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Care dispute prompts calls for intervention

The Good Samaritan Society is calling for the B.C. government to intervene in a residential care dispute with Island Health.

The Good Samaritan Society has asked the B.C. Ministry of Health to take on oversight of its contract for Wexford Creek in Nanaimo, claiming Island Health has breached its funding requirements.

The move comes on the heels of an announcement by the organization that it has terminated more than 122 employees at its seniors’ facility because of chronic underfunding from the health authority. It also plans to rethink its future, from its business model to the potential of selling the facility.

According to Shawn Terlson, CEO and president of the Good Samaritan Society, Island Health’s contribution hasn’t changed in six years despite rising costs of accommodation, wages and benefits. The organization has seen its bill for direct care rise $900,000 over its $4.1-million proposal in 2008.

The local health authority also pays for less than its counterparts, offering $170.68 daily per resident, compared to $179.30 given to the society by Vancouver Coastal Health and $173.61 by Interior Health.

The not-for-profit recently presented Island Health with an operational review that asked for a $710,000 boost to base funding, but the health authority says it’s up to the organization to find those cost savings.

Norm Peters, director of continuing health services contracts with Island Health, says business choices have affected the not-for-profit’s ability to balance its budget, including its decision to pay master collective agreement wages to employees. The health authority believes there are opportunities to save, including contracting out food services and housekeeping, but Peters said the concern is the Good Samaritan Society isn’t willing to consider the measure and is “looking to us to just give them additional funding.”

Island Health is not contemplating a funding hike at this time.

“The difficulty is the funding that we would provide would not give the residents more care, it wouldn’t pay the staff more money and we’d have to find those resources somewhere else,” Peters said. “Right now our position is that there are things they can do internally as a result of their business decisions and that those things need to be considered first.”

Terlson, however, says cost-cutting measures suggested by Island Health would have only saved $156,000 against their $700,000 request to stay in business long-term. The recent decision to terminate employees and casual workers and offer new terms, including a 3.5-per cent salary rollback, will amount to savings of $482,000.

Of the Good Samaritan’s 32 facilities, this is the only one to have problems, according to Terlson, who says the funding model isn’t working.

Staff will now look at ways for Wexford Creek to stay viable.

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