80% of Complaints Against BC Assisted Living Facilities Last Year Linked to For-Profit Providers
Retirement Concepts, BC’s largest retirement home chain, accounted for one-fifth of all substantiated complaints
The vast majority of all substantiated complaints against BC assisted living homes for seniors and people with disabilities in 2020 were linked to for-profit operators, a new analysis of health ministry reports shows.
Assisted living facilities are residences for adults, often seniors, who can live independently but require day-to-day support in one or two areas due to health or other physical challenges.
Of the facilities listed on the health ministry website, for-profit companies operate 56% of all assisted living units while charities and non-profits operate 41%. Many of those private-sector units are publicly subsidized. Regional health authorities directly operate just 2.5% of all units.
However, a new analysis of ministry records by PressProgress shows that out of 15 substantiated complaints listed on the health ministry website last year, 12 (80%) were linked to for-profit operators.
The infractions noted in inspection reports investigating complaints encompass a broad range of issues, including bed bugs, abuse and neglect, staffing, housekeeping, emergency procedures, medication safety and hygiene.
In total, assisted living facilities owned by Retirement Concepts, BC’s largest retirement home chain, accounted for one-fifth of all substantiated complaints received by the health ministry last year. The company has been the subject of news headlines since it was sold in 2017 to Anbang Insurance Corp., a Chinese holding company whose chairman was accused of financial crimes in 2018.
In September, Waverly Seniors Village in Chilliwack, a for-profit facility owned by Retirement Concepts, was found to “not have sufficient number of employees at all times with adequate training and qualifications.” Investigators also flagged problems with the facility’s menu plan and emergency response system.
The same residence was the subject of multiple news reports in February last year when a former employee described working at the facility as a “horror show” following safety complaints.
Another Retirement Concepts-owned facility, Nanaimo Seniors Village, was found in June to have failed to provide policies and procedures related to its “admissions screening process.”
Nanaimo Seniors Village, which operates both long-term care and assisted living units, has been the subject of years of complaints, resulting in the Vancouver Island Health Authority taking over the facility in 2019. Health authority control ended last July.
In May, Health ministry investigators found that Summerland Seniors Village, another Retirement Concepts facility, had failed to demonstrate it had developed short-term service plans for incoming residents.
The Summerland facility’s long-term care operations have been under government control since February 2020 due to concerns about inadequate care. Administrative control was extended until July 2021 back in January because of ongoing issues.
West Coast Seniors Housing Management, which manages Retirement Concepts facilities, did not respond to multiple requests for comment from PressProgress.
Mariposa Gardens in Osoyoos, owned by Sienna Senior Living, was flagged last November by inspectors for failing to “provide evidence to demonstrate a sufficient number of employees.” The facility also failed to demonstrate that “medication is administered by a health professional.”
In a statement to PressProgress, a spokesperson from Sienna said “the health and safety of residents and team members at Mariposa Gardens is our highest priority,” and that the company has “all of the necessary documentation that demonstrates the residence continues to be in full compliance and are in the process of submitting it to the Assisted Living Registry.”
“We also participate in program reviews with the Interior Health Authority and ensure that medication is administered only by a health professional or a certified non-registrant who is authorized under the Health Professionals Act to administer medication,” the spokesperson added.
Andrew Longhurst, a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives research associate and author of a report last year on assisted living in BC, told PressProgress he’s not surprised that most complaints against assisted living facilities were linked to for-profit operators.
“We know from a large body of empirical health service research that health care facility ownership is inextricably linked to quality of care and organizational performance,” Longhurst explained.
Longhurst noted that although quantitative academic research on assisted living care quality and ownership does not yet exist to the same extent it does for long-term care, “lessons from the large body of long-term care research evidence … has relevance and should be carefully considered.”
In particular, Longhurst said, the fact that Retirement Concepts alone accounted for one-fifth of assisted living complaints follows an alarming trend in its long-term care operations.
“There is a well-established fact pattern of care quality and resident safety issues among RC long-term care facilities,” Longhurst said. “The fact that health authorities had to take over administration of a handful of these facilities is a significant concern and unprecedented in BC.”
“The RC LTC facilities that were under health authority administration had significant staffing issues, which would suggest that these financialized business practices are very much at play and undermining quality of care,” Longhurst added.
“I don’t believe it is a big leap then to assume that these same risky business practices (employed by the same chain that operates both LTC and AL) are undermining quality of care in the assisted living part of its business.”
60% of similar complaints against BC long-term care homes last year were linked to for-profit companies. Retirement Concepts accounted for one-fifth of those complaints.
Another CCPA report published last summer found unmet care needs and significant affordability challenges in BC’s assisted living sector, particularly among low-income residents living in private-pay units. It also identified issues with the “living at risk” philosophy in for-profit facilities, and undervalued staff.
The report also found “a significant number of seniors in assisted living residences who do not appear to qualify for assisted living under provincial legislation” and that some interviewees said “assisted living increasingly looks like under-resourced long-term care.”
Unlike long-term care residents, those in assisted living facilities must be capable of making decisions on their own behalf.
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