A residential care home that has operated in Coquitlam for more than 30 years appears to have been given its walking papers by Fraser Health.
The Tri-Cities NOW has learned the health authority has decided to terminate its operating agreement with the Burquitlam Lions Care Centre, located on Sydney Avenue.
The move would see the 76-bed seniors facility shut down by mid-2016.
The Burquitlam Care Society, which runs the centre, got the news from the health authority last week in a meeting between the board and Fraser Health officials.
“It will be a huge surprise to residents and families,” the care centre’s administrator David Dines confirmed to the Tri-Cities NOW.
“It will be a shock.” Officially, Fraser Health would not confirm the move to terminate the agreement.
In a statement, Keith McBain, Fraser Health’s executive director of residential care and assisted
living, said the health authority has had “ongoing discussions with the board and administration at Burquitlam Lions Care Centre regarding the future of our relationship with them.
“We have outlined to them the increasing demand for residential care facilities that offer complex care, and made it clear that we have concerns regarding the physical space limitations of their facility to accommodate such needs.”
The statement also said one possible option is to put the Burquitlam beds with a seniors’ development led by Baltic Properties.
Last year, Fraser Health tapped Baltic Properties to build 136 new residential complex care beds and 24 mental health and substance use beds in Port Coquitlam.
Fraser Health also said discussions with the Burquitlam Lions Care Centre are ongoing and no contracts have been signed.
“The well-being of our residents is our primary concern, and we recognize that any premature discussions can be unsettling,” McBain said.
“I wish to reassure them that we will inform them directly when a decision has been made; and will work closely with them and their families to ensure their transition into their new home will be seamless.”
But an e-mail from Fraser Health dated Jan. 24 obtained by the Tri-Cities NOW appears to tell a different story.
“Burquitlam Lions Care Centre will not be able to provide the necessary complex care needs of future residents. This is why Fraser Health has decided to terminate its operating agreement with them,” the e-mail states.
The e-mail added “the needs of our residents have evolved, requiring more complex care, including the use of mobility devices such as wheelchairs and walkers.”
The Burquitlam Lions Care Centre is operated by the non-profit society, which in turn receives funding from Fraser Health.
The facility, which hires its own staff and provides care according to standards established by Fraser Health, opened in June 1981
and has 76 private rooms.
Dines acknowledged the building has space issues and doesn’t meet current design standards, but he questioned why the health authority is intending to walk away from a facility that, over the years, received high marks during various reviews.
Most recently he noted the centre achieved “exemplary status” from a national organization that accredits care facilities. Dines also pointed out the bathrooms in each unit were widened to be wheelchair accessible.
“It seems like the only reason we’re being dealt with this way by Fraser Health is the proximity to a new-build location in Port Coquitlam,” he said.
Dines said the care home could operate as a private facility without Fraser Health funding, but suggested individual rents would probably have to be increased by as much as $5,000 monthly per unit.
“Without funding we can’t operate,” he said.
Dines said as of Thursday, neither staff nor residents knew of the health authority’s plan, noting the care centre hadn’t received notification in writing.
Fraser Health officials apparently told the board they would prefer to keep word of the change quiet until it was made official in a letter.
In the meantime, the care centre continues to take in new residents, and that has a local MLA up in arms. Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson said she finds it “disturbing” the health authority continues to move residents into the facility knowing it will be shutting down.
“I think that is reprehensible,” she said. “Fraser Health is probably moving things around on a board, but these are real people with families.”
Robinson said she’s disappointed with the health authority, suggesting moving the seniors at a later date would be “disrespectful, unethical and immoral.”
Citing data that shows a move can take 18 months off a senior’s life, she argued families should know of the health authority’s plan before having a loved one transferred there.
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