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Foreign gov't takeover of BC nursing home chain prompts concern

Last Updated Mar 11, 2018 at 10:57 am PDT

(File Photo)

Concerns are being raised about possible closures after a Chinese takeover of a large BC nursing home chain

The Hospital Employees Union says the province needs to ensure the care of nearly 2,000 seniors isn't compromised

BURNABY (NEWS 1130) – The provincial government is being asked to ensure the recent Chinese takeover of a major private care provider doesn’t hurt vulnerable seniors.

Concerns are being raised about possible closures, standards being compromised and more jobs being contracted out.

Retirement Concepts, which is responsible for nearly ten per cent of all nursing home beds in this province, is now under the Chinese government’s control.

Mike Old with the Hospital Employees Union says some of those 20 facilities could be at risk of being sold.

“The company that bought Retirement Concepts was recently taken over, so we’re concerned, you know, in an effort to get rid of some of Anbang’s international debt, the operations of care homes in BC might be affected. During this period of uncertainty for Anbang and its holdings in BC, we need to make those inspections and those audits more frequent, so that we can stay on top of any developments that happen as Anbang deals with its debt obligations.”

Old says the BC government needs to ensure the care of nearly¬†2,000 seniors isn’t compromised.

“We need to adopt a three-point plan to try and make sure that the fallout from the Chinese government regulators takeover of Anbang doesn’t affect seniors’ care. We think that there needs to be more frequent staffing and financial audits.”

The union, which represents 1,700 Retirement Concepts workers, also wants a moratorium on jobs being contracted out.

Old says uncertainty about money owed by the Chinese insurance company Anbang warrants further scrutiny from the BC government which already gives Retirement Concepts nearly $100-million a year.

“We think the government needs to at least investigate the business case for purchasing some of these retirement homes if they become available for sale in the future. Just so that we don’t lose control of that seniors’ care capacity in our province.”

No one from Retirement Concepts has been available for comment, but the company has released a statement ensuring day-to-day operations will not be impacted for at least one year.

Daniel Fontaine, the CEO of the BC Care Providers Association, says concerns being raised by the HEU are not warranted because all residential care homes must still meet provincial standards.

“The public and families and seniors that are in care in those particular homes can be assured that they’re going to continue to receive the same type of care that they have over the last number of years. The care teams that were there in place a year ago are the same care teams that are there today. Retirement Concepts, which is a BC-based company, continues to be the operator. They have a contractual obligation with the local health authorities in which they operate.”

However, BC’s seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie is backing up union claims that might change.

“Their concerns are not unwarranted, but it would appear the businesses are profitable –number one– and –number two– many of the facilities will be on land that is zoned for institutional use. It points to some structural weaknesses we have in the system you’re forced to look at when people start asking, well, what is our ability to control things? The answer is, maybe not as strong as we think. Seventy per cent of our longterm care beds are not directly controlled by government. They’re funded by government, but they’re not directly controlled by government. With the changing landscape of real estate, particularly in the Lower Mainland and to a lesser extent, here on the Island, that has shifted a bit.”

She adds some private operators only have to give one year’s notice if they plan to sell or shut down a home, but it will be difficult for the Chinese government to sell nursing homes on land zoned for a specific use.

“So, it’s not like they can kick the people out, tear down the building, put up condos. Generally speaking, care facilities are on institutionally-zoned land because it’s a lower tax rate.”Fontaine insists this province already has strong oversight of all nursing homes.”

Fontaine insists the oversight of the 20 homes currently run by Retirement Concepts is strong.

“There are more agencies and organizations that watch and regulate and monitor the activities that are happening in our sector than most, I mean, I would say perhaps child care might be something similar to it.”

On Tuesday (March 6th), Health Minister Adrian Dix tabled legislation to improve the safety and transparency of care facilities across BC including seniors’ homes.

That’s slated to take effect this fall.