Trellis Seniors Services president Mary McDougall touched on the impact of the COVID pandemic on long-term care facilities during a presentation for the Sechelt Chamber of Commerce last week.
Trellis is awaiting approval from the District of Sechelt to begin construction of the Silverstone Care Centre on Derby Road that it was first contracted by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) to build and operate in 2016.
Silverstone is one of three facilities Trellis has VCH contracts for. The Hamilton Village Care Centre in Richmond opened in mid-May and the Creekstone Care Centre in North Vancouver is scheduled to open later this year.
Trellis also owns and operates the Brocklehurst Gemstone Care Centre in Kamloops.
Many of the questions from Chamber members were around business issues like using local contractors in construction, the expected economic benefits for the community and whether, given the need for long-term care beds on the Coast, the company was planning to pursue opportunities to build a second facility.
McDougall raised the pandemic in a discussion about the debate around private and public ownership, which has been emerging across the country.
“With regards to COVID. We know … that both public and private settings have had cases and deaths in B.C. and in Canada… We need to look at what happened, and not simply pin one factor as being the only thing that’s happened.”
McDougall praised B.C.’s single site order that prohibited care aides and other long-term care employees from working at more than one facility as well as other initiatives like a centralized stock of personal protective equipment.
“We must keep that and we must keep on with the wage levelling that supports the single site order,” she said. “Centralized protective equipment is also hugely important, particularly as we turn the corner into September and October as flu season starts coming up and the second wave is expected.”
McDougall said one regulation she and other long-term care operators have struggled with is the ongoing restrictions on visitors, which she said has been “very tough.”
“For mental well-being, we want to see our families and be connected, but that is also known to be where risks come in,” she said.
Neither of the company’s existing facilities has experienced an outbreak during the COVID pandemic and when asked if there were any “areas of operational excellence” that allowed the Kamloops or Richmond sites to fare better so far in the pandemic than the facilities that saw outbreaks, McDougall said people in the industry are still waiting for more study from the Centre for Disease Control in B.C. and other agencies in Canada that might shed light on what differentiated one site from another.
“The significant turning point for the province was the single site designation,” McDougall said. “The Interior [Health] group did it much sooner, we actually implemented that into the mid part of April… It has been very helpful.”
McDougall also said she felt there is a lot to be learned from looking at what happened at the Lynn Valley Care Centre, the worst-hit long-term care facility in B.C., “when we approach it with eyes of understanding and learning and not to blame.”
Trellis’s zoning and official community plan amendment applications have now passed second reading by Sechelt council, but a date for a public hearing is still to be set.