Trellis, VCH agreement released under FOI

Long-Term Care

Documents released to Coast Reporter through a freedom of information request have yielded answers to some, but not all, of the questions being raised by Sunshine Coast residents about the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH)-Trellis deal for a new long-term care facility in Sechelt.

Coast Reporter filed its request in the weeks following the June 1, 2016 announcement of the deal and the pending closure of Shorncliffe and Totem Lodge in 2018.

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In response, VCH released redacted copies of the Project Development Agreement (PDA) and Services Agreement (SA), the report of the VCH evaluation committee on the bids submitted by short-listed proponents from the call for proposals for up to 125 additional long-term care beds on the Sunshine Coast, and emails between executives of Trellis and VCH from Jan. 1, 2016 to Aug. 1, 2016.

• How did Trellis stack up against other proponents?

Trellis was one of only two proponents that made it through to the second round of the bidding process (the name of the second was redacted).

According to the VCH evaluation, Trellis’s proposal scored lower on the 25-bed option. It scored much higher overall on the 125-bed option, although it ranked slightly lower in the “business case and financials” category, which was worth 35 out of a possible 100 points. The other categories were: “program management and building design” – 26 points, “program delivery” – 35 points, and “value added and innovation” – 4 points.

The Trellis bid was scored at 85.95/100 and the other bid came in at 73.89 points.  The committee recommended on Oct. 13, 2015 that VCH open negotiations with Trellis, based on its 125-bed proposal.

The resulting PDA and SA between VCH and the Silverstone Care Centre Limited Partnership were signed on April 27, 2016.

• Is it a “done deal?”

Some opponents have called for VCH to pull out of the deal and start fresh with an in-depth community consultation.

Both the PDA and the SA include standard termination clauses and the thresholds for immediate cancellation of the agreements are high, with no “termination without cause” option in the PDA. 

The PDA also makes provision for possible complications or delays in the District of Sechelt’s rezoning process for the Silverstone site on Derby Road, which is just getting underway. The PDA treats issues around the rezoning process as a so-called “force majeure,” not unlike fires or acts of God, unless they’re caused by the developer. If a delay caused by force majeure extends past 270 days, “VCH may treat the delay as a material breach and terminate [the] agreement.”

The SA does allow for termination without cause by either party with 365 days’ written notice.

• Current Shorncliffe/Totem employees. Future contracting out:

Questions around the future of the current workforce at Shorncliffe and Totem are dealt with in the SA.

“The service provider agrees to liaise with VCH in using reasonable efforts to bring such employment opportunities to the attention of those regular VCH Shorncliffe and Totem Lodge employees whose qualifications and experience are appropriate for the position(s) being filled. … The service provider agrees to interview all qualified regular VCH Shorncliffe and Totem Lodge employees who submit applications. … For certainty, the service provider will not be obligated to hire any current or former VCH employees to work at the facility.”

Contracting out would be allowed under the SA, as long as “the service provider notifies VCH of its intention and plan regarding such contracting out. … Any plans to contract out any of the services require the prior written approval of VCH, which approval will not be unreasonably withheld.” An email exchange from July 2016, that was heavily redacted, indicated that, at the time, Trellis’s labour strategy was “still evolving.” 

The latest version of VCH’s frequently asked questions list for the project says Trellis has confirmed that it will recognize the Hospital Employees Union and the BC Nurses Union. Trellis’s existing facilities employ unionized workers.

• Resident care:

Questions have also been raised around how care will be delivered at Silverstone. 

VCH has pointed out that Trellis will have to meet the same standards as any public facility, and the SA requires Trellis to provide a staffing plan that includes “a minimum of 2.8 hours per resident per day direct care, plus 0.25 hours per resident per day of allied health services.”

• Milestone dates:

Trellis’s application to rezone the property on Derby Road is expected to come before Sechelt council soon, months later than anticipated in the project milestones set out in the PDA. The milestone for first reading of rezoning bylaws was Oct. 1, 2016. VCH and Trellis expected to have rezoning approved by Jan. 15, 2017 and a development permit issued by Feb. 15, 2017. The other significant milestones in the PDA are the June 1, 2017 and July 31, 2018 dates for starting and completing construction.

The PDA calls for residents to begin moving into Silverstone on or before Aug. 31, 2018.

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