BCGEU calls on Minister of Health and Interior Health Authority to investigate public funding and contract flipping at privately owned Spring Valley

VANCOUVER, July 12, 2012 /CNW/ - The BCGEU is calling on the government to justify the use of public funds at a Kelowna seniors' facility that continues to flip contracts to reduce costs and drive down wages. In a letter sent to Mike de Jong, BC's Minister of Health; and Robert Halpenny, President and CEO, Interior Health Authority, BCGEU voiced its concerns over provincial government funding of for profit private healthcare. These concerns were raised on the same day that direct care services for seniors at Spring Valley seniors' home, a residential care facility owned by Park Place Seniors Living in Kelowna, is being handed over to a new contractor. 

Park Place Seniors Living -- Spring Valley's owner/operator -- chose to terminate the contract with its existing care provider and contract with another company to provide care. This is the second time Park Place has enabled full contracting out of care services in the past nine years. 

Advocare Health Services, a subcontractor at Spring Valley, issued lay off notice to 130 health care aides and health care assistants in May. The approximately 90 workers who have been hired back under the new contractor will be working for up to $3 an hour less to perform the same work. Many have worked at the facility for decades. 

Spring Valley residents will now be faced with a lack of continuity of care, which research has indicated leads to poor quality care for seniors. "Putting profits ahead of seniors care just isn't good enough. Our seniors deserve better," says BCGEU President Darryl Walker. "On behalf of our 65,000 members I would like to send a message of appreciation to the workers who are out of their jobs today who are facing a difficult challenge in balancing their desire to provide quality care for seniors with the pressure of losing their job and having to choose to work for less." 

"We are concerned because it is another attempt by an employer to drive down the wages of health care workers, as a result of Bill 29," says Darryl Walker. "This also becomes a gender issue, as most of the workers impacted are women."

The passage of Bill 29 in 2002 allowed care facilities to contract out care and support services to reduce costs. The Supreme Court of Canada struck down key parts of Bill 29 in 2007, but it did not restore contracting-out protections to health care workers. 

"We owe B.C. seniors quality care. We also owe workers a decent standard of living. This means retaining trained and knowledgeable care aides in seniors' care facilities," says Walker. The BCGEU is calling on the BC government to safeguard existing, dedicated and experienced employees any time a health care contract is retendered. In addition BCGEU would like the BC government to investigate the current funding directed to Park Place Seniors Living at Spring Valley and ensure that it is being used in the best public interest and to protect standards of care for seniors.

SOURCE B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

For further information:

Holly Reid, BCGEU Communications, 604-785-0124,

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B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

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