How many times have we heard the government say it wants to deliver the right care at the right place at the right time?
That mantra may be tested if media reports are correct and the private owner of a Tavistock long-term care home gets his wish to move all 80 beds to London.
There’s much wrong with this proposal, which may explain the official silence around it.
While rumours about the transfer have circulated for months, there has been no open consultation to date by the owners or the Southwest LHIN. Residents and staff of the Centre instead discovered from the media that an application had been made directly to the Ministry of Health.
The Bonnie Brae Health Centre in Tavistock is an 80-bed long-term care facility. It was purchased earlier this year by a family that operates another mixed nursing and retirement home in London.
Prior to its purchase, Bonnie Brae had one of the best inspection records in the province. This is despite the fact that the building is an aging facility that has to be rebuilt by a July 1, 2014 deadline.
The private owner’s other long-term care home is Kensington Village in London. Kensington Village’s inspection report is on the other side of the ledger, considerably below the provincial average. Among unmet standards, seven are around resident care and services (the provincial average is 1.15) and three more on resident safeguards (provincial average 0.48). In all Kensington had 14 unmet standards compared to one for Bonnie Brae during the last inspection period. The provincial average is 2.7.
Bonnie Brae primarily draws residents from Tavistock as well as Stratford, Kitchener-Waterloo and Woodstock. If this transfer is to take place, long-term residents would have to move at least 45 minutes away, limiting social supports they receive from nearby family and friends. It would also remove one-third of the long-term care beds from the town and harm the local economy, a point not missed by Mayor Don McKay.
McKay estimates that 80 jobs will be lost, a “huge hit” in a town the size of Tavistock. In fact, the number is closer to 125.
A transfer of a health service is defined as an integration decision under the LHIN. However, the Southwest LHIN is not treating it as such. Instead the Southwest LHIN says that the authority rests with the Ministry of Health itself, which holds the responsibility for licensing long-term care facilities. The LHIN says they are paying attention to what the Tavistock community has to say, and will make their own recommendations before a final decision is made.
The Ministry of Health is holding public hearings on the transfer December 15th at Tavistock’s Memorial Hall at 2 pm. Given the difficulty of local residents attending a Thursday afternoon event, the Ministry should give consideration to either moving the time or adding an additional evening session. If the Ministry is unable to do so, then the LHIN or the Township might consider hosting an evening town hall.
There are many questions left unanswered: Is there a plan for the Tavistock facility once it has been emptied, such as a site for alternative level of care patients waiting for permanent long-term care placement? Will it become a retirement home? Or do the new owners intend to demolish the building and sell the empty lot having got what they wanted – 80 licensed beds?
The owner says the beds will be transferred to a new facility in North London, one that will have 128 beds.
The news of the transfer, coming so quickly after the purchase of the home, suggests the owners would have known about the obligation to rebuild the facility when they purchased it.
The CEO of a nearby Tavistock home said she is willing to add beds to her facility, but the province may be reluctant to do so given they appear to be trying to hold the line on new long-term care beds.
Meanwhile the OPSEU-represented staff at the Centre is left wondering about their own future. As a health care provider transfer, staff should retain the right to move with the work, although many may choose not to given the hefty commute involved. The region is smack in the middle of Ontario’s snow belt and winter driving could be a major challenge.
Media reports indicate the transfer is not likely to happen until 2014 or 2015. The latter date is improbable given the 2014 deadline to rebuild the facility.
The Ministry and the LHIN needs to decide whether to facilitate the transfer to benefit the owners, or to deny it and find an alternate solution for Oxford County. This will be a true test of the public interest.
Bonnie Brae was operated by Revera Homes and owned by Grosvenor Health Care (Partnership) No 3 before being sold in May to its present for-profit owner.