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More than 100 staff cut at Wexford Creek seniors facility in Nanaimo

More than 100 employees will be axed from a south Nanaimo seniors’ facility thanks to “chronic underfunding” from Island Health, the Good Samaritan Society has announced.

The Good Samaritan Society handed out more than 100 pink slips to care and support staff at its Good Samaritan Wexford Creek facility in south Nanaimo on Tuesday, with jobs to be terminated this fall. It has also announced it is considering ending its contract with Island Health to provide residential care services.

The decision, made public Wednesday, is being blamed on the health authority’s funding model, which the Good Samaritan Society claims doesn’t match with the market demands for health-care workers. While labour costs have increased by 19 per cent since the complex and assisted living facility opened in 2008, the health authority’s funding has increased 1.9 per cent.

Despite work to find internal efficiencies, “the losses are now too much to bear for any business,” according to the society, which claims financial losses of $3 million.

Norm Peters, director of continuing health services contracts with Island Health, says the recent announcement is “disappointing” especially when the health authority has offered to help the organization find opportunities to be cost-effective. The Good Samaritan’s administration and support labour costs, for example, are 25 per cent higher than all other similar facilities built in 2008, he said.

Peters denies chronic underfunding, pointing out that the group bid in a request for proposal process and secured the same funding provided to all facilities built in the same year.

“I don’t know what’s going through their mind as to why they wouldn’t want to sit down and talk to us,” he said. “There are differences of opinion for sure in terms of the outcome, but our position is that there are ways we believe they can be more cost effective.”

Employees who are terminated as of Sept. 25 will be able to reapply for positions, although the non-profit has warned employment will be on “significantly reduced terms and conditions.” It has also said it has put employees, residents and families on notice that because of insufficient funding it will consider all alternatives for the use of its facility including termination of its contract with Island Health.

Amy Leclerc, a registered nurse at Wexford, said she is concerned for patient care and is angry VIHA isn’t providing the dollars necessary for health care. If the society doesn’t hire back all the employees, the facility could be short-staffed and employees, hired back under reduced wages, could be unhappy. There’s also employees stressed about job stability, she said.

“Everybody – all the nursing staff, all the administrative staff, everybody who works there is being terminated as of Sept. 25,” she said. “The residents that live there deserve to have the best care and by having the staff be unhappy with their job ... they are not able to provide the best care that the residents need.”

Talk of the potential end of the agreement for residential care services is also a concern for Island Health. Peters said the health authority want to discuss with the Good Samaritan Society what it is are considering and what it might look like. Under the agreement, Island Health would get a one year’s notice on a termination of the contract.

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