B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says he will demand accountability for the “unacceptable” care of seniors by the owners of Retirement Concepts, British Columbia’s largest chain of for-profit care homes, after health authorities seized control of another of the company’s facilities.
“I can’t tell you how disappointing this is,” Mr. Dix told reporters Monday, after an administrator was appointed by the Interior Health Authority to manage the long-term care operations of Summerland Seniors Village.
Health inspectors concluded, after a series of site visits, that the operator was unable to meet the legislated standards of care for residents at the 112-bed care home in Summerland, B.C.
It’s the fourth home owned by Retirement Concepts in which health authorities have intervened because of the neglect of seniors. Concerns have been raised about the care of vulnerable seniors since 2017, when the federal government approved the sale of Retirement Concepts to Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group.
Seniors’ homes in Comox, Nanaimo and Victoria are already under the control of the Vancouver Island Health Authority. In total, 30 per cent of the long-term care beds that Retirement Concepts owns are now being run by government agents. The company is paid by taxpayers to provide care, but the health authorities are clawing back the cost of running those facilities.
Mr. Dix said there is a clear pattern emerging and he wants the company to be held responsible. He said he will be meeting with the holding company that owns the facilities, as well as the administrators, to seek answers.
“There are no other for-profit or not-for-profit care home companies in this position, and Retirement Concepts is in this position four times. It’s unacceptable to me," Mr. Dix told reporters.
“We’re doing what we have to do, which is to intervene and to run all four [facilities], but it’s time, I think, for us to expect more out of one of the largest contractors in health care in the province.”
Retirement Concepts officials could not be reached for comment Monday.
When he approved the sale two years ago, federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said the new owners had pledged to maintain levels of full-time and part-time employees at the facilities operated by Retirement Concepts. The sale was approved despite widespread concerns about how foreign ownership might affect the quality of care. The company has 20 care homes in B.C., one in Quebec and two in Alberta, offering a mix of private and publicly funded beds.
The Hospital Employees’ Union represents the largest number of Retirement Concepts employees, with about 1,600 workers at nine sites in B.C., including Summerland Seniors Village. The union says the company is struggling to keep workers because it pays lower salaries than other facilities, making it difficult to meet the needs of residents.
Jennifer Whiteside, the HEU’s secretary-business manager, said Monday the company cannot provide the services for which taxpayers are paying.
“With four care homes put under health authority administration in as many months, it’s clear that Retirement Concepts is in crisis and unable to provide an adequate standard of care to residents at a growing number of its sites,” she said.
“Because this company is the largest contracted provider of long-term care in B.C., government must consider all options to provide stability and protect the quality of care for seniors across this care home chain.”
The provincial government pays $1.4-billion each year to private operators to provide beds in care homes and in return, it demands that minimum standards of care are delivered.
But the province is reluctant to shut down facilities that don’t meet those standards, because it desperately needs those beds. Until this week, Mr. Dix has avoided being overly critical of operators such as Retirement Concepts. Instead, he has added funding to pay for more services and has expanded training opportunities to get more workers into the field.