By Trevor Busch
In the wake of recent concerns raised over care provided at the Linden View designated assisted living facility, Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Gary Bikman has been voicing constituent’s concerns in Edmonton.
“I have shared the information with Seniors Minister Jeff Johnson, telling him that this was just one side of the story, but that I thought it was something he would want to look into and satisfy himself on,” said Bikman in an interview last week.
“I, of course, will be doing a follow-up with the CEO of Good Sams (Shawn Terlson) early next week. I spoke to him once before about this, and things seemed to improve for a short time, and then they’ve gone right back to the same pattern.”
During an evening meeting held at Bikman’s Taber office in late November, a group of 17 family members of current or previous residents, current and former employees, and at least one previous resident gave testimonials about their experiences with the DAL facility.
The majority of accounts were consistent in their criticism of Linden View’s operations with regard to poor food, overall cleanliness, a lack of properly-trained staff, and allegations about management of the facility.
“If the issues are legitimate, as the people that we met with claim they are, then I suspect that a representative from the minister’s office (Seniors) will attempt to verify that,” said Bikman. “They will likely themselves talk with Shawn (Terlson, Good Sams CEO), and they may request one of their people in the area do a drop in spot check. One of the things that came up in the meeting with concerned people is that the visits seem to be on a scheduled basis, so the management of Linden View know when they’re coming, and so they can be on their best behaviour.”
Randomized checks rather than scheduled inspections of these kinds of facilities by government health officials needs to be implemented, and could go a long way to help to rectify some of the issues that have been raised, according to Bikman.
“That, I think, is what’s required, and if they aren’t doing that, then I don’t think they’re doing their job. I think the government’s obligation is to monitor this, and likewise, Shawn Terlson (Good Sams CEO) — whether it’s he himself that makes a visit, or someone else — there needs to be spot checks. You don’t get a true picture if you warn someone you’re coming in.”
The Linden View DAL facility is currently operated by The Good Samaritan’s Society, a non-profit organization which receives significant public funding from the provincial government for its operations.
“These are people that built our province. I think everybody feels an appreciation for them, and I think the government wants to do what’s right, but I don’t think that the degree of oversight that’s needed is in fact happening, and I don’t think the funding is always followed up on,” said Bikman. “They expect more and more for less and less, and so I think that puts pressure on some of these providers because they may be doing all they can afford to do.”
According to The Good Samaritan Society’s chief financial officer Sindy Thompson, for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, the Linden View facility received $5.8 million in total funding from Alberta Health Services. Accommodation fees charged to residents range from $1,646 per month for a studio suite to $2,162 per month for a one bedroom.
Bikman reiterated that complaints against facilities like Linden View are often taken as an attack on the entire staff or management, an idea that discounts there are always dedicated individuals devoted to care at every facility in the province.
“There’s turnover, because it isn’t the most pleasant job. And the people that are treating it as a job probably leave sooner rather than later. The people who have a sense of it being almost like a calling, or an honour to serve these wonderful elderly people, they are the ones that stick around, and they also are the ones that get the most frustrated when the system itself within a health care facility is inadequate, or seems to be systematically impacting their ability to do the job they can sense needs to be done.”
Responding to the allegations made about the Linden View facility in an interview last week, the Good Samaritan Society’s president and CEO, Shawn Terlson, indicated Linden View has always passed provincial audits for cleanliness and other licensing requirements, defended the integrity of management, and dismissed allegations of resident mistreatment.
“I don’t want to necessarily bring it up in the legislature in any sort of embarrassing way, but I did table some of the information that was sent to me,” said Bikman. “You have to table five copies. And I gave some of that material to Minister Johnson, behind the scenes. But I’m not out there to all the province proclaiming that there are problems with Linden View — I just said there’s some people that raised some concerns, and I’m going to share that.”
This isn’t the first time Bikman has heard whispers about the quality of care provided at similar facilities across the province.
“I have heard from some other MLAs that these things occur from time to time, and that’s why I was trying to be careful with my answer. You are dealing with seniors, you are dealing with a finite amount of money available to provide this care. Sometimes when we put our parents or the elderly in these kinds of facilities, we may have higher expectations than can actually be met. That’s why I wanted the seniors minister, who would be in a position to be objective, to take a look at this. I have certainly talked with other MLAs who have said they have heard similar kinds of complaints from time to time.”