Michael Wortis stares at the captured moments tacked to the wall of his wife Ruth’s room at Delta View Habilitation Centre.
He sees the couple’s ocean kayaking trips, hiking excursions – and the way Ruth danced. Alzheimer’s has robbed Ruth of those memories since 2002 when she was diagnosed.
Five days a week, 75-year-old Michael makes the trek from where he lives in Burnaby to the specialized, mental health residential facility on Burns Drive in East Delta. Ruth arrived there by way of transfer from Riverview Hospital’s geriatric psychiatry building, Valleyview, which permanently closed last fall.
“We were hoping we would have a period of stability after all this moving,” said Michael.
Alzheimer’s is an unpredictable illness. Ruth developed behavioural issues early on. Michael said it would take six care aids to change her diapers on bad days. But Ruth’s regimen has changed since moving to Delta View, reports Michael.
“We have been able to cut down on the medications that she is using,” he said.
He labels Delta View as a world-class facility for Alzheimer’s patients, where staff employ a gentle care philosophy: more personal attention and minimal amounts of drugs and restraints.
On June 18 a new wave of uncertainty hit when Michael learned, in nine months, Delta View’s almost 80 mental health beds will no longer be funded by the Fraser Health Authority. In a letter sent to patients’ families, Delta View stated it was ending its contract with Fraser Health.
Salim Devji, assistant administrator at Delta View, said budget talks between the health authority and the family-run facility broke down after months of back-and-forth negotiations earlier this year.
“Unfortunately all of the [budget] numbers [Fraser Health] gave us were below our cost,” said Devji. “[Fraser Health] sent us a letter stating on March 9  that the communications on the budget are over and this is your new rate.”
According to Devji, the previous funding rate was set at $315 per bed per day. He said Fraser Health “unilaterally” changed that number to $286 per bed per day, adding that Delta View will operate at a loss for the next nine months.
Dan Kipper, Fraser Health director of Mental Health and Substance Use Services, could not confirm what the new rates are; however, he did say Delta View’s budget was lowered to bring support costs in line with comparable residential programs funded by Fraser Health.
“Delta View certainly is staffed higher and we do fund that,” said Kipper. “And part of our negotiation we actually added in dollars for the staffing. [Delta View] wanted to go to more of a professional mix so we agreed to increase funding to fund an all nurse program versus LPN.”
Devji defended Delta View’s staffing levels – a ratio of one care-giver for every six residents – saying the state-of-the-art facility has extended patients’ lives by decades. Residents are kept physically and socially active through music therapy programs and other rehabilitation therapies.
Fraser Health is now tasked with finding mental health beds in the region by March 31 for displaced Delta View patients.
“Once we have those sites identified and the contracts negotiated we will be certainly letting families know and discussing it and doing transition planning with the families to facilitate the transfer of the patients from Delta View to those sites,” said Kipper.
As for the soon-to-be vacant Delta View Habilitation Centre, Devji said they will move to a private-pay model. Currently Michael pays $1,000 a month for Ruth’s bed at Delta View – an incredible bargain he said. Now he is left wondering where Ruth will be moved to next.
“Of course I’m worried,” he said. “I’m not looking forward to that day. I think [Fraser Health] ought to save [Delta View Habilitation Centre].”