Provincial BCCPA CEO Listening Tour kicksoff in the Kootenays

The day started early for Daniel Fontaine as he departed for the airport at 5 am to catch a flight from Vancouver to Castlegar to kickoff the first leg of his CEO Listening Tour across the province. After a short and uneventful flight over southern B.C., he touched down in Castlegar and was greeted by Julie Garrick from Golden Life Management. After a short drive through Fruitvale, they both arrived in Trail for a meeting with frontline staff at Rose Wood Village. In attendance for the roundtable were Shawna Bradford, Lisa Deptuck, Janelle Greenwood, Cara Oliver, Sandy Zanet and Larissa Verhelst.

Fontaine meets with frontline care staff at Rose Wood Village in Trail, B.C. as part of the CEO Listening Tour

A significant portion of the discussion was related to three key items which include the recent $500M announcement to support a move toward 3.36 direct care hours across the province; the new $10M Safety and Quality Program; opportunities to better access SafeCare BC programs and services; as well as the challenges facing rural communities in attracting and retaining workers. The session lasted about 90 minutes with two of the attendees coming in to participate on their day off!

“It was great to hear directly from staff regarding some of the challenges they face and how the recent announcement of new funding for increased direct care hours will make a huge difference in the quality of life for seniors in care,” says Fontaine. “I also really appreciated the feedback regarding how the BCCPA should be managing our new Safety and Equipment Program and what type of equipment purchases will have the biggest impact on the frontline.”

Health Human Resources a Focus of Discussion

Fontaine meets with seniors at Castle Wood Village which offers both assisted and independent living options

Another significant topic of discussion was regarding the recruitment and retention of continuing care sector workers. The staff recounted numerous stories of students and foreign workers who have done practicums or temporary assignments, only to accept full time jobs at health care sites in Alberta and on the East Coast.

“There is a level of frustration that is completely understandable regarding a lack of a coordinated approach when it comes to attracting new workers and retaining those already in the sector,” shares Fontaine. “It’s difficult to hear stories of Rose Wood staff struggling with the Provincial Nominee Program and investing time and dollars in training new workers only to have them move away to more populated urban centres like Vancouver and Calgary. My takeaway is we really need to ensure our health human resource strategy incorporates the special needs of smaller rural communities who face unique challenges.”

There is a level of frustration that is completely understandable regarding a lack of coordinated approach when it comes to attracting new workers and retaining those already in the sectorDaniel Fontaine, CEO, BC Care Providers Association

New Equipment Can Support Safety and Quality Initiatives

Fontaine then headed back to Castlegar for a lunch meeting with senior managers from several different residential care, assisted living and independent living residences. Interestingly, many of the same stories and issues were raised during this roundtable when it came to health human resource issues and a need to access specialized equipment in a more timely manner. Of particular interest was the length of time it can take to get approval and get access to critical items such as specialized mattresses which can help address and prevent unnecessary bed sores. It was hoped that if properly designed, the BCCPA’s new Safety and Quality Program will help to fast-track these types of purchases in the future.

“Many of the managers also felt the BCCPA should play a stronger role in helping to lead the development of a province-wide health human resources strategy,” explains Fontaine. “There was a sense we need all of the players at the table but one organization needs to actually be accountable to ensure the strategy is developed and implemented across B.C.”

Management staff from Golden Life Management, Park Place Seniors Living and Castle View Care Centre meet with Fontaine

The management group was particularly interested in the idea floated by Fontaine that we should learn from other sectors such as the film, high tech and tourism industry when it comes to recruiting new workers. The idea of establishing a new Seniors Care Job Fair managed by the BCCPA was discussed along with taking a “Team BC” approach and going to neighbouring provinces like Alberta to actively recruit new workers. Everyone agreed that BC needs a unique and targeted approach to dealing with rural recruitment issues and that a “made-in-Vancouver” approach will not necessarily yield the appropriate results.

Seniors Focus on Access to Affordable Transportation

A separate roundtable session was held with a number of seniors living at Castlewood Village – which offers both assisted living and independent living. One of the key issues facing the seniors included the high cost of making it to and from medical appointments.

A resident shared their story and stated “it cost me $85 for a one way taxi ride to my specialist appointment, then I had to pay the same amount to come back. That is very expensive if you are on a fixed income.”

(From L-R): Daniel Fontaine, Celeste Mullin, Mayor Lawrence Chernoff and James Liedenberg meet at Castlegar City Hall

“Access to affordable and reliable transportation was the number one issue identified by the seniors,” notes Fontaine. “They indicate that a lack of bus service and limited accessible transit often makes it hard to remain in an independent or assisted living setting.”

Later in the afternoon, Celeste Mullin, CEO and James Liedenberg, COO from Golden Life Management, joined Fontaine for a meeting with His Worship Lawrence Chernoff, the Mayor of Castlegar. The issue of a lack of transportation options and affordable housing for seniors was discussed. As a result, the Mayor agreed to participate in a community forum to be held at Castle Wood Village to discuss these issues.

“Overall it was a great day and I’m very grateful to everyone who participated in the CEO Listening Tour kickoff,” says Fontaine. “I learned a lot and came away from those meetings with a greater sense of the key priorities and issues facing care providers in the Kootenays.”

Fontaine will be heading to the Interior on April 26-27th for meetings in Kamloops and Kelowna. This Listening Tour will then be on Vancouver Island in early May.