British Columbia

Comox Valley to receive new residential care facility, but critics say these decisions are taking too long

The B.C. Government announced Wednesday it will build a new long-term residential care facility in the Comox Valley.

'I think we're falling far behind,' says spokesperson for seniors advocacy group

Adrian Dix says new beds and facilities will allow seniors to live their lives to the fullest. (Richard Zussman/CBC News)

The B.C. Government announced Wednesday it will build a new long-term residential care facility in the Comox Valley.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the facility will include 120 residential care beds and six hospice beds, four of which are currently in use at The Views at St Joseph's and that will move to the new facility when it's completed.

Construction is set to begin within the year with an estimated occupancy by 2020.

"I believe people are going to be coming here [Comox Valley] for generations to come, in particular seniors," said Dix at the announcement. 

"There are needs for a whole variety of different services and supports for seniors, to allow people not just to extend life but to live it to their fullest."

Island Health has chosen Golden Life Management Corp. to build and operate the new facility.

Along with the new facility, Island Health has arranged for Providence Residential and Community Care Society, an arm of Providence Health, to take over St. Joseph's.

Currently, there are 21 temporary residential care beds, but under the redevelopment, they will become permanent and another 10 new beds will be added.

Since it opened in October, North Island Hospital has been operating at capacity. (Vancouver Island Health Authority)

'I think it's a huge problem'

Jennifer Pass has been fighting for an increase in long-term residential care beds for a long time with the seniors' advocacy group, Comox Valley Elder's Take Action. 

And although she's happy the government is moving forward, she says the decision took too long while seniors in need of care and their families were left without long-term care options.

The former Liberal government originally put forward a request for proposals [RFP] back in September 2016 for a 70-bed facility, which was later cancelled.

Then in March 2018, the B.C. NDP released another RFP for 120 long-term care beds. Applications were due by May 11, 2018. 

"I think it's a huge problem," said Pass. "And there's been no reason given for the cancellation of the earlier RFP."

She says they would often ask Island Health for clarity on when to expect the beds but rarely received answers.

Falling behind

Pass fears that by the time the new facility is built in 2020, the need for long-term care beds in the Comox Valley will, once again, far surpass availability.

"I think we're falling far behind," she said. "By that time, we're going to need more and we're going to need more care in the community."

Pass would like to see Island Health conduct a thorough analysis of what the needs are going to be in three years and then meet those needs in advance.

"It's bemusing to me as to why the government doesn't provide adequate residential care," said Pass.

She adds that the lack of beds has led to overcrowding at North Island Hospital in the Comox Valley, where seniors who are waiting for residential care have taken over an entire wing.

And Island Health agrees that since the new facility opened, it's been operating at capacity.

"Hospitals all across our region — and across BC — are incredibly busy and capacity issues are an ongoing challenge," said Island Health in a statment to CBC News.

Pass says the government needs to do better to make our society age-friendly.

"Having people who need residential care in the hospital and using it as a holding tank is disastrous," said Pass.

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