Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) has announced a long-awaited expansion in residential care on the Sunshine Coast – but it’s going to mean the closure of two existing facilities.
VCH revealed June 1 that it’s signed a deal with the Trellis Group – which operates facilities in Penticton, Kamloops and Prince George – to build a new long-term care centre in Sechelt.
The health authority started looking for interested companies in February 2015. The request for proposals was based on 15 to 25 new beds with the ability to expand to 125 in the future. The plan unveiled this week is for a 128-bed facility.
Silverstone Care Centre is to be built on Derby Road in West Sechelt, and will replace both Totem Lodge and Shorncliffe. Those residential care facilities are the only ones on the Sunshine Coast run directly by VCH.
Mike Nader, VCH’s chief operating officer for the coastal region, said Silverstone will create “20 net new beds” in Sechelt. As well, the two hospice beds at Shorncliffe will be moved to Silverstone, and two more will be added.
Nader told Coast Reporter that going with a private company to own and operate the facility under contract is in line with a larger strategic direction at VCH. “The vast majority of long-term care beds in Vancouver Coastal Health are contracted with third-party providers,” he said. “Trellis came forward with a very favourable proposal in terms of being able to provide us with the enhanced beds and the capital, which I think is really important.”
Silverstone is expected to open in August 2018, which leaves the workers at Totem and Shorncliffe two years before their jobs are eliminated.
“We’ve given them the notice today [June 1], so they’re processing that,” Nader said. “I think the staff recognize the need for additional beds. They also recognize the real benefit the residents are going to receive. Obviously they’re feeling a little bit shocked because of the change.”
Nader said VCH has a guarantee from Trellis that the company will interview all the staff and offer those who are interested potential positions, and members of the Hospital Employees Union and BC Nurses Union (BCNU) will keep their rights under the collective agreement when it comes to moving to different positions within VCH. “Two years gives us lots of time to work with the staff, and opportunities will present themselves over the next couple of years,” he added.
The BCNU said it is concerned about any change that would impact safe patient care and will be carefully reviewing all the details of the plan when they become available.
Powell River - Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons has long-standing concerns over how workers have been treated by private companies in the health care sector, and he intends to keep a close eye on how the Trellis - VCH deal develops.
“It’s nice to have new beds in the community, but I’m really kind of worried about the situation for people who are currently working [at Totem and Shorncliffe]. We’re going to be watching closely to make sure the new company makes every effort to see the community is well served.”
While the jobs at Shorncliffe and Totem are being eliminated and the patients moved, VCH may keep the buildings, according to Nader.
“We believe we’ll probably be repurposing them for other forms of either health service or administrative space,” he said.
Two local groups have development proposals before Sechelt council that include varying levels of independent and supported living for seniors – Spani’s Ocean Stories and the Clayton family’s Wesbrooke by the Sea.
Nader said he couldn’t confirm whether those companies submitted bids. He also said VCH isn’t in a position to confirm whether Trellis is working with a local partner.