A Sidney seniors care facility that was built on faith in 2009 but never opened — causing about 100 investors to lose millions of dollars — is undergoing a second wave of renovations and another injection of cash and faith.
The Bethel Community Baptist Church Care Centre — to be renamed Sidney All Care Residence — was built on the expectation that a private operator would move in and run publicly funded seniors’ care beds that would pay for the new church.
It never happened.
Instead, the 41,300-square-foot church and adjoining multipurpose centre, replete with a walk-in baptismal tub, operated for about two years before being decommissioned.
The 88-bed seniors’ care facility is vacant. The only part operating is the Positive Path Early Learning child-care centre.
Sidney’s Blake Mooney, a former senior planning analyst at the Vancouver Island Health Authority, and investor Cornelis Johannes Van Dongen of Kamloops, brother of B.C. Independent MLA John Van Dongen, purchased the complex in July 2012 for $11.2-million cash — less than half the $23 million that was being sought two years earlier.
They are gambling on the “holy grail” in residential care — attracting publicly funded beds, Mooney said.
VIHA must replace about 320 seniors’ care beds at Oak Bay Lodge in Oak Bay and Mount Tolmie Hospital in Saanich. A request for proposals is expected in six to eight weeks, said VIHA’s Suzanne Germain.
“The [request for proposal] is still being developed,” said Germain in an email on Monday. “Until it is finalized, we do not know what it will look like.”
In the past, requests for proposals have been issued for the total bed number required for a community. They are evaluated according to the care model, client needs and economic viability, Germain said.
The All Care operators budgeted about $1 million for renovations in the fall. They won’t divulge what was spent but say twice as much is being spent to prepare the facility for clients in the spring.
The Town of Sidney has also approved a development permit for up to 149 beds to prepare for a range of approaches — from accommodating Mount Tolmie’s 75 beds and renting or selling the church, to scrapping the church to add another 60 beds.
“We have to be ready if the RFP is posted,” Mooney said.
Meanwhile, Mooney plans a soft opening in the spring, pending licensing from VIHA. Fifty new beds, at $1,500 apiece, have been ordered. An open house for the health industry is planned Feb. 14.
“We’ll start with two beds if we have to,” said Mooney, a registered nurse. The facility needs at least 36 privately or publicly funded beds to be viable, he added.
“There’s incredible risk for me and my partner,” Mooney said.
“Are we concerned? Absolutely.”
However, there is also a great need in Sidney and the region for private or publicly funded complex-care, rehabilitation-services, palliative-care, mental-health and dementia-care beds, Mooney said.
In response to Mooney’s pitch in November to provide VIHA a range of beds, VIHA president Howard Waldner said Jan. 18, “VIHA has no plans to expand or develop any new residential-care capacity other than the commitment we have made to replace the beds currently located at Oak Bay Lodge and Mount Tolmie.”
Vancouver Island investors who lost their savings on the development said they still have faith that the facility will open.
But Germain said in an email that VIHA is not obliged to spend public funds on private capacity when a business experiences financial challenges.
“According to VIHA’s Fair Business Policy, additional subsidized residential care capacity must be acquired through an open process,” she said.
“In the case of the Bethel Centre, the facility was built with no commitment from VIHA and was not the result of an open process.”
© Copyright 2013