just flee from the situation. I'm sure it was a vacation she had planned for some time," said Clay Adams.
He suggests family members who are concerned about their relative's assessment phone 1-604-741-0726 and ask to speak to their respective case managers.
But others, like Graham Wray, president of the Gibsons Seniors' Society, want some public explanation of the changes.
"We are most concerned about the situation at the Gibsons Garden Inn," said Wray, who was made aware of the situation after Coast Reporter's article last week.
"What I want to do is get the three parties involved, the registrar, Gibsons Garden Inn and Vancouver Coastal Health, all together to give us some final answers on this."
The registrar did not return phone calls from Coast Reporter this week. While Hohn said she would be willing to meet with the other parties involved, no one had committed to a formal meeting by press time.