What is Trellis, exactly? A corporate structure revealed

An artist’s rendition of Silverstone, the proposed Trellis long-term care home in Sechelt

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.

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.

The husband of a resident of Simon Fraser Lodge claimed this meal of green beans and an omelette was served to his wife

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 with Vancouver Coastal Health for two new care homes in North Vancouver and Richmond, to be built soon.

An artist’s rendition of Creekstone Care Centre in North Vancouver

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.

In the fall of 2017, 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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9 comments

  1. Wow! An organizational graphic for this set of entangled private corporate relationships would look like a plate of spaghetti! Looks like Ms. McDougall specializes in clever organizational devices to avoid accountability and/or liability in delivering services to vulnerable elders.

    1. Yes, and tracking them requires a high degree of technical skills that I didn’t have. I started to track this organization. I couldn’t track them Provincially because of the cost of accessing incorporation information, but I could Federally and to some extent internationally. I started a data base of all the companies I could link and track. Incorporation dates, closures, buyouts, CEO’s, board members, office addresses etc. About 3 months in, when starting on UK companies, my computer crashed. I got a very nasty virus that killed two PC’s and my lap top.
      It took me months to get rid of totally because I’d backed up my data and the virus along with it. I lost everything, not just my data base – everything – non recoverable. I also made an inquiry about Ms. McDougall and her appointment to a BC governement office in response to which I was basically interrogated and refused information about the date of her apointment and who appointed her. Yes, it is a plate heaped with spaghetti, heavily covered with thick layers of sauce and cheese and hidden ingredients.

  2. It’s like a spider’s web, intricate, entangled and sticky — will for sure be spun to catch its vulnerable prey (that is services for profit, not for people) if Trellis is in charge!

    Vanc Coastal Health – Remember the promise to actually meet and listen to the community?

    We in the community are ready to meet and work with Vancouver Coastal for a community based solution that will deliver quality services to meet so many critical needs, will respect the previous contributions of the staff (living wages and decent working conditions), and will meet the geographical needs of residents and family members along the whole lower coast.

  3. There is one simple way to resolve the hospital’s overcrowding and meet the short and long term needs needs of all communities – increased home care services. It requires no land purchase, no new building, the infrastructure is already in place and it is in keeping with findings that people want to stay at home. All that is needed is the intention and more staff. The only way it will happen is if provincial and local healthcare authorities stop their discriminatory dump of those in need of long term care. If our health authorities true intention was to meet the needs of this community, or any community, all they have to do is increase home care supports. It is the easiest, fastest and most efficient and beneficial solution for all, and it could happen virtually over night. The fact that this solution is not even on the table is indicative of the health authorities mandate to dissociate itself from a faction of our society. This underlying fiat is blatant but rarely addressed, and it is discrimination of the worst kind.

    1. Bravo Nancy. A much needed alternative to warehousing. Our elderly have worked all their lives and deserve better than what we are providing. It seems the only way to get services is to declare a problem a medical issue (see fentanyl crisis) and then we provide a medical answer. Surely growing old is a societal challenge. It is being met in Scandinavia and several European countries with creative solutions maintaining individual rights and respect – long walks substituting for being tied in a chair and drugged. You are underlining an immediate solution while we dig deeper into what the elderly really need. Really good food and feeling connection being essential to maintaining health. Thank you.

  4. I would like to know if the staff and councils of Sechelt and Gibsons have read this article as well as the officials at Vancouver Coastal Health. They certainly need to as it raises many red flags. If they ignore these facts it begs the question of dissociation mentioned in the comment above. After reading this article I am appalled that these people have got as far as they have. It reeks of greed.

    1. Care homes are now considered a great investment – better than oil. I understand other provinces have much better care homes than we do. Ontario and Alberta for sure. How have we allowed this?

  5. This issue affects us all. It is the sign of a community that is really not working properly. We need more homecare and not-for-profit care centres, perhaps integrated with childcare or housing. Young people could live in the retirement homes and in exchange for spending time socializing with the elderly, can have lower rents..it’s done in other countries.

  6. Public input and debate has been excluded from this process and is desperately needed. Recent local editorials, along with government and corporate releases, are filled with vague and inaccurate information. The strong wide-spread public opposition is now being attributed to one lone ‘particular’ group. The dollar figures tossed around in the last Coast Reporter, lost revenue from land sales, permit fees, taxes, etc. tell the whole story. Follow the money. You “dither” you lose. Play the game. They are talking about our health care dollars, our tax dollars, land donated and designated for public services. They are talking about our community and our future.

    The ‘players’ neglect to inform the public that staffing and service requirements in extended care facilities are not dictated by Vancouver Coastal Health, they are dictated by the Act under which the facility falls. Facilities that fall under The Hospital Act differ from those under the Community Health Care Act and do not require the same level of service and staffing. I’m not able to identify which Act organizations like Good Sam fall under, and can’t imagine which Act will cover a First Nations/Private Corporation facility. These governing Acts need to be clearly defined and spelled out for the public. Without full understanding of the impact of these Acts, inaccurate and contradictory information goes unchallenged.

    The ‘players’ fail to address the immeasurable benefit and value of the many volunteers and services whose support is integral to the well being of extended care patients. These services will cease under privatization and further jeopardize well being and quality of care.

    There will be short-term employment gains during construction, but unlikely to benefit local companies. There will be no long-term jobs gained. There is no guarantee of rehire. Health care workers have already been promised lower wages, no full time work and no benefits.

    How the physician’s group moved from a position of opposing privatization to their recent demand to pushed the deal through at all costs without even addressing the above issues is unfathomable.

    Without public input and demand for full disclosure, the game will play out and there will be only one winner. The prize going to a corporation with no ties to the community. An entity which will sell out as soon targeted profits are procured.

    The next time I start to shudder over the insane choice of those south of to elect a president such that they did, I will redirect my incredulousness to what is unfolding in my own back yard.

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