Sechelt, BC – The new long-term care home to be built in Sechelt moves one significant step closer to construction now that agreements covering direct patient care and support workers are in place with the Hospital Employees' Union (HEU) and BC Nurses' Union (BCNU).
Under separate memoranda of agreement signed by BCNU, HEU, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), the Ministry of Health, Health Employers Association of BC (HEABC) and Silverstone Care Centre LP have agreed that care staff who currently work at Shorncliffe and Totem Lodge will be guaranteed the same wages, benefits, pension and seniority when they transfer to the new care home. Approximately 80 care aides, licensed practical nurses, activity workers, therapy aides and registered nurses who live and work on the Sunshine Coast will benefit from these collaborative agreements.
In addition, contracted food and housekeeping support staff who work at Totem Lodge and Shorncliffe will also be offered comparable employment opportunities with no loss of wages or benefits.
"I asked Vancouver Coastal Health to go back and look at this project through the lens of the community members, and I am pleased that the negotiations were completed successfully and we can move on to the next phase of planning for this critically important care facility," said Health Minister Adrian Dix. "We listened to the concerns about the importance of these jobs for health care workers in the region and have been able to retain the union status, wages and benefits."
"It is very good news that we are moving forward with the next phase of planning for the care home, which is a much-needed resource for seniors and their families in this region," said Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons.
"I am also pleased that in supporting continued opportunities for staff, the principles we all fought for have been protected. This not only supports health care workers but will also provide benefits for the seniors who will call this space home."
"We're establishing a solid foundation for high quality care by recognizing the service of local health care workers and by continuing to provide them with working and caring conditions at the provincial standard," says HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside.
"We thank the community of Sechelt for their commitment to protecting quality services and good jobs, and look forward to working with the operator to ensure a smooth transition."
"Quality publicly funded seniors care is a priority for B.C.'s nurses. Today's government announcement is a positive step for seniors requiring care in this region," said BC Nurses' Union president Christine Sorensen. "Our elderly population require diverse supports and caring interventions to promote their health, quality of life, and safety. Ensuring continuity of care in their communities with staff that seniors know well and an appropriate staffing mix will improve care in B.C.'s residential care facilities."
Over the next few months, Silverstone will move through the building permit process and into construction, which is expected to take approximately 18-24 months. The care home will provide at least 125 funded care beds along with adult day services.
"We understand the urgency for these beds in the community and we know the importance of working together in order to best serve seniors. I'm happy to see the teamwork that has formed with reaching this agreement and to be moving forward together" said Mary McDougall, president, Trellis Senior Services.
"We are thankful this important project can now advance and we appreciate the support the B.C. government has provided," said VCH Coastal chief operating officer Karin Olson. "Our focus remains on ensuring we provide the best care and on putting the priorities of our staff and the community at the forefront of our decision-making."
To enhance support for seniors who are at Sechelt Hospital waiting for long term care during the transition to the new facility, VCH will also soon be opening a 12-bed short-stay unit at the hospital.
The proposed site, which has now been accepted by VCH, is in a residential area on shíshálh Nation land and is accessible by existing transit and with amenities nearby.
"This has been a long process and I'm happy to see this project move ahead," said Chief Warren Paull of the shíshálh Nation.
Once constructed, this new care home will replace the aging Totem Lodge and Shorncliffe facility. VCH understands the importance of these locations to the community and will engage the public and stakeholders regarding their future.