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Survey finds strong opposition to VCH long-term care plan

Health Care
Artist’s rendering of Silverstone Care Centre, expected to open in Sechelt in 2018.

The Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU) – which represents around 200 workers at Shorncliffe and Totem Lodge – says a recent survey of Sunshine Coast residents shows strong support for keeping long-term care public.

The survey results were released just ahead of a June 29 town hall meeting on Vancouver Coastal Health’s (VCH) plan to close Shorncliffe and Totem and shift long-term care to a new, privately owned facility in 2018.

The town hall was organized by MLA Nicholas Simons, and included HEU representatives. However, nobody from VCH or Trellis Group, which will build and operate the proposed Silverstone Care Centre, accepted Simons’ invitation.

The HEU survey targeted people in an area including Roberts Creek, Sechelt and Halfmoon Bay. It asked one question: “The provincial government wants to privatize seniors care on the Sunshine Coast. To do this, it will close two publicly operated residential care homes in Sechelt in 2018. What do you think about privatizing seniors care?”

The survey-takers made more than 4,600 calls. Of the 767 people who answered the phone, 569 (74.19 per cent) said seniors care should remain in the public health system, 33 (4.3 per cent) said they think private, for-profit seniors care is OK, and 80 (10.43 per cent) said they were unsure, while 85 declined to participate in the survey.

Because it was a survey and not a formal poll, there was no calculation of the margin of error.

HEU communications officer Neil Monckton told Coast Reporter the union already felt there was strong support for having publicly-owned facilities, and the survey results seem to confirm that. He also said the relatively low number of refusals to answer shows Sunshine Coast residents are “interested and engaged” in the issue.

Simons also said he saw little that was surprising in the results.

“I think people support public long-term care. They know workers are treated with dignity and with appropriate compensation for the work they do,” said Simons. “Obviously this is a concern on the Sunshine Coast.”

Monckton said the goal of the HEU, as well as community groups they’ve been hearing from, is to make sure services are delivered publicly.

“It sounds like a contract has been let, but we don’t know the details, we don’t know how far down the road it’s gone, [we don’t know] if it can be undone,” he said. “We’d prefer it be like the Powell River model [for expanded long-term care], which was publicly built and publicly funded. We think what’s good enough for Powell River should be good enough for Sechelt.”

Wednesday night’s town hall meeting wrapped up after Coast Reporter’s deadline. We’ll have more coverage in next week’s edition.