Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Kamloops seniors’ care home part of proposed sale to Chinese company

Kamloops seniors’ care home part of proposed sale to Chinese company

  
Kamloops Seniors Village on Hugh Allan Drive in Aberdeen is part of the Retirement Concepts chain of care homes in B.C., Alberta and Quebec. Cedar Tree Investment Canada, a Canadian subsidiary of Anbang Insurance Group in China, wants to spend about $1 billion to buy a majority stake in the company. Dave Eagles/KTW
While the federal government has yet to weigh in, the Chinese insurance company seeking to buy a majority share in the province’s biggest retirement-home chain has promised nothing will change if the plan is approved.
The Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU) representing many of those workers, however, is calling on the province and Ottawa to reject the sale to an offshore investor while the health ministry says it is not concerned and does not believe patients will see a change in the level of care.
The company that has made the bid — an estimated $1 billion, according to experts — to buy the majority stake in Retirement Concepts is Cedar Tree Investment Canada, a Canadian subsidiary of Anbang Insurance Group in China.
The Globe and Mail has reported Cedar Tree was incorporated four months ago and has listed two directors with the same names and addresses as the financial company Anbang used to buy a controlling interest in the Bentall Centre in Vancouver last year.
Retirement Concepts owns 24 seniors-care facilities in B.C., Alberta and Quebec, including Kamloops Seniors  Village.
“Cedar Tree has assured patients, families and staff that it does not intend to make any changes to day-to-day operations,” Health Ministry Terry Lake said in a statement.
“We expect this change to be seamless and that the patients residing in these facilities will continue to get the same quality of care.”
The Investment Canada Act requires federal review of the proposed sale because it involves a non-Canadian entity trying to acquire control of a Canadian business with a value that exceeds $600 million.
That means Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains will have to make a decision on letting the sale proceed.
Of more than 130 assisted living and residential-care services companies in B.C., Retirement Concepts bills the most. In the 2015-2016 fiscal year, Victoria paid the company $86.5 million.
In a statement issued through a Vancouver public-relations firm, Cedar Tree said “there will be no change to staffing plans, the quality of care provided to our residents, nor to our policies, procedures and other operating standards.
“Retirement Concepts will continue to manage and operate the properties and there will be no change to the staff or senior leadership team at either the community or corporate level.“
HEU, however, is asking the two levels of government to use their regulatory powers to reject the sale.
About 1,850 of its members work at Retirement Concepts sites in B.C.
“Allowing this sale to proceed would represent a major loss of accountability and control over the provision of seniors’ care,” said Jennifer Whiteside, the union’s secretary-business manager.
“And it would send a clear signal to global investors that seniors’ care and other health services in this province are for sale to the highest bidder. Unfettered foreign investment in our health-care system is the wrong direction for British Columbians.”

Union concerned with potential sale

There’s only one answer the Health Employees’ Union wants to hear from Ottawa about the potential Anbang/Retirement Concepts sale — a foreign company should not be able to buy into Canadian health care.
Neil Monckton, an HEU communications officer, said the B.C. government has the power to refuse to issue a licence to run a facility like Kamloops Seniors Village in Kamloops, one of the Retirement Concepts properties.
About 200 HEU employees work at the facility on Hugh Allan Drive in Aberdeen.
Monckton said there are contracting-out provisions in the current collective agreement to ensure job security for the term of the contract, which expires at the end of 2018.
But he added there are other ways to get rid of employees, including changes to hours and conditions of work or decreasing the number of care aides and replacing them with licensed practical nurses, who are represented by another union.
The potential sale of the chain to the Chinese insurance company, estimated by many to be worth more than $1 billion, has to be reviewed at the federal level because it exceeds a $600-million threshold for foreign investment.
Kristy Anderson, director of media relations for the B.C. Ministry of Health, said once the review is done, it falls to the relevant health authority’s medical health officer to decide if a licence will be issued.
If it is, Anderson said, “we expect the transition to be seamless and that the patients residing in these facilities will continue to receive the same quality of care.”
The HEU, however, has heard concerns from its members their working hours and conditions could be affected.
Anderson said regulations the ministry has in place are designed to protect patient care regardless of who owns the company.
Those regulations, Anderson said, give the medical officer of health the right to ask for an extensive list of information, including site plans, monthly revenues and expenditures, copy of the purchase agreement or lease, description of the program of care and proof of liability insurance as part of this review.
“If the applicant is a corporation, the medical health officer can also request a list of the directors and officers of the corporation, and an identified individual who agrees to be available to respond to inquiries from the director of licensing or to the medical health officer within 24 hours of a request,” Anderson said.