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Interior Health suspends third-party home care contracts, leaves families worried

Abrupt change to home care

UPDATE 12:30 p.m.

Boyes disputes Interior Health's interpretation of how things unfolded.

"At no time did I, or anyone associated with my company, have contact with a representative of IH, stating we had no capacity of licensed care givers available to provide care," said Boyes in a statement to Castanet.

She adds that an email she received was the first and only communication between IH and herself that stated service was being (temporarily) pulled.

IH told Castanet on Monday that as of last weekend, Serendipity was back providing services in the great Trail area.


ORIGINAL 7 p.m.

An abrupt change to home care for some clients in the Trail, B.C. area has left the third-party care provider and families scrambling.

Sheila Snead contacted Castanet after she was blindsided by the change to home health support for her father. He is on the autism spectrum, has COPD, end-stage heart failure and expressive/receptive aphasia due to a stroke.

“Imagine having autism and everything drastically changes, then not being able to use or comprehend words in conversation. He is refusing anyone, but his old care team, [to] enter his home,” said Snead.

She says her father became upset and used profanity with the new team, telling them to get out of his home. Interior Health wanted to label him as ‘aggressive’ on his file, which Snead refused.

“He has no supports now, none. So that we can avoid having him labelled that on his file. Because that will follow him when he has to go to the hospital. That will do all sorts of things, like contemplating using restraints. We don’t want that. It’s a mess,” says Snead, who is worried that her father’s health will deteriorate.

Interior Health confirmed that on March 16, it suspended contracts with two third-party agencies who have been providing home support services in the greater Trail area because they did not meet the mandatory licensing requirements due to a staffing shortage of licenses or registered nurses.

“We know this decision impacts many home health care appointments, however, our top priority remains patient safety and requirements must be met to ensure that safe and quality care is provided. We are currently working with clients and their families to determine solutions to support those affected,” said IH in an email to Castanet.

One of the contractors is Serendipity Support Services, which has been in business since 2013. Owner Laurie Boyes says she was contacted five years ago by Interior Health about providing home care to some of its clients in the Trail area.

“We’ve always followed Interior Health’s protocols. We’ve always given the greatest care, the best care that we can.

“A week ago Thursday, I got an email that said, basically, at this time we are ending service with you, we’re taking all of our clients back. It was cut, dried and to the point,” said Boyes

She says she was told that moving forward, Serendipity would need to have one or two active registered nurses that would be able to sign off with their licenses on the care plans for the IH clientele. She was also informed that anyone working for the health authority had to have an active LPN, registered care aide or home support worker license.

Boyes says most of her staff are retired RNs or LPNs who let their licenses lapse when they retired. She doesn’t understand why the licensing issue is coming up now. She wants IH to fast-track the process so her staff can get their licenses.

“If you were an RN or an LPN, we would be highly qualified to be able to work as care aides in the community because we’ve got 60 or 70 years of experience between all of us that are working. But they want somebody that’s certified. That’s how this whole thing started,” she explains.

Interior Health says it is working on long-term solutions both with IH staff and contracted partners to resolve the issue. In the meantime, clients like Snead’s father are left wondering who will show up at their door.

“We had probably six clients in the community that were actually given to us by Interior Health and we were maintaining them for five years and they took them away from us. And, of course, all hell broke loose with family members,” Boyes adds.

She says two of her nurses were able to resume service last weekend, but she's not sure what will happen in the coming days.

Snead doesn’t blame Boyes or her staff, who she credits for building a rapport with her father that has helped improve his wellbeing.

She calls Interior Health’s decision to abruptly change care providers shameful. “It doesn’t make any sense to me.”



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