Princeton residents are reeling, following an Oct. 15 announcement that the town’s only assisted living centre for seniors is facing major cuts in services.
Vermilion Court, a seniors building located in the downtown, has been operating since 2004 as an assisted living facility.
On Dec. 15, 2020, many of its services — including meals, suite cleaning and security — are scheduled to be eliminated.
Residents and their families learned of the changes through a letter. Vermilion Court will transition to an independent living facility.
Vermilion Court, which has 18 units and currently 17 residents, is owned and operated by Princeton District Community Services Society (PDCSS).
The letter states: “The PDCSS board of directors and administrative team are extremely saddened to have made this decision. Our mission is to develop and coordinate community based services, not to reduce them, but we have reached a point [where] continuing to provide services that we are not funded for will only impact the society negatively as a whole.”
PDCSS executive director Becky Vermette told The Spotlight that providing assisted living services was creating an annual deficit of approximately $70,000 per year.
Since April 2020, that deficit has already reached $75,000 for the current financial year.
“The reaction from residents and families has been emotional. There is definitely anger and our staff are unfortunately taking the brunt of that, but for the most part it has been sadness. A lot of tears were shed yesterday by families, residents and staff.”
However, said Vermette, instant reaction to the announcement may generated action.
“The community’s outcry and further advocacy efforts from our mayor have presented potential funding opportunities, just this morning. These opportunities may not be long term and may not cover services such as housekeeping and security, but they may cover meals and give us more time to restructure and plan for the future,” she said.
“We have been approached by potential funders for meal services which we will be pursuing, and are optimistic we will be able to at the very least offer meals in the future.”
At present, residents of Vermilion Court pay 30 per cent of their income in rent, and 40 per cent of their income for assisted living services.
The latter charge was increased 10 per cent this year in an attempt to make the facility self-sustainable, and will be cancelled when the services are discontinued.
Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne called the situation “very concerning… I have been in contact with Interior Health, as well as other agencies, to try and help find a solution for the financial situation that Princeton and District Community Services find themselves in at Vermilion Court.”
A remedy may be found between emergency funding and a long term vision, he stated.
“It is imperative that the solution not only be a bandage but a long term one that will see Vermilion Court financially secure and that our community has a safe, reliable home for seniors who need the services provided at Vermilion Court.”
In the coming weeks each resident will meet with a representative from Interior Health, to assess needs and ascertain what level of care each requires.
“Case managers will work with clients and families to identify appropriate alternate care environment options,” said Vermette.
Some services, tied to government funding, are still guaranteed.
PDCSS will continue to provide home support and adult day program services. Home support services focus on personal care and are funded by Interior Health. The adult day program offers social activities and a bathing program plus lunch.
BC Housing provides funding which subsidizes the tenant suites and general building maintenance, and that will also continue.
“PDCSS has never had provincial funding to provide hospitality services. Although the building has always operated as an assisted living facility, it has never been funded as such,” said Vermette.
Princeton’s Meals on Wheels program, run by PDCSS and which also relied strictly on user fees, folded in June of this year.
Vermette was hired as PDCSS’s interim executive director in October of last year, and that position was made permanent in March 2020.
She declined to comment on past decisions and practices.
”I don’t know what applications have been made for funding before my time.”
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