The Hospital Employees’ Union says there’s a “crisis of care” at a Nanaimo seniors home, but Island Health says the situation is being stabilized.
The health authority has stepped in and is providing staff to “support and stabilize” Nanaimo Seniors Village through a staffing shortage at the north-end care home, said Mark Blandford, Island Health’s executive director of primary care and seniors health.
Comox Valley Seniors Village was placed under administration earlier this week, and two days later, the HEU called for the same to happen at Nanaimo Seniors Village.
HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside said in a press release that “the company’s inability to properly staff their Nanaimo location undermines the quality of care for seniors and creates unsafe working conditions for members.”
The union wrote to Island Health about its concerns a month ago and said the health authority hasn’t yet acted, though Blandford said “as soon as they notified us, we alerted our licensing program,” a separate branch of Island Health.
He said appointing an administrator is a big deal because it takes away the power of the owner-operator to manage its own business and said the measure has only been taken three times in the last 12 years at Vancouver Island facilities.
“It’s a last resort when attempts to correct the situation with the licencee have failed,” Blandford said. “In Nanaimo, we’re only a month into corrections and the licencee is working with us to achieve those corrections.”
A report from the North Island Medical Health Officer noted 45 complaints and inspections in a six-month period at the Comox Valley facility. A Nanaimo report is expected next week, but will not be immediately made public, as Blandford’s office and the facility operator will have a chance to review it first.
Both Comox Valley Seniors Village and Nanaimo Seniors Village are managed by Pacific Reach Senior Housing Management. Jennie Deneka, partner at PRSHM, said in an e-mailed statement that issues pertaining to Nanaimo Seniors Village are related to staffing levels and recruiting challenges.
“The entire seniors care sector is experiencing an industry-wide labour shortage across the province and Nanaimo Seniors Village is no different. This has been well documented by the B.C. Care Providers Association who is running a provincewide campaign to try to recruit workers into the sector,” Deneka said. “Nanaimo Seniors Village has been working proactively with the local community, VIHA and stakeholders to address the industry-wide staffing challenges.”
Blandford said it’s too early to tell if Island Health’s collaborative efforts with the operator in Nanaimo are resulting in improved care for seniors there.
“I would say that if it is acceptable right now, it’s not optimal…” he said. “At this point in time, we’re monitoring it closely and if we feel that it’s unacceptable and the clients there are at risk, we would take other action.”