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IHA responds to seniors care contract questions

There were over 110 people out to protest the decision by IHA to contract with outside firm; Photo, Mona Mattei
Locals are demanding a public hearing over Interior Health Authority’s (IHA) decision to award a long-term care contract for senior’s housing in Grand Forks to an out-of-town contractor. But IHA’s staff are firm that the contract was awarded through an extensive, unbiased process.
The announcement last week that Golden Life Management of Cranbrook was chosen over four other applicants to build and provide services for 40 complex care seniors caused residents to rally to support Rod Gustafson’s bid on the services. Gustafson, a Christina Lake resident and registered nurse, invested over the past two years to renovate the Broadacres facility on the outskirts of Grand Forks. The facility was approved by IHA licencing for services but Gustafson has never received any referrals since and recently lost the bid for a permanent contract.
Cindy Kozak-Campbell, IH east residential services administrator explained that their tendering process is designed to identify the best proponent for the contract, and they are confident that Golden Life was the successful bidder solely based on the established criteria.
“We have already gone through a public request for proposals process with clear criteria that was applied to all the applicants consistently, and have awarded this contract,” said Kozak-Campbell in response to the request for a public hearing. “All proponents are provided the opportunity for a detailed debrief about their proposal and its strengths and weaknesses. An invitation for a debrief was extended to Broadacres and we would be happy to have this discussion with Mr. Gustafson. He has not asked for one at this time.”
Gustafson, who had obtained his licence under IHA last April, is refusing to surrender the licence as required by the Ministry of Health. He feels that he has been unfairly treated throughout the last year by the IHA in their negotiations with his care facility.
Under the regulations of the Ministry of Health, licencing is only valid for a period of one year in which a facility must have at least three people receiving service for a minimum of three days in order for the licence to remain valid. The licencing process is done at no cost to the facility owners. Gustafson said he may become bankrupt if he cannot lease or sell the facility now.
“I still have to surrender my licence back to Interior Health because I haven’t had any clients in there for one year. So then if I want to re-apply I have to go through the whole process of applying for a new licence,” said Gustafson at a recent meeting. “I’ve put the place up for sale, I’ve also approached Corrections Canada on it and they’re interested in it. I’m contacting some other places. There are other options that IH can use it for.”
Kozak-Campbell said that Gustafson’s proposal scored lower in three key categories: the range of services available for the seniors (recreation, physiotherapy, dietician for example); quality and safety policies and procedures; and in pricing / budgets.
Because of these discrepancies, IHA is also unable to contract with Gustafson for the interim beds needed until the larger complex is built.
“I did go out to the facility and meet with him (Gustafson) about the things we expect of a facility that wouldn’t be specified in his licence,” explained Kozak-Campbell. “Generally, there were three areas where we felt we wouldn’t be able to carry on trying to see if there was something that could be fixed.”
Kozak-Campbell assured the community that the acute care beds at Boundary Hospital being converted for the interim seniors’ care beds will revert back to the hospital in the future, and that, due to arrangements within the hospital, only one acute care bed is actually being lost during the construction of the new facility. The costs of renovations for the rooms are relatively small, added Kozak-Campbell.
Gustafson has said that he has never been informed of any deficiencies on which the IHA based their decision. Kozak-Campbell advised that she personally spoke with Gustafson, followed up with a letter, and that all proponents are invited to go through their proposal in detail for a better understanding of where it was lacking.
Despite the availability of a licenced facility in the community for the last year, family members said they have been given two options for seniors needing to enter care – staying in acute care rooms at the Boundary Hospital until a long-term bed was available, or to be sent to facilities outside of the area breaking up families and friends.
Locals feel that IHA made obvious choices in sending relatives away for care and that the loss of Broadacres care facility will only demonstrate the lack of local control or input on decisions at the Health Authority. Kozak-Campbell said that the Broadacres facility had been mentioned to families as a private care option in the last year.

A second community meeting involving IHA, local government, MLA John Slater’s office, and media is tentatively set to take place next week. Organizer Laura Lodder hopes that IHA will attend to discuss their decision and provide their rationale for overlooking the local contractor.