UPDATE: Florentine residents treated ‘like luggage’ following end of long-term care | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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UPDATE: Florentine residents treated ‘like luggage’ following end of long-term care

The Florentine
Image Credit: Google Maps
May 27, 2021 - 7:30 AM

A Merritt relative of residents at The Florentine says those in the long-term part of the facility are being shipped across the province “like luggage” after the decision was made to no longer offer long-term care. 

The Florentine owner Frank Rizzardo said, in a previous interview with iNFOnews, due to staffing shortages and Interior Health’s intervention, long-term care would no longer be offered at the facility. The care home has 20 long-term care and 51 assisted-living suites.

The care home has been managed by the health authority which appointed an administrator in March due to “challenges with its site leadership, care planning, staff education and training, and reporting,” according to the health authority’s press release.

READ MORE: Long-term care dropped from Merritt home due to staffing issues, IH intervention

The only other care home that offers long-term care in town is Gillis House which is currently full, said Ellen Miller, whose mother and mother-in-law live at The Florentine. Her mother, 87, is currently in assisted living and her mother-in-law, 93, will need to be relocated to a new care home.

Interior Health told them to choose three facilities and the health authority would try and accommodate the residents depending on availability. If residents aren’t able to get their first pick, they can move to another facility before a spot opens up, Miller said.

“The most vulnerable people (are) being shipped around like they’re luggage and a lot of these people have Alzheimer’s to the point they don’t know where they are,” Miller said. 

READ MORE: Administrator appointed to Merritt care home to 'stabilize' operations

Miller’s mother-in-law has early onset dementia.

“Some days she totally understands what you’re talking about and some days, she’s just so confused. Right now, she thinks everybody’s already moved out and she’s the only one there,” she said.

The Florentine is one of the few facilities that will also take couples into one room, she said.

Interior Health told her she had a year to find a new location for her mother-in-law, but the care home’s owner wants them out before winter, she said.

“(Interior Health officials go) on and on around in circles about what they’re going to do. They’ve got more people with titles in there doing nothing,” Miller said.

Her mother is also about six to eight months away from entering long-term care due to arthritis.

“That’s why we moved both our mothers there, because the choices were you could start out in assisted living and if you needed critical care it’s right there,” she said.

Miller has a sister in Abbotsford, so they plan to move her mother there, but were told it's a six- to 18 month-wait anywhere in that area for her mother-in-law.

Most of her family is also in Merritt, she said.

“What about the cost? These people are all paying a certain amount here, and you guys shove them to another home and the cost goes up, what if they can’t afford it?” she said.

She would like to see Interior Health take over The Florentine. Rizzardo said he was willing to sell the building to the province but his offer didn't generate a response.

“In a few years, what are they going to do with all the people moving in here that need help?” Miller said.

She shared her experience on Facebook in hopes that it would bring awareness to the issue.

“It’s wrong, just moving these people, I think it’s wrong,” she said.

In an emailed statement, an Interior Health spokesperson wrote the decision to appoint an administrator came following inspections at the site over a period of several months and the health authority has reached out to residents and families after the owner's decision to relinquish the facility's long-term care licence.

"IH staff are working with residents and families directly to identify their options including relocation to licensed beds. Resident and family preferences and individual care needs of individuals who are impacted by the owner’s decision, are of primary importance," according to the health authority.

"Interior Health has established a transition team and we have and are meeting with families. Our administrator and team are now working with residents and their families to ensure a smooth transition, and are providing continued support at each step. The relinquishing of The Florentine’s long-term care licence does not affect the management of assisted living beds at the site."

Interior Health did not answer the question of whether the health authority could take over the care home permanently, nor did the health authority provide an answer about a timeframe for residents to move out of the complex.

The best case scenario is for Interior Health to take over the facility, but Rizzardo would consider keeping long-term care if he could find staff that would sign long-term contracts, something he's struggled to find, he said.

"If you know of any LPNs looking for work, if you know any care aids that are interested in seniors and making sure they get the best of care, then we'd like to hear from them," he said.

The resolution to the long-term problem is to have complex care in Merritt, he said. He also suggested to have long-term care residents move out before winter because moving during the winter is not ideal. The residents have 12 months to move out of the complex.

Interior Health is trying to meet with each of the families to get their perspective and their wishes, but it's kind of hard to meet that expectation and avoid having residents move out of the city when there isn't any options.

"You're between a rock and a hard place," Rizzardo said.

-— This story was updated at 4:38 p.m. Thursday, May 27, 2021 to include comment from Frank Rizzardo. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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