More than 100 face layoffs at Nanaimo care home

Layoff notices for about 110 workers at a Nanaimo care home are expected to take effect Sept. 30.

The notices were handed out six months ago and affect Hospital Employees’ Union members including nurses, housekeeping, maintenance and administration.

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“We are trying to prevent this from happening, but they are legally permitted to do this,” HEU spokesman Mike Old said Friday.

The sale of Wexford Creek Care Home to the Wexford Creek Seniors Community Partnership, a subsidiary of Park Place Seniors Living, was finalized on Aug. 23.

It was sold by Edmonton-based Good Samaritan Society, which owns 29 care facilities in B.C. and Alberta that serve elderly, chronically ill and developmentally disabled adults.

Good Samaritan said in the spring it was forced to sell because it could no longer operate under Island Health’s funding model. In eight years of operation, it said it had not received any significant funding increases and was losing money.

Wexford has 110 residential care beds, including about 30 spaces for people with dementia, and 40 assisted-living units. Most of the spaces are paid for by Island Health.

“Transition planning was undertaken and we worked with Park Place Seniors Living and our employees to ensure there was no impact on the residents during that time,” said Julie Williams, communications director for the Good Samaritan Society.

In a memo last month, Ian West, vice-president of operations for Park Place Seniors Living, assured residents, families and staff — on behalf of Wexford Creek Seniors Community Partnership — that the new owners will continue to enrich lives at Wexford Creek and that few differences in the operation are anticipated.

“As the new owner, we will work toward a seamless transition with the co-operation of the Good Samaritan Society, the employees, and Island Health,” West wrote.

Park Place Seniors Living says it is a family-owned, Vancouver based seniors’ residential care company with more than 20 years’ experience and 14 complex care homes in B.C. and Alberta plus 10 additional assisted, supportive, and/or independent living residences.

Two more residences and a 40-bed expansion are under construction.

Prior to the sale, Good Samaritan sent layoff notices to unionized staff. Park Place inherited the collective agreement.

The HEU says some staff have been asked to reapply for their jobs at what’s expected to be lower wages.

“Faced with layoffs and the potential of being rehired at a lower wage, there’s no question [staff] will look at other employment where they can make a living wage — it’s not cheap to live on Vancouver Island,” Old said.

Families of residents are in a bind, he said. There are limited long-term care spaces available. In many cases, there are wait-lists. “It’s not a very good way to run a health-care system.”

Two years ago, Good Samaritan said it was forced to terminate staff and hire new employees at reduced pay.

The staff later voted to certify as members of HEU. The society said it continued to lose money and was forced to sell this summer.

“It’s really unfair to residents and families and really disrespectful to workers who care for them,” Old said.

In May, B.C. NDP health critic Judy Darcy asked the province to intervene. Darcy blamed the sale and layoffs on chronic underfunding from Island Health, adding that the disruption could harm frail and vulnerable seniors.

“The services are being contracted out because there is insufficient funding from Island Health, insufficient funding from this government,” Darcy said.

“We know that continuity of care is absolutely critical for frail seniors, that they form incredibly close bonds with the staff who care for them.”

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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