Trellis president Mary McDougall is involved in a web of companies operating long-term care homes in different parts of BC
(by Margot Grant) Trellis Seniors Services Ltd. intends to build and operate a long-term care home with 128 beds at 571 Shaw Road in Gibsons. According to its website, construction is expected to begin later this year, with opening projected for early 2019.
Trellis is under contract with Vancouver coastal Health (VCH) to build and operate Silverstone, a long-term care facility in Sechelt. The care home would replace Shorncliffe and Totem Lodge, but after opposition from the community, Trellis is now looking at building in Gibsons. It is unknown if VCH will accept an amendment to the contract.
In the interim, Trellis is keeping its rezoning application for Silverstone in place while it awaits the results of the District of Sechelt’s community-review process.
But what is Trellis, exactly? A corporate search shows two directors for Trellis Seniors Services Ltd. —president Mary McDougall and secretary Dan McDougall, with the same address in North Vancouver. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Trellis Seniors Services Ltd. has no key executives.
Mary McDougall is also president and CEO of Trellis Group.
Mary and Dan McDougall have two other corporate entities. The development agreement with VCH to build Silverstone in Sechelt was signed not by Trellis, but by Silverstone Care Centre Limited Partnership, represented by its general partner, Silverstone Care Centre Ltd. Mary McDougall was listed as president, and Silverstone Care Centre Ltd. was incorporated on February 29, 2016, with Mary and Dan McDougall as sole directors.
The agreement with VCH stated that VCH would not be paying for the construction of the Sechelt facility; a fifth company, Castle Seniors Properties Ltd., was the main investor, and Mary and Dan McDougall are the sole directors of Castle. Trellis Senior Services Ltd. was the guarantor for the partnership.
This summer, Sechelt’s planning and community development committee decided to hold off on drafting zoning and OCP amendments for Trellis’ Silverstone project after opposition from the community.
Trellis Seniors Services Ltd. operates three care homes in the province: Brocklehurst Gemstone Care Centre in Kamloops, Haven Hill Retirement Centre in Penticton and Simon Fraser Lodge in Prince George.
The Interior Health Authority (IHA) found what it called “serious problems” at Haven Hill Retirement Centre in 2015. IHA found the facility had incomplete care plans, did not follow wound care policy, had unlabeled non-resident items such as razors and nail clippers in all tub rooms, and had heavy damages to walls.
There have been complaints about Simon Fraser Lodge in Prince George as well. The food was “terrible, repetitive, and of poor quality,” the husband of a resident alleged in 2015.
Liz Catarino, general manager of the facility, acknowledged that there had been concerns about food quality and presentation. Management shared these concerns, she said, and changes and improvements were announced.
Mary McDougal was involved with Brocklehurst, Haven Hill and Simon Fraser Lodge in another way: she was president of Buron Healthcare Ltd., which provided care services at the facilities.
She was also president of Buron Healthcare Group.
Both companies, as well as Buron Holdings Ltd., and Buron Construction Inc., an American company, share the same address at 1177 West Hastings Street in Vancouver.
On May 12, 2017, three days after the provincial election, Buron Healthcare Ltd. donated $10,000 to the BC Liberal party. The company had made earlier donations: $15,000 in 2005 and $3,000 in 2006.
Buron Healthcare Ltd. is affiliated with Riverside Retirement Centre Ltd., a 130-bed residential care facility in Kamloops.
Trellis Senior Services Ltd. operates the facility. Stonebridge Financial Corporation arranged a $23-million deal with Industrial Alliance Insurance and Financial Services Inc. in 2012 to build Riverside Retirement Centre.
Trellis Seniors Services Ltd. has signed contracts Vancouver Coastal Health for two new care homes in North Vancouver and Richmond, to be built soon.
Privately owned healthcare facilities need money to build, and investors want a return on their money. The operators also want to make money. Regional health authorities pay privately-owned facilities a fixed amount per resident while low-income residents are charged the same rates as in publicly-owned homes.
Money can be saved on the quality of food, but the private-care business model is really predicated on lower labour costs, says Jennifer Whiteside, spokesperson for the Hospital employees Union: “That’s the only place for private operators to make a profit.”
In 2004-2006, Mary McDougall was president and chief operating officer of Retirement Concepts, the biggest privately held residential care company in B.C. At Nanaimo Seniors Village, Retirement Concepts created a new company, of which it owned 99 per cent, and transferred employees’ contracts to that company, lowering wages by $10 per hour. Retirement Concepts claimed it had no control over wages and benefits of another company. In 2006, the B.C. Ministry of Labour forced Retirement Concepts to pay back $729,761.87 in wages and an administrative penalty.
From October 2008 until September 2011, Mary McDougall was a member of the finance committee of the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), whose role is “to ensure that BC residents have access to a coordinated provincial network of high-quality specialized health-care services.”
Currently, Mary McDougall is a board member of the provincial government’s Board Resourcing and Development Office. The board provides information about and for authorities, boards, commissions, corporations and councils in B.C., and the people who are appointed to serve on them.
Mary McDougall is a board member and past president of the BC Care Providers Association, a member of the Canadian Association of Management Consultants (CMC-Canada), and a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of BC.
A few weeks ago, the government appointed three new members to the VCH board: Dr. Margaret McGregor, Vi Nguyen and Wendy Au.
McGregor has done extensive research comparing the quality of care in for-profit, not-for-profit, and public seniors care facilities. Earlier this year, she told a long-term care forum in Sechelt “the evidence consistently finds that for-profit facilities, on average, provide fewer hours of care when compared to public, and a lesser extent non-profit facilities.” The for-profits have lower staffing levels, more frequent hospital transfers for patients, more complaints, and inspections show more shortcomings, she said.
Mary McDougall declined to comment on this story. A communications advisor for Trellis Seniors Services Ltd. said in an email that “Vancouver Coastal Health is conducting their comprehensive due diligence about the location of the care home [on the Sunshine Coast]. We await their decision.”
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