British Columbia

Burnaby veterans care facility lays off entire nursing staff due to financial crisis

All 54 nurses at the George Derby Centre in Burnaby received layoff notices Monday as the long term and veterans care centre attempts to deal with a financial crisis.

"Unfortunately it's the only way," says director of the facility that houses 300 veterans and seniors

All 54 full and part time nurses who work at the George Derby veterans and seniors long term care facility have been laid off. (George Derby Centre)

All 54 full and part time nurses at the George Derby Centre in Burnaby received layoff notices Monday as the long term and veterans care facility attempts to deal with an ongoing financial crisis. 

Executive Director Ricky Kwan says the facility has an immediate shortfall of one million dollars, and is struggling to pay its bills.

"There's an urgency because each month we have difficulty in our cash flow," Kwan told CBC News. "Yesterday we issued the displacement letters — the pink slips."

Ricky Kwan, Executive Director of the George Derby Centre in Burnaby says laying off unionized nurses and replacing them with non-unionized nurses is a way to fix the facilities financial mess. (George Derby Centre)

"Unfortunately it's the only way to turn around our finances," he said. 

About 300 veterans and seniors call George Derby home. The centre provides "supportive, independent living, complex and dementia care for Veterans of the Armed Forces and the general senior population." 

Kwan said the cash crunch is a result of having to increase the hours of direct care per day per resident from 2.51 in 2012 to the current standard set by the Fraser Health Authority of 2.87 hours.

"That`s why we are going into red," said Kwan. "We are working with health authority, hoping that they will be able to give us a sustainable funding methodology."

In a statement Fraser Health told CBC News, "We have been working with the centre on their funding concerns, and asked them to wait for this process to be completed before making any decisions to contract-out services."

B.C. Nurses Union president Gayle Duteil claims the George Derby Centre is using nurses and residents as pawns.

"I'm ashamed they are using the residents in the fight with the Fraser Health Authority," she said. "It's not fair to the residents, it's not fair to the nurses and it's not fair to the families."

Last night the BCNU went to Burnaby city council asking that the city to put pressure on Fraser Health to provide more funding.

Kwan says the George Derby Centre would realize significant savings by switching to non-unionized nurses, but that the facility would still need a boost in funding to meet its operating objectives.

"We need all the parties' support, including the union and the heath authority, If I`m looking for one million dollars I`m hoping the chunk of the money is coming from the health authority, but I`d love to see some concessions from the union," he said. "Right now I don't have any offer by the union and the health authority is still reviewing our situation."