KELOWNA, B.C. — A resident of an Okanagan care home is claiming Interior Health has misspent thousands of dollars from a fund that belongs to residents.
“I keep being told to leave the past in the past but to see them again get control of those funds just isn’t right,” says 67-year-old Eldon Heppner who lives with ALS.
Heppner was a chartered accountant, and has been a permanent resident at Kelowna’s Cottonwoods Care Centre since 2009. He is concerned the resident fund – which was set up years ago – was misused.
“Every resident would pay $12 which was to be used – per month – for entertainment outings, special parties and so on,” says Heppner.
Interior Health confirms the purpose of the fund.
“The Cottonwoods Resident Fund was first established in 1990. It was established as a fund for residents for sundry items. So, a monthly charge was charged to each resident and the fund was used for things such as haircuts, events, outings,” says Vanda Urban with Interior Health.
Heppner says he was approached by some residents in 2011 with concerns that they never received any reports on where the money was being spent and for what. Heppner offered to do a review of the fund. He says within 10 days of going through their transaction print outs, he saw a significant amount of the fund was misspent.
“Well there had been money spent on capital items. I found the odd farewell party for staff. There had been lights and curtains for the building, items that weren’t for what the funds were designated for, nothing to do with residents,” says Heppner.
He says after finishing the review, he notified the general manager of Cottonwoods. The Interior Health Authority also did some investigating. It says both an internal and external audit were done.
When asked what happened following the audits, Urban says “it was determined that there was no inappropriate spending. There were some accounting errors that were corrected, so that was the outcome.”
Despite its claim there was no inappropriate spending; Interior Health reimbursed $87,000 into the fund. However, the dispute doesn’t end there. Two years after it was refunded, Interior Health transferred the money to the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation.
“Wishes of the residents and families were that the money would stay with the group but based on our past experience and history with the residents and families, there was a lack of consensus on how we should spend that money,” says Urban.
“When we asked why when it had been voted on at a previous meeting, they didn’t really have an explanation. It was done. That’s the end of it,” says Heppner.
Ironically, the fund to be administered by Kelowna General Hospital Foundation will be used for capital improvements, exactly the purpose Cottonwood residents found inappropriate. Interior Health no longer collects a general fee for resident activities.