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More complex care beds planned in Fraser Health

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Fraser Health is seeking private partners to supply more than 400 new residential complex care and mental health beds in the Tri-Cities, Surrey and White Rock to house challenging elderly patients who can otherwise congest local hospitals.

More than half of the new beds – 216 – are earmarked for the Tri-Cities, while 95 are to be added in Surrey north of 40 Avenue and the remaining 92 would go to South Surrey/White Rock, although funding for that block of beds won't be available until spring of 2016.

Most of the new beds are to open in 2015.

Residential complex care beds are for higher risk patients who need 24-hour professional care for severe behavioural or cognitive problems, who can't be served through community services and can't safely live with caregivers at home.

Delta was cut out of the health authority's call for pre-qualifications.

That community is losing 70 publicly funded beds for older psychiatric patients at Delta View Habilitation Centre after a dispute over funding levels led operators to terminate their contract with Fraser Health.

Delta View would have liked to bid for the new beds, according to assistant administrator Aly Devji.

"I would have hoped they would have put together something that would have allowed us to continue operating funded care beds," he said.

Devji said allowing Delta View to bid could have avoided the need to relocate dozens of residents there to facilities in Surrey and Langley, while saving renovation costs.

"There's no capital investment required," he said of Delta View's soon-to-be-vacated beds. "We don't have to lose the team we've built over 20 years, which has really served the entire Lower Mainland."

Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma said the decision reflects growth patterns in the region.

"These three communities – the Tri Cities, Surrey and White Rock – have been identified as communities experiencing rapid population growth, especially in the number of seniors."

Juma said Fraser Health needs to add more beds in the community so those patients don't add to acute care congestion in hospitals.

The new beds, once open, are expected to cost Fraser Health $25 to $30 million a year in annual funding.

The health region currently has 7,700 residential care beds, 6,000 of which are contracted through private providers at a cost of $330 million per year.

Another 24 mental health beds are also promised in the Tri-Cities for adults over 19 with serious and persistent mental illness who may also have addictions.

Ed Helfrich, CEO of the B.C. Care Providers Association, welcomed the decision.

"Certainly Fraser has the aging population and population growth to justify the need for additional beds," he said.

Helfrich noted the call for pre-qualifications has a tight timeline – Nov. 30 for submissions – and bidders must already have the land available.

But he said a number of existing providers are likely in position to expand onto adjacent property.

Helfrich said the funding dispute at Delta View was unfortunate but he did not think that would stop either its operator or others from doing business with Fraser Health in the future.

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