Island Health takes over seniors’ home amid allegations of abuse, neglect

Island Health has appointed a temporary administrator to run Retirement Concepts’ Comox Valley Seniors Village in Courtenay and says it has concerns about two of the company’s other facilities in Victoria and Nanaimo.

Mark Blandford, executive director of primary care and seniors health, said Tuesday there are ongoing investigations at the Selkirk Seniors Village in Victoria and the Nanaimo Seniors Village in Nanaimo.

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“Those two are under active investigation right now and we have concerns with both those sites,” he said. “I would add that the operator themselves has expressed concern at both those sites and [is] asking us for our assistance.”

Blandford said the concerns centre primarily on “significant shortages of staff” to the point where the facilities are having difficulty meeting minimum standards. “We are actually supporting them with that,” he said.

Retirement Concepts did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday. The company, which was purchased by Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group in 2017, is managed by Pacific Reach Seniors Housing Management.

On Monday, Island Health took the rare step of appointing an administrator at the 136-bed Comox Valley Seniors Village following multiple complaints from family members and investigations into allegations of neglect, disease outbreaks, emotional and physical abuse, and staffing shortages.

The health authority said the administrator, Susan Abermann, will oversee day-to-day operations at the long-term care facility for at least six months. She has 25 years’ experience in seniors care and served previously as Island Health’s lead for residential care services.

“Due to the operator’s inability to meet the care expectations outlined in legislation, the board of directors has taken the extraordinary action to appoint an administrator to manage the facility,” Leah Hollins, who chairs the Island Health board, said in a statement.

Dr. Charmaine Enns, North Island medical health officer, recommended the appointment in a report that identified 45 investigations and inspections by licensing officers at the facility over a six-month period from March 1 to Aug. 23.

“This is an exceptional amount of monitoring visits to a facility for this period of time,” Enns wrote.

“It is noteworthy that all 22 routine and follow-up inspections have identified contraventions and that contraventions continue.”

Of the 18 complaint investigations, eight are finished and all of those found contraventions of the province’s Community Care and Assisted Living Act, Enns said.

The other 10 complaint investigations remain active.

She concluded that the number of contraventions, their duration and the facility’s slow response posed “an unacceptable risk and potential for harm to persons in care.”

Island Health gave the facility a high-risk rating on March 13 and again on Aug. 1.

“I do not have confidence this licensee is either willing or able to come into compliance with the [Community Care and Assisted Living Act] on their own accord,” Enns concluded.

Blandford said the appointment of a temporary administrator means the health authority has effectively taken over operations.

“It’s our responsibility now to essentially right the ship,” he said.

The health authority funds 120 of the 136 beds at the facility.

Blandford assured family members that Island Health “is taking expeditious and aggressive action to ensure that the safety and care of residents is maintained.”

And he encouraged families to continue to complain to licensing officials if they have concerns about a facility.

“Once we were aware of those complaints, our system acted as it’s calibrated to act,” he said.

“It takes time. One of the things I know the families are concerned about is the length of time it’s taken. But that’s out of an abundance of fairness to the operator.”

Blandford stressed that the facility’s operator has co-operated with Island Health throughout. “The goal of a contract is for the contracted provider to self-scorrect,” he said, adding that the appointment of an administrator is an “extreme measure.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix issued a statement endorsing Island Health’s decision to appoint an administrator.

“This will help bring the facility up to the high standards [that] residents, their families and the province expect,” he said.

Island Health took similar action in 2007, when it appointed an administrator to run Retirement Concepts’ Beacon Hill Villa in Victoria.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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