Residents of a long-term care facility in Vernon may have to find new homes due to worries about the operator’s financial health.
Brewster Healthcare Group received notice in May that its licence to operate facilities in Vernon and Penticton would not be renewed in May 2013.
“We have concerns about the ongoing viability of the company,” said Roger Parsonage, regional director of health protection for the Interior Health Authority.
“We attempted over a fairly long period of time to gather some information that would allow us to evaluate their situation, and unfortunately we weren’t able to resolve it.”
The company operates the 16-bed Westridge Care Residence in Vernon.
During annual inspections in June and March, respectively, the home had 14 clients.
“We don’t have concerns about the level of care (the company is) providing, although we continue to monitor that closely and should that change then we’ll need to re-evaluate,” said Parsonage.
In addition to the notice of termination, interim conditions were placed on Brewster Healthcare Group’s licence that ban it from accepting new clients, and require it to notify residents about the licensing situation and prepare relocation plans for them.
The situation is “extremely unusual,” Parsonage said.
However, doubts about Brewster Healthcare Group’s ability to provide ongoing care to “some of our most vulnerable people in our community” prompted the authority to act. Parsonage said the company was given the one-year notice to allow for orderly relocation of patients.
That one-year delay proves the company is not on the brink of folding, said owner John Brewster.
Brewster said his company is not in financial distress and that the dispute arose from Interior Health’s demand for financial information about his unrelated business interests.
“For them to come in and start asking for all kinds of information about something that does not pertain to the two locations, I find is beyond what they’re allowed,” said Brewster.
One of his other business interests is Pacific Care Communities, which he said owns four long-term care facilities in Summerland, Kelowna and Grand Forks that are leased out to different operators. He said, though, that the two companies are not linked.
Banning the Brewster Healthcare Group from accepting new residents while hastening the departures of others is only making the financial situation worse, he added, although he remains “absolutely committed” to those still in care.
Brewster said he has a deal in place to sell the two facilities effective Oct. 1, contingent upon the new owner being able to obtain a license from Interior Health. He said he didn’t have permission to release the prospective buyer’s name.
If the sale doesn’t go through, Brewster said, he will convert the residences to assisted-living facilities with different clients who have different care requirements, and that will result in staff lay-offs.
David Hurford, spokesperson for the B.C. Care Providers Association, said neither of Brewster’s companies is a member, but that the market for long-term care beds is “volatile.”
According to Hurford, a “fairly significant increase” in the number of publicly-funded beds, such as the 66 currently under construction at Haven Hill Retirement Centre in Penticton, is good for seniors but could have an impact on private operators.
He noted the association is willing to help Brewster Healthcare Group clients who are seeking new accommodations. Interior Health is also helping them explore their options.
“Anecdotally, I’ve heard that some have made a move already; some are choosing to wait,” Parsonage said.
He confirmed there is sufficient capacity at other care homes in Vernon to absorb new patients from both facilities.