A day after reports of safety complaints from residents of the Waverly Seniors Village in Chilliwack, a former employee spoke out about what she calls a horrible work environment.
”It was a horror show working at that place,” she said.
The Progress has agreed to not identify the former employee because she plans on continuing to work in the industry.
The Waverly has been under the intense scrutiny of Fraser Health for several months, particularly since December when the retirement residence was deemed “high risk.” Since then no further admissions are allowed at the Young Road facility, and there are more than half a dozen empty beds.
The employee said she left because the demands on staff at the Waverly became too much to bear, leading to multiple employees quitting or going on stress leave.
The Waverly is a Retirement Concepts facility owned by a Chinese holding company, Anbang Insurance Group, which itself was taken over by the Chinese government in February 2018 after the company’s founder was sentenced to 18 years in prison for fraud.
Retirement Concepts runs 20 seniors care homes and was purchased by the Beijing-based company in 2017 for $1 billion. Day-to-day operations are run by West Coast Seniors Housing Management (WCSHM).
The list of complaints about the Waverly is long: from staffing, to unresolved incidents of thefts from residents, to the only elevator being out of order for five weeks.
“It’s time that Fraser Health takes over,” she said. “They have been put at high risk, and they are going to take over. I’m sure of it.”
Most recently, on the evening of Feb. 14 into Feb. 15, residents reported there was no one on staff to provide them with medications on the assisted living side.
“It’s a whole safety issue,” 73-year-old Lillian Reason told The Progress. “You cannot leave 70 people that need medication, even if it’s 40 of them, not receiving that medication.”
The whistleblower employee said the burden placed on the staff who are working there is too much, and the expectations on the good workers makes for an unfair situation.
She also said that for five weeks late last year into January, the only elevator was not working, something confirmed by residents.
“That meant all of the residents on the second floor had to stay confined to the second floor,” she said. “They had to feed them on the second floor. They couldn’t come downstairs to participate in any of the activities. They couldn’t go downstairs to go out with their families.”
She said there was also serious issues with half a dozen cases of theft that went unresolved. One resident claimed he had $20,000 in cash in a safe that was stolen.
“They couldn’t do anything about it. We did have cameras in the hallway yet we couldn’t capture anything because the rooms targeted did not have the cameras pointed at them.”
The most recent inspection by Fraser Health on Dec. 16, 2019 found contraventions involving self-monitoring, staffing shortages, staff implementation of policies and procedures, and activity programming.
The chief operating officer for WCSHM blames the inability to meet all licensing requirements all the time on an industry-wide lack of staffing.
“The entire seniors care sector is experiencing a labour shortage, which is having an impact on all service providers, and our ability to meet all licensing requirements at all times,” Jennie Deneka said via email.
When asked if that was accurate, BC’s Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie said, simply, “No.”
“Then no one would be meeting their standards,” she told The Progress Friday. “The industry association captures an agenda and manufactures a crisis that is really about their financial interest.”
Mackenzie said the model in B.C. that pays the private operators a lump sum of money is part of the problem.
“Because we let them keep whatever money they don’t spend, their incentive is to pay the least amount possible.”
Many operators do, however, pay competitive wages, but not Retirement Concepts.
“No Retirement Concepts site pays the industry standard wage rate, they pay less,” Mackenzie said.
“Some are $6 and $7 an hour less than the industry standard. We are not talking 30 cents an hour different.”
The former employee agreed.
“Their pay is extremely low compared to the industry so it’s difficult to get staff,” she said. “And the workload is unreal. I was working 10 to 12 hours a day, sometimes seven days a week. It’s unreal.”
The public relations firm that provided comments from Deneka earlier this week did not immediately respond to questions about the thefts, the elevator and the starting wage for care aides at the Waverly.
For updates on this story, including the company response, and for more comments from Mackenzie on what she sees as systemic problems in seniors care, visit www.theprogress.com.
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