Health officials take over another Retirement Concepts seniors home

B.C. health officials have taken temporary control of a fourth Retirement Concepts seniors home for failing to provide proper care to residents.

Interior Health announced Monday that it has appointed an administrator to manage day-to-day operations at Summerland Seniors Village, which has 112 long-term care beds.

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Vanda Urban, the health authority’s director of long-term care, will remain in charge of the facility for at least six months.

The move follows similar administrative takeovers by Island Health of Retirement Concepts homes in Victoria, Nanaimo and Courtenay last fall due to staffing shortages and concerns about neglect of residents.

Interior Health officials said they acted based on the recommendation of chief medical health officer Dr. Sue Pollock, who concluded that Summerland’s operator was unable to meet legislated standards of care for residents.

“Ensuring that seniors living in publicly funded, long-term care are receiving the high quality, safe and dignified care they need and deserve is Interior Health’s top priority and is at the heart of this decision” Dr. Doug Cochrane, Interior Health’s board chairman, said in a statement.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said health authorities are now running 31 per cent of Retirement Concept’s 1,641 publicly-funded beds in what he admitted is becoming a concerning pattern.

“I can’t tell you how disappointing this is,” he told reporters at the B.C. legislature.

“This is, in some ways, the ultimate step we can take to protect the interests of seniors and other residents of long-term-care facilities. We take it extremely reluctantly and based on progressive actions by chief medical officers of health.

“The fact that now we have cases with the same company in Comox, in Nanaimo, in Victoria, and now in Summerland is of great concern.”

In addition to taking over the facilities, Dix said the government will be calling the owners and operators of Retirement Concepts for meetings and demanding accountability.

“It’s time, I think, for us to expect more out of one of the largest contractors in health care in the province,” he said.

Retirement Concepts was purchased by a Beijing-based holding company, Anbang Insurance Group, in 2017.

Reuters news service reported Saturday that China’s bank regulator, which took control of Anbang in 2018 to reduce financial risks, has finished running the company and that the revamped Dajia Insurance Group will take over its assets.

An affiliated B.C. company, West Coast Seniors Housing Management, is responsible for the delivery of care and services at the Retirement Concepts facilities.

Jennie Deneka, chief operating officer of West Coast Seniors Housing Management, was unavailable for comment on Monday.

The Hospital Employees’ Union, which represents workers at the Retirement Concepts’ facilities in Summerland, Victoria and Nanaimo, said it wasn’t surprised by the latest takeover.

“It’s pretty clear that this company is in crisis and unable to provide adequate care at a growing number of its sites,” said union spokesman Mike Old.

“It’s a big problem, because the company’s also the largest contracted provider of long-term-care beds in B.C.”

Old called on the government to consider all options to provide stability and protect the quality of care for seniors across the chain.

“There needs to be some accountability for what’s happening at the Retirement Concepts chain,” he said. “There’s a pretty tight labour market throughout the long-term-care system, but nobody seems to be having the problems that Retirement Concepts is having in terms of providing care.”

Dix said the government is beginning to see results after the appointment of an administrator to run Comox Valley Seniors Village in Courtenay, Selkirk Seniors Village in Victoria and Nanaimo Seniors Village.

“We think we’re making some progress, but there are very significant challenges in those care homes and they’re taking some time to be rectified,” he said.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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