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Pine Acres Home to close as staff shortages 'compounded' by vaccine mandate

Westbank First Nation has announced that the Pine Acres Home long-term care facility will close.

Chief Christopher Derickson said the home is no longer feasible due to “unstable times” in healthcare and the recently introduced COVID-19 vaccine mandate for care workers.

It is proving too difficult to find enough staff to provide care to residents, the chief added.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic the home, which was established in 1983, was planning to expand its operations.

Now it is targeting a closing date sometime in January 2022, but will only go ahead with the closure once all residents have been moved to new homes.

<who> Photo credit: WFN

“Westbank First Nation is proud of being the only community with a long-term care facility on-reserve,” Chief Derickson said.

“For almost 40 years, we have provided quality care for our elders and seniors from other communities. Pre-COVID, our plan was to expand the facility, to enhance its long-term feasibility; but in these unstable times in the healthcare industry, compounded with the new public health order for mandatory COVID vaccinations for healthcare workers, we have found ourselves unable to continue to ensure sufficient staffing levels in providing high-quality care to our residents."

He added: “The staffing concerns by all stakeholders led us to make the difficult but necessary decision to provide notice to our membership, Pine Acres Home residents and their caregivers, Pine Acres Home staff, and Interior Health, that we will be beginning the transition towards closing Pine Acres Homes’ doors.”

The nation also explained that prior discussions with the membership had focused on whether the home was still meeting the needs of members, “particularly in light of the notable trend of [fewer and fewer] member-residents” at Pine Acres.

It added: “This current circumstance has provided WFN with an opportunity to rethink the future of its care delivery model, considering increased assisted living and aging-in-place options.

<who> Photo credit: WFN

“Moving forward, Interior Health will work closely with residents and families to plan and facilitate safe and smooth transitions to alternate care homes, for each person currently residing at Pine Acres. Interior Health is also supporting Pine Acres to ensure staff are aware of available job opportunities to continue working in long-term care in the Central Okanagan.”

The announcement comes just five days before the COVID-19 vaccine mandate comes into place for all health workers in BC.

Minister of Health Adrian Dix said on Tuesday that Interior Health has the highest rate of unvaccinated staff in the province at seven per cent.

On Oct. 26, all healthcare staff must be at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19 if they wish to continue working.

Last week, the province said 96 per cent of long-term care and 97 per cent of assisted living workers were at least partially vaccinated.

On Oct. 12, a vaccine mandate came into effect in those sectors, with 1,955 staff members not vaccinated at the time.

Those workers were placed on unpaid leave pending their vaccination.

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