The search for a site to house a new long-term care facility on the Sunshine Coast is headed into a fourth round.
The proposed agreement between Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), Trellis Seniors Services and shíshálh Nation that would see a long-term care facility built on Nation lands has fallen through, and instead Trellis plans to build in the District of Sechelt.
“Trellis had some concerns, we had some concerns, we tried very hard to come to a satisfactory situation and they decided they wanted to pursue other options at another venue and we said fine,” shíshálh Nation Chief Warren Paull told Coast Reporter Oct. 25.
“We wish them well in their endeavours and we look forward to see them move with dispatch,” said Paull.
The reasons for the decision, which took place about two weeks ago, are bound by a non-disclosure agreement.
In a statement to Coast Reporter, VCH thanked shíshálh Nation members “who took part in helping to move this project forward,” and said Trellis plans to “reactivate its development application to build the new Silverstone Care Centre on the originally proposed site on Derby Road in West Sechelt.”
Mary McDougall, president of Trellis Seniors Services, told Coast Reporter, “On behalf of Silverstone Care Centre, we remain focused on delivering on our commitment to VCH for long-term care beds on the Sunshine Coast,” adding that the company is “working through the necessary steps.”
This marks the third time a site for the project has been abandoned and the second attempt to build in the District of Sechelt.
VCH originally announced the proposed facility in 2016. It was slated to be built on a lot on Derby Road and to open Aug. 31, 2019. But, after facing approval delays in Sechelt, Trellis signed a deal with the Town of Gibsons. Then the Gibsons proposal also fell through.
In February 2018, Health Minister Adrian Dix told Coast Reporter that VCH, Trellis and shíshálh Nation had “moved close to an agreement.”
A year later, a deal was announced that would protect unionized workers, which was reported to have been holding up the project, since VCH and the unions needed to work on a “staffing model” to protect care aides, nurses and other workers. The announcement also confirmed that VCH approved the proposed site of the facility on shíshálh Nation land.
Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers told Coast Reporter she reached out to the company at the end of the September, after she had a conversation with Dix about the need for seniors care facilities on the Sunshine Coast. She said she also reached out to other organizations “who’ve expressed interest over the last number of years.”
“I wanted to reach out to see if we could generate other facilities on top of the Trellis facility that was going in at the Sechelt Nation lands. Then Warren called me last week and said, ‘Congratulations.’”
Siegers said she is “supportive of the fact” that Trellis intends to reapply for the Sechelt location. “We have a different council. This council has never had a [Trellis] proposal in front of it,” she said. “I think this is a huge opportunity and we are looking forward to exploring it together.”
She also suggested the labour deal means the community may be more supportive of the application.
But at least one group remains opposed. In a release emailed to media late Tuesday, public health care advocacy group Protect Public Health Care – Sunshine Coast (PPHC) said on top of the project delays, the Ministry of Health and VCH have ignored community concerns about the deficiencies of private models.
“Since forming in September 2016, PPHC has stressed the need for stable, publicly funded and operated long-term care,” the release said.
The group pointed to three private care facilities on Vancouver Island where “shocking violations of care protocol” have been revealed. Two are now under direct management by the Vancouver Island Health Authority.
“The attempt to privatize long-term care in our community has been an abject failure,” said the release, which calls on Dix “to take immediate action to address the crisis of long-term care on the Sunshine Coast.”
– With files from Sean Eckford