Hospital Employees’ Union calls on Island Health to put Nanaimo Seniors Village under administration

A former worker at Comox Valley Seniors Village is speaking out tonight about what she calls "toxic" and "unacceptable" conditions.

Just days after Island Health announced a Comox Valley seniors home will be put under administration, the Hospital Employees’ Union is calling on the health authority to do the same at another facility in Nanaimo.

The Union says it has been raising concerns about about staffing shortages at Nanaimo Seniors Village since the summer.

On Monday, Island Health appointed a temporary administrator to run Comox Valley Seniors Village in Courtenay.

“The situation at Comox Valley Seniors Village is not unique,” says HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside.

“This is a serious crisis of care for Island seniors that warrants immediate action.”

Whiteside says the HEU wrote to Island Health a month ago urging them to put the Nanaimo care home under administration, but so far VIHA has not acted on the request.

Both facilities are owned by Retirement Concepts, and  are among the seven that the company operates across Vancouver Island and 20 across the province.

The company was purchased by Chinese insurance company Anbang in February 2017. A year later, the Chinese government took control of Anbang amid allegations of fraud.

Pacific Reach manages the Retirement Concepts facilities in BC.

“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, said Jennie Deneka, Partner at Pacific Reach Senior Housing Management.

“We are working collaboratively with VIHA to address these challenges and get staffing levels back to appropriate levels.”

On Tuesday, Island Health confirmed that the Comox Valley Seniors Village had been under investigation since 2018.

“Issues such as inadequate staff on the units, food not up to the standard they would have expected and other issues related to the management of a particular infectious outbreak in February,” said Mark Blandford, Island Health Executive Director, Primary Care and Seniors Health.

“The number of complaints and the nature of the complaints and the length of time it was taking the operator to fix those issues gave the greatest concern to the Medical Health Officer.”

Blandford said there are also ongoing investigations at Nanaimo Seniors Village and Selkirk Seniors Village in Victoria, another Retirement Concepts facility.

Island Health wouldn’t comment on what is now effectively Chinese government ownership of Retirement Concepts, only saying it believes it can bring Comox Valley Seniors Village into compliance.

“Comox Valley Seniors Village welcomes and will continue to work collaboratively with licensing and the appointed administrator,” said Jennie Deneka of Pacific Reach.

The HEU wants the province to implement an action plan to monitor all of the company’s care homes in the province.

“Care for B.C. seniors should not be undermined by the financial troubles of an insurance company on the other side of the world,” said Whiteside.

“We need an action plan in place to monitor spending and staffing, and to investigate the possibility of acquiring and operating Anbang’s nursing homes directly, should they be put on the market.”


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