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Westbank First Nation long-term care home closing; staffing issues cited

Click to play video: 'Westbank First Nation long-term care home announces closure' Westbank First Nation long-term care home announces closure
Westbank First Nation long-term care home announces closure – Oct 21, 2021

Westbank First Nation announced the pending closure of its long term care facility, saying unstable times in health care have made it unsustainable.

The decision to close Pine Acres Home is due to the implementation of new provincial COVID-19 requirements for long-term care facilities, the continued operation of the facility is longer feasible, WFN said in a press release.

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“Westbank First Nation is proud of being the only community with a long-term care facility on-reserve,” Chief Christopher Derickson said in a press release.

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“For almost 40 years, we have provided quality care for our Elders and seniors from other communities. Pre-COVID, our plan was to expand the facility, to enhance its long-term feasibility; but in these unstable times in the health-care industry, compounded with the new public health order for mandatory COVID vaccinations for health-care workers, we have found ourselves unable to continue to ensure sufficient staffing levels in providing high-quality care to our residents.”

READ MORE: Health-care staff shortages could be on the way as COVID-19 vaccine mandates loom

“The staffing concerns by all stakeholders, led us to make the difficult but necessary decision to provide notice to our membership, Pine Acres Home residents and their caregivers, Pine Acres Home staff, and Interior Health, that we will be beginning the transition towards closing Pine Acres Homes’ doors.”

Westbank First Nation Membership also questioned whether the facility was meeting the Elders’ care needs of the members, particularly in light of the notable trend of fewer and fewer member-residents in the facility over recent years.

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The WFN statement said that this is being used as an opportunity to rethink the future of its care delivery model, considering increased assisted living and aging-in-place options.

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Interior Health will work with residents and families to plan and facilitate safe and smooth transitions to alternate care homes.

READ MORE: All B.C. health-care workers must be vaccinated against COVID by Oct. 26, officials say

Staffing shortages have been an issue for a while in care facilities but it’s been exacerbated since COVID-19 vaccine mandate too effect on the Oct. 12 for all long-term and assisted living employees. Operators have been awaiting a wave of resignations and many are said to have resigned in the weeks leading to the mandate.

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As of Oct. 11, 96 per cent of all long-term care staff in B.C. have received a first dose, and 93 per cent have received a second dose.

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“Despite increasing vaccination levels amongst staff in long-term care, the vaccination rates vary throughout the province and by facility,” said the Ministry of Health in an Oct. 15 statement.

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“Health authorities are actively engaged with long-term care and assisted living operators across the province to assess the impact of mandatory vaccination on staffing levels. Health authorities report that existing contingency plans are ensuring residents receive the care they need.

READ MORE: COVID-19 vaccines now mandatory for all B.C. long-term and assisted living staff

“Contingency plans for periods of low staffing include a number of options including offering staff additional shifts (including overtime) and redeploying staff from other areas.”

— with files from Shelby Thom

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