OP/ED: Broadacres latest victim of globalization
Community support for the efforts of Rod Gustafson to provide a way for seniors to live out their last days in a comfortable setting close to family and loved ones has been overwhelming. Over the past year local residents have had to be sent to a variety of open beds available through Interior Health Authority (IHA) despite the rooms that Broadacres had to offer because of a fine line – the difference between a bed being paid for through provincial health system and being paid by individuals. Gustafson can be said to be visionary in his aim – as a registered nurse he saw that the growing population of our elders needed somewhere locally to live with full care and that there were not enough facilities here to fill that need. He took an existing facility and poured his heart and soul into its revitalization, not to mention his money. After completion and adjustments to bring it to the standards of provincial licencing, Broadacres was ready. Then he was told, wait, there is a process. A process that IHA is required to fulfill in all its contracting called tendering. And so the facility sat. While individuals could choose to pay privately for care at Broadacres, IHA – your tax dollars – could not use the rooms that were so carefully prepared. Many people who have attended the last two meetings with IHA and advocates for the Broadacres location have told stories of how their loved ones, people who have contributed to their community in many ways over their lives, had to experience being shipped away or living in acute care beds at the hospital waiting for a better service. Questions and frustrations are now targeted at IHA as they chose another contractor to build and provide a completely new service. Once again giving the impression they have overlooked Gustafson’s facility. These emotions have been a year building up and now have come to the surface in full force. What seems to be a hidden agenda by IHA to contract with large corporations is contrasted with the decision by a small business owner to proceed with a million dollar facility without complete information about the process. Gustafson has indicated that he was given a lot of implied messages that if the facility he envisioned was built that it could be of benefit to the IHA. Who gave this impression and just what those messages were only he will know, but as he stated himself why else would he proceed without some clear indication? Since the Liberal government was elected two terms ago there has been a trend toward larger scale contracting eliminating small operators from the mix, at least directly. More and more contracts are tendered for entire segments of the province in both social services and health, only filtering down to small local contractors as a sub-contract with the larger entity. Large corporations with track records are more likely to write better proposals, have all the information they need to be competitive, and have all their bases covered. Should the IHA be in a position to favour a local business? Should they make efforts to work with a small operator to mentor them to success? Would that constitute a bias? As a very financially stressed entity, should they take the best bid and move on? Our provincial government bodies have moved far away from committing to the position of supporting small, local businesses as a preference to a corporate model of governance targeted at the best bang for an ever shrinking buck. And this is just the beginning as new trade agreements such as CETA take us into a whole new realm of tendering where international corporations will be promised the option to bid for even the smallest contract. Are the days of the small home-grown businesses being given preference gone? Absolutely. And just where does that leave us? In a global marketplace with no support for local visionaries.
Systemic change is critical and it’s encouraging that the advocates for Broadacres are pursuing their dissatisfaction with IHA and the province’s contracting processes. A tough road to follow but critical to the future of community services in the best interest of local needs, not only the bottom line.