Some of the 294 frail seniors who were moved into the $86-million Summit seniors care facility in Victoria this week were happy, some were bewildered, but none were hurt.
“It went really well,” said Mark Blandford, executive director for primary care and seniors health at Island Health. “We had a good plan and we didn’t have any major issues.”
Over three days ending on Monday, residents from Oak Bay Lodge and Mount Tolmie long-term care home were moved amid a pandemic into The Summit, a publicly funded 320-bed residential complex-care and dementia-care facility at 955 Hillside Ave.
The most nerve-wracking day was the first, said Blandford, based on the anticipation and imagining everything that could go wrong.
“You plan for the worst-case scenarios,” said Blandford, citing an adverse event such as a heart attack while in transport.
An emergency operations centre approach was in place and each problem that came up — a broken fridge, a missing truck — was dealt with as a major event.
“The residents arrived safely and we were ahead of scheduled all three days,” said Blandford. “It was heartwarming, the residents as they came, some were bewildered but some were very happy because they were in substandard space before.”
Having said that, despite the efficiencies and amenities and niceties that come with the new building, the “heart” of any seniors home is the connection that residents have with staff, said Blandford, adding he saw many scenes that were evident of that.
The most frail and people with complex issues were priorities for moving first, followed by those in wheelchairs and finally those able to walk.
At all three sites, staff put in long days, working 5:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. Friday through Monday while residents — each with an individual time slot and assigned van — moved from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Six wheelchair-equipped vans were in use with rehabilitation assistants and recreation staff and occupational therapists acting as drivers and accompanying the residents who were all stable. The company Health Care Relocation did the heavy lifting, orchestrating much of the move.
Two weeks prior a designated family member was allowed into either Oak Bay Lodge or Mount Tolmie to pack up personal belongings for residents so that when they arrived favourite photographs or blankets decorated the room.
“Their room was as close to being personalized as we could make it,” said Blandford. “It wasn’t perfect because in the plan without COVID the families would have gone in and placed a favourite armchair, for example. None of that has happened, that will happen after COVID.”
The Greater Victoria Eldercare Foundation left welcome gifts.
Mount Tolmie and Oak Bay Lodge have had a final clean and equipment has been removed.
Mount Tolmie, an Island Health owned facility, is reserved for the pandemic response in the fall, while the fate of Oak Bay Lodge is being debated in that municipality.
Island Health has put a hold on admissions to The Summit until July 27 while the residents stabilize after their move, said Blandford.
After that the remaining beds will be filled with people on the waitlist.
People on a waitlist for long-term care generally go to the first available bed before being transferred to their preferred choice afterward.
Construction of The Summit began in 2016 and was completed this year. Plans to open the facility in April were put on hold in case the building had to be used as a field hospital during the pandemic, but that was not needed because of relatively low virus-transmission rates.