Happyspeak press releases never tell the true story

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ya gotta love happyspeak.

It’s something that isn’t easy for everyone to do — that magical way of spinning words to make something that is really not so great sound absolutely spectacular.

Take the recent press release from the Interior Health Authority.

“Ponderosa Lodge to remain open to meet needs of Kamloops seniors.”

Wow. That’s super.

The facility they’ve been threatening to shut down for years is going to stay open. Reassuring, for sure.

Read a bit more and one discovers that, actually, Ponderosa is staying open with 42 beds for seniors.

Hmmm. Doesn’t it have more beds than that number?

Don’t expect to find the figure in the press release. Nowhere does it say the IHA is actually reducing the number of beds at Ponderosa Lodge from 114 to 42.

Shutting down 72 beds just doesn’t sound nearly as positive as “meet the needs of the local community, with 42 transitional beds.”

Read on and you discover Minister of Health George Abbott sees closing 72 beds and keeping just 42 open “will help ensure our seniors continue to receive the best possible care as they move into their golden years.”

Well, yes, that too is spinning the words. His quote was actually in reference to the provincial government investing in 5,000 new beds for seniors in the province, including 190 in Kamloops this year.

Those would be beds in residential-care buildings built and run by for-profit companies, including the one mentioned in the press release‚ Ridgeview Lodge at 920 Desmond Ave. in Brocklehurst.

It’s opening on Sept. 3 and, according to the press release, “current residents at Ponderosa will move to their new home at Ridgeview Lodge or one of the other residential-care facilities in Kamloops.”

Ridgeview only provides comprehensive care for seniors. That would include 24-hour professional nursing service, 24-hour direct care by trained resident-care aides, the services of a registered dietitian to develop menus, daily recreational and music therapies, services of a physiotherapist and occupational therapist to assess resident needs, and then all those other neat little things, like secured entrances and exits, lounges, an outdoor courtyard and a mini-bus for those trips off-site.

All for the nifty price of $4,500 a month. That wasn’t included in the press release extolling the value of Ridgeview Lodge, but a quick e-mail to Dea Godfrery, human resources co-ordinator for the Baltic Properties Group — which owns and will run the new facility —came back with that information.

Let’s leave that rental amount for now — although many of you may still staring at those numbers, and the comma separating them, in complete incredulity.

Beds are being closed.

What about the staff? How many will lose their jobs?

Nothing in the press release about that, either, although it does quote Claire Ann Brodie, IHA’s director of home and community care for the Thompson-Cariboo-Shuswap region, saying: “We are fortunate to have employees who have been here for a long time providing quality care to our seniors. Our goal is to work with these individuals to accommodate them at Ponderosa wherever possible. We are optimistic that remaining staff will be able to secure employment given the current employment environment.”

Got any idea what that means?

Call IHA’s communications office and get one of its staff, Erin Toews.

Apparently, no one at IHA has any idea how many staff will be out of work with this closure. They’ve got to work with the union representing staff “to create a transition plan. There are a lot of steps to determine what it will look like.”

And, Toews adds, they won’t have any firm idea until the end of summer, when Ridgeview opens.

Although, to her credit, she did acknowledge there are only so many staff you need with just 42 beds to operate.

So here’s a rewritten version of this happy press release:

“IHA is shutting down 72 beds, sending seniors out to find a place in a facility that’s run by a private company and where the rents are in the thousands of dollars monthly. Staff will lose their jobs but, heck, B.C.’s economy is booming so they’ll find something somewhere."

It’s not happyspeak — but this is not something that inspires happiness.