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Island Health takes control of Comox Valley Seniors Village to keep residents safe

Sep 30, 2019 | Health Care

By George Le Masurier

It took a five-month letter-writing campaign, but Island Health announced Sept. 30 that it would take immediate administrative control of the Comox Valley Seniors Village.

A group of family members demanded an investigation and better oversight of the facility by Island Health earlier this year after three residents died as an indirect result of a norovirus outbreak at the facility.

But having seen no evidence of corrective action by Retirement Concepts, the corporation that owns the facility, on May 20 the family members asked Island Health to assume full operational responsibility.

Island Health was reluctant to do so.

So the family members started a letter writing campaign. They created a group called Senior Voices Comox Valley and a website asking other family members to share their stories of inadequate treatment at the facility and send them to Island Health.

On Sept. 23, North Island Medical Health Officer Charmaine Enns delivered a report recommending that Island Health appoint its own administrator to oversee Seniors Village.

“It is my determination that the Licensee (owner of the facility) is either unwilling or unable to meet the minimal requirements of the Community Care and Assisted Living Act … to ensure the health, safety and dignity of persons in care,” Enns wrote.


Investigation provided evidence

Enns based her recommendation on a “careful review and consideration” on an investigation by Island Health’s Community Care Facilities Licensing Program.

The investigation found multiple ongoing contraventions of the Care Act and a “lack of timely responses to address the contraventions and the duration of the contraventions were unacceptable.”

The Seniors Voices Comox Valley group had warned Island Health of multiple contraventions earlier in the year. But it was the recent letter-writing campaign that helped get Island Health’s attention.

“We the families and Island Health have learned a lot about what does and doesn’t work in terms of monitoring long-term care delivery. Because they (Island Health) just didn’t know how bad it was until we started writing those letters,” Delores Broten, one of the group’s members told Decafnation.

The family members believe the most serious regulatory non-compliance occurred during the norovirus outbreak, while the top senior management positions remained vacant. A failure to clean the facility violated health and safety regulations, which was compounded by allegedly falsifying records to show the cleaning had been done.

But it was by no means the only contravention.

According to the Enns review of the investigation, Abermann has a difficult assignment.

Investigators found a “multiplicity of deficiencies” related to care plans, which “are critical to ensuring the health and safety of persons as they enable the facility staff to appropriately know, provide and respond to unique needs for those in care.”

There were multiple examples of lack of documentation and no apparent intention to implement a corrective action plan, which was termed a “serious systemic failure.”

The facility has insufficient experienced staff putting residents of the facility “at significant risk of harm.” There has been high turnover of staff and few employees have attended education and training events.

Enns concludes her report this way:

“I do not have confidence this Licensee is either willing or able to come into compliance with the (Care Act) on their own accord,” she wrote.


Abermann appointed

Island Health has appointed Susan Abermann to manage the Seniors Village for a temporary period of six months.

Abermann, a 25-year career professional in BC seniors care, has served as Island Health’s lead for residential care services. She was the executive director of another facility owned by the same operator of the Comox Valley Seniors Village.

The facility operates 136 long-term beds and Island Health publicly funds 120 of them.


History of CVSV

The Comox Valley Seniors Village opened in 2009 by the Canadian company Retirement Concepts, but the problems began to surface in 2017 after it was sold to Anbang, a Chinese insurance company. Anbang purchased 31 Canadian long-term care facilities through its Canadian holding company, Cedar Tree, including seven on Vancouver Island and 24 others in BC, AB and QC.

Cedar Tree, in turn, contracts out management of Comox Valley Seniors Village, and other Anbang holdings, to a management company called Pacific Reach, owned by the former owner of Retirement Concepts.



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