On March 1, while a delegation of Sunshine Coast residents delivered a petition to the BC Legislature with 10,000 names opposing a deal between Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and Trellis Seniors Services to build a for-profit care facility in Sechelt, two local doctors appeared as a delegation before Sechelt Council, urging them to push forward with the Trellis development.
Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) has announced the closure of two existing publicly-operated long term care facilities in Sechelt, to be replaced with a privately owned for-profit facility. Dr. Joerg Jaschinski and Dr. Jim Petzold were among 52 doctors who signed a letter in November 2016 protesting the Trellis deal and VCH’s lack of community consultation. But on March 1 they did an about-face.
“Initially we weren’t very much in favour of the Trellis development because we felt that the beds that were being offered were inadequate,” said Dr. Jaschinski. “But through negotiations with our hospital and Vancouver Coastal it’s become quite clear that this contract is signed, and we’ve been told that it’s a done deal. And so instead of fighting, we felt that by cooperating we are going to serve our community a lot better.”
The doctors have taken this position because of the “desperate situation” at Sechelt Hospital. According to Dr. Jaschinski, the third floor of the hospital is entirely occupied by people waiting for beds in a long term care facility.
“At the moment the hospital is running at 130 per cent capacity which means that many patients are supposed to be admitted to the hospital and receive their care in a hospital bed are remaining in the ER,” he said. “This obviously is not a healthy situation and it also leads to dangerous conditions for the doctors.”
Dr. Jaschinski said that Sechelt Hospital is running at the highest over-capacity rate of all the hospitals within Vancouver Coastal Health region because of a severe shortage of long term care beds.
Dr. Jim Petzold stated: “By 2018, at which time Silverstone was meant to be completed, our requirement will be 140 beds to bring us up to Vancouver Coast Health average. What we’re getting from the Silverstone build is 20 new beds.”
“Twenty new beds is not enough but it’s a start.”
According to Dr. Petzold, VCH has assured doctors that future decisions will be made collaboratively, and that VCH is considering refurbishing Shorncliffe as a dementia facility with 20 to 30 beds.
When Dr. Petzold began to pitch the new Silverstone project to Council, Mayor Bruce Milne cut him off. “There will be a public hearing where you can speak specifically to the Trellis issue,” said Milne.
“We certainly take seriously the overcrowding and the lack of facilities. And if there’s anything that council can do, individually or as a council, to help advocate for even equal treatment within VCH so that we are not the worst off of any site in the VCH system, we will try and certainly help you with that.”
But he warned the two doctors that council will not “allow the failures of VCH to force us into the wrong decision.”
In his presentation, Dr. Petzold stated that 70 per cent of the long term care facilities in BC are privately owned and operated. Figures provided by the Hospital Employees Union say that 37 per cent of long term care facilities are for profit, with 64 per cent operated by health authorities and not-for-profit societies such as Kiwanis.