Ombudsman Investigation Uncovers Potential Conflict of Interest

The Ombudsman of British Colombia has just released a report on seniors’ care in her province.  To read CARP’s summary of the report, please click here.  We received a question about the meaning of Recommendation 51:

Ensure the Office of the Assisted Living Registrar ceases to contract with the Health Employers Association for staff (R) 51

Below, we explain how this recommendation would curtail a potential conflict of interest inherent in the Office of the Assisted  Living Registrar’s Office staffing policies.  We also explain how this potential conflict of interest could result in inadequate and unreliable regulation:

The Office of the Assisted Living Registrar (OALR) was established by the Community Care and Assisted Living Act (CCALA) in 2003.  It’s mandate is “to protect the health and safety of assisted living residents.”  They do this by registering the residences, developing policies and procedures for them to follow and perhaps most importantly: by responding to complaints and concerns about the health and safety of assisted living residents.

The OALR is supposed to be part of the Ministry of Health (MOH) and is accountable to its minister, who designates the registrar.  It’s operating budget mostly comes from the Ministry of Health (in 2010/11their expenses totalled $494, 330 – $405, 299 of which came from the Ministry of Health.)  The rest was paid for through the modest fees that facility operators have to pay the OALR for application fees ($250 per application) as well as registration fees ($12.40 yearly per assisted living unit).  They also make a little bit of money by selling their registrant handbooks.

The OALR has three full time equivalent employees (FTEs) plus the registrar.  The Ministry of Health pays the registrar’s salary directly but the salaries of the other three staff are paid in a strange round-about way that creates a potential conflict of interest for those employees.  Since the OALR was created it has been contracting with the Health Employer’s Association of BC (HEABC) to get its staff.  The HEABC pays for the salaries of those three staff members and the Ministry of Health reimburses the HEABC for the cost of those salaries.

What the Ministry of Health should do is staff those positions directly with full time Ministry employees because they should not be staffed by HEABC employees.  It is inappropriate forThe OALR – (a government agency that is responsible for regulating assisted living residences, which are operated by agencies or individuals who are members of the HEABC) to be staffing their office with employees of the HEABC. It makes people question whether OALR staff are in a good position to act independently when processing applications, receiving complaints and conducting inspections of facilities that are operated by members of the same organization that employs them.

If there is a conflict of interest that results in poor oversight.  Seniors will suffer in the end.

To download a full copy of the report:

Click here to download “Best of Care Part 2 – Volume 1”

Click here to download “Best of Care Part 2 – Volume 2”