The Good Samaritan Society

A Lutheran Social Service Organization

The Good Samaritan Society (GSS) is a faith-based, not-for-profit registered charity with over 64 years’ experience providing complex continuing care and assisted and supported living and other specialized health and care services in innovative and caring environments. The GSS follows the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke, 10:29–37), which challenges us to continue to be mindful of those who are in need and are easy to pass by. In the spirit of compassion, the GSS works in supportive partnership and opens its heart to others by affirming their goodness and potential. The GSS provides safe, comfortable communities inspiring involvement where people experience a sense of caring, belonging and purpose, and leading through servant leadership in giving to others by acting with courage in an ethical manner.

Created in 1949, GSS built its first facility– a long-term care hospital in 1955 – and since then, has expanded throughout Alberta and B.C. to include continuing care centres, assisted living facilities, senior supportive housing, TeleCare Emergency Response services, seniors clinic and purpose-built homes for persons with developmental disabilities. GSS employs over 4,000 full-time, part-time, and casual employees, and has over 1,800 volunteers who serve independent elderly, frail elderly, mentally challenged, physically challenged and chronically ill. GSS currently serves over 6,800 individuals throughout their B.C. and Alberta facilities. The society holds an organization-wide, four-year exemplary status with Accreditation Canada, through 2014.

The GSS welcomed its new President, Shawn Terlson in June, 2013. As CEO, Terlson’s goal is to model the servant leadership of the GSS in relation to its mission, vision and values, and to design an accountability framework to ensure achievement of the strategic directions and goals. “The accountability framework has to ensure that the entire organization is moving in the same direction, focused on achieving the same results in fulfilling our mandate in providing quality care, building and maintaining quality accommodations, and ensuring that we have an effective and efficient administrative structure to support our quality agenda that will allow us to remain as a viable and sustainable organization into the future,” he says. “We have an accepted responsibility to care for our friends and loved ones in our facilities, a responsibility that requires us to create a sense of urgency, creating continued energy to succeed in fulfilling our vision to grow in strength, excellence and creativity in caring for others.”

GSS works in conjunction with Regional Health Authorities in Alberta and British Columbia, who provide a majority of funding (70 per cent) for the organization, with the remaining costs covered by accommodation revenues from clients and charitable donations—something Terlson says plays a vital role for GSS. “Without our charitable status and receiving funds from donations, bequests and fundraising events, we could not meet our mandate. We rely on it very heavily.”

An example of the care GSS provides is its dementia care model, in which dementia care is based on GSS’s  shared living model, an innovative residential model rooted in the of values of privacy, dignity, and choice in a homelike setting. Residents participate in daily activities typical of a home environment. “These types of opportunities are only possible in physical places that are autonomous and discrete. They are separated units so it doesn’t cause confusion for residents. GSS dementia care has been proven successful in meeting the needs of residents having mid-to-late stage dementia,” says Terlson.

The Christmas holidays are a special time for GSS. “In the winter months, hope comes from looking forward to the future. In our long-term care facilities, we encourage a sense of hope for those who work and reside in these settings.” GSS celebrates the holidays internally, and – having a giving platform at Christmas and internal programs such as an Angels Program, ensures that  residents without friends and family receive gifts, something Terlson says the GSS staff get behind enthusiastically. “One individual, no matter where they are in the organization, can have an impact on the quality of care for our residents and loved ones.”

“In health authorities, long-term care is a social work-based program. Whereas at GSS, we are a Christian-based organization that provides spiritual and pastoral care to those we serve,” says Terlson. “Our chaplains are an integral part of how GSS provides for the spiritual and religious needs of individual clients, residents, family members, staff and volunteers. It is paramount and core to what we provide and how we differentiate our services from non-faith based institutions.”

In the recent decade of rapid growth and expansion that ended in 2011, GSS responded to provincial projects and the growing need for residential care expansion. However, at this time, the current provincial government initiatives are reduced, resulting in smaller and fewer projects, making it difficult to maintain the recent growth cycle of 20 per cent per year.

“The same provincial funding pressures that impact expansions also impact GSS’s operations and programs, so we are focused on sustaining current operations while we look at developing business plans to ready  ourselves for growth when these funding sources  expand again in the future. We are taking the time to focus on improved operations to ensure we are efficient, and balance our portfolios against funding sources to ensure we are here for the next 65 years, offering the best use of our available resources,” says Terlson.

“Our focus will remain on strengthening our current operations, and working with those funders to provide sufficient funding to support our client needs. For example, at this time, we are focusing on reducing overhead costs. We are also looking at expansion into niche markets to increase what we refer to as the contribution margin, finding opportunities on to our operations without increasing head office costs.”