Family members of residents have been conducting a letter campaign to have Island Health take over Comox Valley Seniors Village. (Google Maps image)

Families want Island Health to take over seniors home

Letter campaign points out longstanding issues at the Comox Valley residence

Family members of some residents at a Vancouver Island seniors’ residence want Island Health to take over the facility.

To get their message across, they started a letter-writing campaign this summer to draw attention to continuing issues at the Comox Valley Seniors Village. The letter says nothing is being done to ensure failures to follow the Norovirus outbreak management requirements, including proper cleaning, will not happen again and that the facility has had as many as 22 different licensing contraventions in the last two years, from wound care to lack of fall prevention planning. Finally, it states that despite Island Health’s intense scrutiny, the operators have not demonstrated compliance over several months and now has conditions on its licence.

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“They still call themselves Retirement Concepts,” says Delores Broten, whose husband Don lives at the facility after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

However, Retirement Concepts was acquired in 2017 by Cedar Tree, part of Anbang Insurance Group, though last year the Chinese Insurance Regulatory Commission seized Anbang because of fraud charges against its former chair and risk of insolvency.

The management of the Comox Valley Seniors Village is handled by Pacific Reach, an investment company based out of Vancouver with interests in multi-family and commercial properties in the U.S. and Canada, hospitality management and seniors’ housing management.

While family members point to some progress in recent months, most notably the hiring of director of care after an eight-month gap, they still feel the place needs to be put in Island Health’s hands.

The health authority says Section 23 of the Community Care and Assisted Living Act outlines how an administrator may be appointed to assume operations of a facility, though this has happened only twice within the health region during the last 15 years.

RELATED STORY: Norovirus outbreak at Comox Valley Seniors Village still active after nearly a month

The facility has undergone several inspections since last fall, some complaint-driven. Concerns have included inadequate furniture and equipment for people in care, plans related to pain management, wound care, fall prevention and oral care, and staffing issues.

“How could Pacific Reach allow that to happen?” says Broten.

A spokesperson for Pacific Reach has not returned calls from Black Press.

A VIHA spokesperson says Island Health’s Community Care Facilities Licensing Program continues to monitor this facility multiple days per week. Any areas of non-compliance are continually documented. A follow-up report will be submitted to the medical health officer for consideration of further enforcement.

There have been routine inspections and follow-inspections. Most of the recent issues, as of July, were around staffing and maintenance of records. Family members say they recognize the facility has a difficult time attracting and retaining staff, which puts further burden on staff continuing to work at the facility. It also provides challenges with consistency and making sure staff are aware of patients’ histories. Broten knows they have had good staff but thinks factors like pay and pensions add to the challenge of retaining people at the facility.

“You need people who know them,” she says. “That makes a huge difference.”

RELATED STORY: Assisted living workers go on strike for fair wages

Broten says her husband almost died July 5 after an outbreak of what she was later informed was parainfluenza.

“They didn’t recognize it until the very last minute,” she says. “It was touch-and-go.”

Now, she wants to transfer him to another facility. Likewise, Shirley Jackson’s husband, Wayne, has dementia and lives in the facility. He uses a Broda chair, a tilt-in-space positioning chair that provides care for patients. As part of the apparatus, he requires a sling. The one available, rough and coarse, is not meant to be under a person all day.

“The occupational therapist has given him an exam assessment and deemed he needs to have better placement … in the Broda chair,” she says.

The occupational therapist and a doctor both recommended a better sling, one designed for all-day use, but Jackson has not been able to get one approved.

Other issues have included making sure staff conduct a proper assessment of wounds when they change the dressing.

“The staff are really, really rushed for time,” she says.

Island Health says one of the conditions placed on this facility’s licence requires the licensee to report any changes in staffing and provide documentation of situations where staff are absent from shifts.

This must include action taken to cover absences to ensure appropriate care.

Any staffing contraventions will be identified and documented in follow-up reporting for consideration by the medical health officer.

Jackson thinks the letter-writing campaign since mid-July has had some effect, and that Island Health and the contractors are responding to some issues.

Broten adds the food has also gotten better for residents and staffing levels have increased.

Through the letter campaign, family members now hope responsibility for CVSV will ultimately be passed over to Island Health in order to guarantee a higher level of care for seniors in the home.

“The whole system needs so much more attention and care,” Broten says.



mike.chouinard@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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