Earlier, we reported the Fraser Health Authority had awarded a multi-million dollar contract to a company whose president was convicted of tax evasion. But this isn't the first time Arnold Bennewith, a Liberal donor, and his companies have made the headlines. Willingdon Park Hospital Ltd. and Herst Management Ltd. - which once operated the Sidney Intermediate Care Home - were among the first to take advantage of provisions in the Health and Social Services Delivery Improvement Act that allow health sector employers to contract out previously unionized positions.
Back in 2003, Willingdon Park laid off 57 regular and casual staff - including 35 care aides - in a move that was condemened as "provocative and unnecessary" by the Hospital Employees' Union and chronicled by Burnaby Now's Dan Hilborn. Even Liberal backbencher John Nuraney expressed concern about the layoffs, writing "This (worker replacement) in my opinion, may result in inefficiencies and deficiencies in the standards that are laid out by the Fraser Health Authority." And now, according to Mr. Hilborn, the B.C. Nurses' Union is speaking out about plans by the hospital to contract out its registered nurses this spring. But, despite all that noise, the Fraser Health Authority maintains there have been "no licensing issues" with Willingdon Park.
But what about the Sidney Intermediate Care Home? Three years ago, that facility contracted out its British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union staff. Following that contracting out, CH News's Kim Emerson obtained photographs of the facility showing "filthy, stained floors, dried urine, overflowing garbage and leaking rooms." Public Eye is in possession of those photographs. According to the authority, though, "there was an allegation of uncleanliness. The allegation was unsubstantiated. And there were no actions required of the licensee." Mr. Bennewith hasn't returned repeated phone calls placed yesterday specifically inquiring about those allegations. The following is a copy of Mr. Emerson's report.
Cost-cutting blamed for filthy care home
With reporting by Kim Emerson
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
CREDIT: CH TV
Care aide Amanda Gillespie says she is appalled at the conditions in the Sidney Care Home
Still photos obtained by CH News show unsanitary conditions, like this photo of stale urine left to dry around the base of this toilet.
A former employee of a Vancouver Island care home is going public with evidence of unsanitary conditions in the health facility, including filthy, stained floors, dried urine, overflowing garbage and leaking rooms.
Care aide Amanda Gillespie says the Sidney Care Home is so intent on cutting costs that it is putting patients at risk.
The provincial government recently changed laws to allow companies like the Sidney Care Home to contract out some jobs to lower paid workers, replacing unionized workers.
"Now that the contracting out has happened, you've got people that work there that, in my mind, feel that they just don't care," Gillespie says. "It's just a job. They don't care that this is someone's home, you know, and it should be kept up to the standard that you'd keep your home."
CH News has obtained still pictures that illustrate a lack of cleanliness in the facility. The photos show old, stale urine left to dry around toilets, floors that aren't cleaned, garbage containers overflowing with debris, and messes beside beds that weren't wiped up.
Gillespie says one person in the care home fell out of bed, and was later found stuck to the guck on the floor in her room. The same woman fell again that evening and broke her pelvis.
Another resident of the care home told CH News that he was bathed by one of the new contract workers, and felt that the worker didn't know how to do it properly.
Gillespie says the company also charges residents to use donated equipment. The Sidney Home Care fee schedule shows people are charged $40 per month to use a walker, $60 per month to use a wheelchair, and $5 per month to use a door gate, similar to the folding gates used to keep children from falling down stairs.
The Vancouver Island Health Authority has responsibility for investigating complaints. While they won't talk about this case specifically, there are procedures for complaints of this nature.
"Our legislation has a general statement about health and safety and the licensee is responsible to ensure the health and safety of residents," says Kim Macdonald, who is regional manager of licensing for VIHA. "So even if there isn't a specific regulation, something like that would clearly be a health and safety concern."
Gillespie says the care home residents can't speak for themselves, and so it's up to their families and health care workers to advocate for them.
"I care for the residents deeply, and that's why this has to stop," Gillespie says.
The company that runs the Sidney Care Home has not returned phone calls about this story.