HEU opposes closure of Cascade Residence extended care complex

Burnaby council shares union’s concerns over health region’s plans to reduce number of care beds

The Hospital Employees’ Union is joining with concerned individuals and groups to fight plans by the Simon Fraser Health Region to close the 205-bed Cascade Residence extended care complex at Burnaby Hospital.

The health region could finalize the decision as early as mid-October with a plan to shut down Cascade and replace it with a new facility with approximately 150 beds. The health region is prepared to spend upwards of $18 million in order to provide 100 fewer beds.

This comes at a time when more than 700 seniors in the region are waiting for a long-term care bed. And that urgent wait list for frail seniors to receive proper care will increase to 2,000 over the next five years.

Even worse, the publicly-operated Cascade Residence could be replaced by a private, for-profit facility owned by a huge multinational corporation through a public/private partnership (P3). Three bidders have made the short-list: two Canadian private, for-profit giants in seniors’ care and housing, CPAC (Care) Holdings Ltd. and Central Park Lodges, and one non-profit organization, the 56-year old New Vista Society which provides housing, community and care services to Burnaby seniors.

“Replacing a functional, public facility such as the Cascade Residence, with a public/private partnership is completely unacceptable,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “The region’s priority should be more beds, not less.

“And these new beds should remain part of B.C.’s public long-term care system.”

HEU Burnaby local activists recently attended a Burnaby City council meeting and outlined the concerns that health care providers share with a growing number of citizens and community-based groups about the proposed closure.

Concerns include the region’s lack of consultation with Cascade residents and their families, and the absence of readily available, current information on the project.

“The residents are upset that no one has bothered to ask any of them how they feel about this matter,” Claire Rollins, a Cascade activity aide who provides recreational therapy to the facility’s seniors, told Burnaby council.

“One resident mentioned that because they [seniors] are in a facility, they must be unable to have opinions.”

After the union’s presentation, Mayor Drummond and the councillors voiced their own concerns about the SFHR’s plans and thanked HEU for raising the issue. The council has asked staff to report back with answers to some of the questions raised by the HEU delegation.

As part of its closure scheme, the region says the loss of extended care beds can be made up by providing a similar number of assisted living units, where seniors can live on their own with only minimal care.

More assisted living units is good. But assisted living and extended care are entirely different. Assisted living isn’t a viable option for the care needs of Cascade residents who are frail and in need of `round-the-clock care.

Allnutt met with health minister Mike Farnworth last week to discuss the region’s ill-conceived Cascade closure plan and repeat the union’s long-standing opposition to public/private partnerships.

“We want the Simon Fraser Health Board to scrap the Cascade replacement scheme and keep the residence open,” says Allnutt. “We need a new facility that’s part of plan to increase the number of care beds in the region, not decrease them.

“And we want public dollars kept in public facilities - no public/private partnerships.”