By Trevor Busch
Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Gary Bikman is confident recent concerns raised by constituents about Taber’s designated assisted living facility Linden View are being addressed by the facility’s operator.
Bikman spoke last week with Good Samaritan Society president and CEO Shawn Terlson, who detailed the results of a meeting with concerned staff and family members which took place at Linden View on Dec. 8.
“I’m completely satisfied that he and the team — he brought a complete team down to review Linden View, and to meet with the 17 people that met that evening — he and his team completely understand the issues and concerns, and have investigated them fully, and they will be acting on the concerns that they’ve verified were relevant,” said Bikman. “I know that they’re committed to doing all that their mandate is within the town of Taber for the residents of their facility, as well as the staff at the facility, and the people whose loved ones are in the facility — those that are probably most directly concerned about their elderly being cared for.”
Bikman did not personally attend the Dec. 8 meeting, which saw concerned constituents meet with Good Samaritans Society corporate officials, and members of the local media were not invited.
The Linden View DAL facility is currently operated by The Good Samaritan Society, a not-for-profit organization which receives significant public funding from the provincial government for its operations.
Concerns about the facility were originally raised during an evening meeting held at Bikman’s Taber office in late November, in which 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 serious allegations about management of the facility.
“Let’s just say that some of the issues that have been put to rest and dealt with are what people expected of the facility and what the facility is actually mandated (to do) by the government and funded to accomplish,” said Bikman.
“Expecting more than the facility is actually intended to provide, and there was some of that, and when Shawn (Terlson, Good Sams CEO) was able to bring that to the attention of some of the people, they said they remembered signing that, for example the cleanliness of the facility.”
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 pointed out that Linden View is not a long-term care facility, and some people remain confused about just what is and what isn’t provided as care at a designated assisted living facility.
“The residents that go to live in that facility understand that the cleaning that is provided by that category of facility does not include all of the cleaning that some people thought it did. Even though they had signed the document and were made aware of it, they just kind of forgot that their elderly were expected to do some things on their own, or that they were expected to help them, because it isn’t a full assisted living facility. It’s a not a long-term care facility, and yet it’s being used to some extent as if it were a long-term care facility, because some have wanted to keep their loved ones nearer than Lethbridge or further away.”
Other concerned individuals have come forward and expressed their issues to Bikman with regard to the Linden View DAL facility since The Taber Times broke the story on Dec. 3.
“The other concerns that were expressed to me were of a similar nature to those that were shared, so it was more of a confirmation. A refrain that was common among three or four people that most recently contacted me was, ‘I wish I’d known about that meeting, I have some concerns, too.’ And they shared them with me, and I assured them that those concerns have been addressed.”
Bikman has also experienced criticism from other constituents who allege the original meeting with concerned citizens in November had been staged for publicity, or that he had overstepped the bounds of his role as an MLA by making an unsubstantiated attack on the facility.
“I’m sorry for the misunderstanding that’s occurred in terms of the role that I played, but I’m certainly not sorry that we took the time to listen to those people,” said Bikman. “Nonetheless, Shawn (Terlson, Good Sams CEO) feels bad that there’s been some misunderstanding with the community, and he hopes that the press release that he does issue will put to rest some of the concerns that people have and assure them that Good Samaritans is fully committed to its name. They recognize there’s a bit of a breakdown within the Alberta system, where facilities like his are expected to do things that long-term care facilities are intended to do, and it’s just regrettable that misunderstandings occur because of that.”
According to a Dec. 15 press release by the Good Samaritan Society, the organization is currently involved in a 360 degree investigation conducted by a team assembled and headed by Terlson, involving personal interviews and open discussions with current and former staff, and residents and families of those at Good Samaritan Linden View.
The release states interviews have identified areas of concern that have been recently reported in the media and the Good Samaritan Society has been provided positive feedback as well. In the meetings, it has been communicated that any changes that could be made within the power of the organization to benefit residents and staff would be made.
Concerns related to increased staffing, as funded by Alberta Health Services, are a systemic problem related to care models, however this issue is being addressed by Terlson at a provincial level through his board and incoming chair role with the Alberta Continuing Care Association.
The Dec. 15 release went on to indicate as the internal investigation continues, changes will be made at Good Samaritan Linden View.
“We take every complaint very seriously. Now that the concerns at Linden View have been brought to my personal attention, we are viewing them and the information gathered by our team through the lens of our mission, vision and values, as these are what we are committed to and how we model our behavior and thought,” said Terlson, in the press release. “I will be working to rebuild any relationships with the residents, families and the community that have been affected directly, or indirectly from the polarizing effect of additional attention to this issue. We are committed to resolving the issues. It’s not political, it’s simply about ensuring our mission, vision and values are maintained, to care for those in our facility and ensure our staff is respected.”
According to various sources regarding a Good Samaritans Society internal email communication, Linden View site manager Michelle Day has since been placed on administrative leave, although this remains unconfirmed by Good Samaritan Society corporate officials.
Attempts to reach Good Samaritan Society president and CEO Shawn Terlson for personal comment on the Dec. 3 meeting were unsuccessful.