Home care ultimatum

Peter Walsh
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290 seniors are in limbo as 22 retirement homes face closure over sprinkler systems

Seventy-seven-year-old Robert Doyle says not much shocks him these days, but he admits to being surprised to learn that his home - Kelly's Personal Care Home in Goulds - is one of 22 retirement homes set to shut down if it doesn't immediately install a sprinkler system.

"The government should be shot. It's sort of a threat," said Doyle.

In a move to protect seniors, the fire commissioner announced the ultimatum in letters to the homes that arrived Wednesday and Thursday. The 22 personal care homes have until March 14 to start installation. Otherwise, Department of Health officials will move an estimated 290 seniors to other facilities that are already up to fire code.

Robert Doyle, along with other residents of Kelly's Personal Care Home in Goulds, is concerned about new regulations that will force the closure of his home and 21 others if sprinklers are not immediately installed. Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

Seventy-seven-year-old Robert Doyle says not much shocks him these days, but he admits to being surprised to learn that his home - Kelly's Personal Care Home in Goulds - is one of 22 retirement homes set to shut down if it doesn't immediately install a sprinkler system.

"The government should be shot. It's sort of a threat," said Doyle.

In a move to protect seniors, the fire commissioner announced the ultimatum in letters to the homes that arrived Wednesday and Thursday. The 22 personal care homes have until March 14 to start installation. Otherwise, Department of Health officials will move an estimated 290 seniors to other facilities that are already up to fire code.

Doyle is more worried about moving than he is about fire.

"The way they went about it, it's sort of odd," he said. "It's horrible."

Order given

In March 2003, the fire commissioner ordered 81 personal care homes across the province to install sprinkler systems. The commissioner issued reminders in 2005. Fifty-eight homes have complied, and one has closed. The province has run out of patience with the remaining 22.

"Reasonable timelines have been exhausted, and we have made significant efforts to work with owners of the non-sprinklered personal care homes to address the identified deficiency which is a matter of personal life and safety to the residents of these homes," said Dave Denine, minister responsible for Emergency Services.

"This is not a closure," said Denine. "It's a compliance order and we hope that every home out there will be compliant to the order. ... Government has put in financial arrangements to help install these sprinkler systems. We can't keep continuing on, saying, 'We hope you comply.' There has to be a line drawn and this is it."

Linda Spurrell - owner of the 17-resident Kelly's Personal Care Home - says she always intended to install the sprinklers. She blames contractors for her delay.

"I couldn't get anyone to do it. They were too busy," said Spurrell, who is angry over the province's tactics.

"This is our home. It's upsetting to the residents. They're being evicted out of their home. Several of them said they're not moving."

They may not have to. Spurrell says she will meet the deadline and install the sprinkler system.

She's hoping contractors will be less busy now that 58 homes have already upgraded. Funding is available to homes which have not installed sprinkler systems.

In previous upgrades, the province paid for 75 per cent of the work, up to $75,000. The province allocated $4 million in its 2005 budget to assist owners with the installation of sprinkler systems.

Doyle says he trusts Spurrell.

"They guaranteed that we won't be moving. I'm not worried one bit in the world. They were planning on putting in the sprinklers eventually."

The province says it's developing a plan for seniors who have to move.

"While the closing of some personal care homes will be understandably difficult for residents, we have to remember that their personal safety and security are paramount," said Health Minister Ross Wiseman. "My department ... will be responsible for facilitating alternate arrangements for residents, with the staff in our regions working closely with the individual residents and their families during this transition."

Wiseman says other homes can handle the extra residents.

"There is still an opportunity for owners of non-compliant homes to stop closure should they provide a signed contract from a sprinkler system installer indicating a start date and plan for installation. A grace period will be granted to those homeowners who communicate a plan and provide the written documentation to the fire commissioner prior to the date of closure indicated for that particular personal care home," said Denine.

There are a total of 121 personal care homes in the province. Ninety-nine have sprinkler systems.

pwalsh@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Department of Health, Emergency Services

Geographic location: Goulds

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Recent comments

  • Ann
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    How can these places be allowed open if they don't have these sprinkler systems installed? I just hope the people that have to move will have a better place to go to.

  • John
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    I pity the young people who stay in Newfoundland who are going to watch all of their tax dollars go into subsidizing private facilities like these. If you think it's bad now, wait 15 years.

  • MP
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Everyone seems to be on the same page on this issue. These private homes are just an easy way for business people to make money on the backs of seniors. The government should build its own seniors homes in every region of the province, and take proper care of seniors with qualified well paid staff. The way it is now, any money that could be used to pay staff a decent wage and keep the buildings up to code is going in the pocketbooks of businesspeople. Government is spending the money anyway, and I'd say put it to good use with government built and staffed senior's homes. They should do the same with ambulance services as well, instead of pumping millions into these private operators who themselves get rich while the staff doing the actual work get paid very little. Oops, almost forgot.... wasn't Tom Rideout renting space off of a Tory organizer... oh ya, he (Freake) happens to own a private ambulance service. This is why the status quo will never change, be it Liberal or PC, there's just too may cronies with their faces in the trough.

  • M
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    The residents should be angry at the home operators/owners rather than the Gov't! These ppl are the reason why some residents may have to move. It amazes me that health and safety inspection agencies have not shut them down... I would never send a loved one to a facility that's not properly built!

  • Daphne
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    Shame on all those home owners who are risking the lives of our seniors. They have had plenty of time to get the sprinkler systems installed. Hopefully nothing will happen before the systems are installed. They should also be fined for not having them installed in time.

  • Linda
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    I've read some of the nasty comments that people have written about the home owners should be ashamed of themselves for not installing the sprinkler system. Yes there is more than ONE sprinkler company in the province. But 3 of them sent me notification that they could not take on the work as well other operators could not get the work done, could not even get a quote. The seniors are very happy in these older Personal Care Homes, it has become their homes. The seniors themselves said they were not leaving. These homes are far from unsafe. We are more regulated than the government owned nursing homes. We have smoke and fire dectors, alarm systems, strobe lights, fire extinguishers, evacuation plans, monthly fire drills. We have regular visits from Nurses, Doctors, Social Workers, Building Inspectors, Dieticians, etc. If we were unsafe we would not be permitted to operate. YOU people should be ashamed of yourselves for critizing hard working people who provide excellent care to these seniors of our province for $ 2.10 per hour per resident. We the older personal care home owners/operators work endless hours and go well beyond the call of duty to ensure the safety, happiness and well being of the seniors .
    Our facilities save you, the tax payer, millions and millions of dollars per year.

  • Jack
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    If you have been following the stories on various stations you would know that funding for these systems never came till late 2004.

    Also, the homes biggest issues are with connections. The majority of these homes are not on city or commercial water hookup. You need a certain amount of pressure and water supply to able these sprinkler systems to be affective.

    People think that these homes are not safe, but have you heard in the news of a personal care home assaulting someone? or abusing someone? or people being mistreated. NO but we have heard in the past of Government ran facilities where personal care is not being properly administered and abuse has been reported.

    Some residents started to cry when they we told by officials you got to leave .

    As for the recent fire at the apartment complex, did you hear the fire department say they had to go around and knock on doors to wake people up because they could not hear the alarm? I was at the scene in a professional capacity, and you could hear the fire alarm well before you got to the complex. So should the government make all seniors complexes install vibrating bed pads that activate when the fire alarm goes off?

    How about having a nurse, social worker, doctor and dietician make weekly and regular visits to these Seniors Complexes like they do with Personal Care Homes or have monthly fire drills, like Personal Care Homes have to do.

    There is a lot more to the situation than most people think, and with a parent in one of these 22 homes, who knows that they are cared, and well looked after, upsets me because now I need to find a place that will take my parent who worked all his life, and try and put him into another home, that wont look at you if you dont have the money.

    These smaller homes are not in it for the money. These homes are the ones that take in the Government Subsidized seniors who CAN NOT afford private and semi-private rooms at the Mansion style homes.

    Government needs to make this better, just like they do for the Fishery, Social Services, and every other group in Newfoundland that puts the issues on the Government.

    We will have to see if they come through for the Homes, like they do for all the other groups!

  • M
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    And I do not think the gov't should provide subsidies to these home care operators. The mess they are in now is their own faults... spend the money on those MORE deserving!

  • Kayla
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    I have to agree with Holly. There is more than one sprinkler installer in Newfoundland. There is no reason that there should be such delays. If they were booked at the time of the first letter, why not go on a waiting list. You would more than likely only be on it for a few months to a year ... tops! What is more important to these personal care home operators? The seniors which they are taking care of or the buck they can save .. regardless of the sacrifice? I think the answer is obvious.

  • M
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    Let's also think about how any of these homes could obtain insurance w/o sprinkler systems. I bet some of these places do not even have insurance.

  • Sue
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    I am reading these comments and thinking how stupid some of you are.

    These homes are regulated more than schools, schools that our kids attend. Which by the way, 83% of the schools in the province don't have the sprinkler systems. So lets shut down the schools, the kids will be happy, the parents won't and child care givers will be making the big money then.

    I remember and issue with a day care in the east end. Day care centers are no where half as regulated as personal care homes, and as the previous person said about the government ran facilities, there have been several incidents over the last few years at those places.

  • Kathie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    The seniors in these homes should be outraged that their care providers have not installed these systems. It isn't the government fault -as much as we like to blame them for everything-this is an example of trying to do something right and being blocked by care providers unwilling to give up the profits however miniscule their costs would be. I tremble to think of other abuses these seniors are subjected to if their safety isn't number one priority.

  • Mount Pearl Resident
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    I bet the home owners/operatees didn't give the residents a discount on their monthly living expenses even though there were no sprinklers installed....its all about the money!

  • Ann
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    One would assume that the costs of installing these systems has now risen greatly since the order was first issued 5 years ago-more cost to the taxpayers

  • Diane
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    I, too, agree with previous comments. Do these people not understand the implications of not having these sprinklers installed? This is for the safety of our seniors! And I think 5 years is more than adequate to comply with these regulations. I personally would not want any of my relatives residing in a complex that was not up to par.

  • Holly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    These homes should be ashamed. They had ample warning from the fire commisionner to install the sprinklers...most of it is being PAID for by the government. It isn't rocket science! Get the work done and stop procrastinating. An elderly woman died recently in Tiffany Lane apartments and that facility was up to code...imagine if one of these homes went up in smoke without thier sprinklers....death and law suits all around! It doesn't take YEARS to get a contractor to put in a sprinkler system....I think it is a lame excuse. Get the work done fast so these elderly people can live in peace without worrying about eviction because thier landlords were too slack to listen to Fire Commision regulations in 2003.

  • gary
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    I agree 100% with Holly. These Homes had ample time to get this work done. Now because of the these penny pinchers our Mothers and Fathers are now put into more stress when they should be enjoying their golden years.
    Now come on Mrs Spurrell, you can't say that you could not get a contractor in the 5 years you had this notice.

  • Ann
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    How can these places be allowed open if they don't have these sprinkler systems installed? I just hope the people that have to move will have a better place to go to.

  • John
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    I pity the young people who stay in Newfoundland who are going to watch all of their tax dollars go into subsidizing private facilities like these. If you think it's bad now, wait 15 years.

  • MP
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    Everyone seems to be on the same page on this issue. These private homes are just an easy way for business people to make money on the backs of seniors. The government should build its own seniors homes in every region of the province, and take proper care of seniors with qualified well paid staff. The way it is now, any money that could be used to pay staff a decent wage and keep the buildings up to code is going in the pocketbooks of businesspeople. Government is spending the money anyway, and I'd say put it to good use with government built and staffed senior's homes. They should do the same with ambulance services as well, instead of pumping millions into these private operators who themselves get rich while the staff doing the actual work get paid very little. Oops, almost forgot.... wasn't Tom Rideout renting space off of a Tory organizer... oh ya, he (Freake) happens to own a private ambulance service. This is why the status quo will never change, be it Liberal or PC, there's just too may cronies with their faces in the trough.

  • M
    July 01, 2010 - 20:18

    The residents should be angry at the home operators/owners rather than the Gov't! These ppl are the reason why some residents may have to move. It amazes me that health and safety inspection agencies have not shut them down... I would never send a loved one to a facility that's not properly built!

  • Daphne
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    Shame on all those home owners who are risking the lives of our seniors. They have had plenty of time to get the sprinkler systems installed. Hopefully nothing will happen before the systems are installed. They should also be fined for not having them installed in time.

  • Linda
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    I've read some of the nasty comments that people have written about the home owners should be ashamed of themselves for not installing the sprinkler system. Yes there is more than ONE sprinkler company in the province. But 3 of them sent me notification that they could not take on the work as well other operators could not get the work done, could not even get a quote. The seniors are very happy in these older Personal Care Homes, it has become their homes. The seniors themselves said they were not leaving. These homes are far from unsafe. We are more regulated than the government owned nursing homes. We have smoke and fire dectors, alarm systems, strobe lights, fire extinguishers, evacuation plans, monthly fire drills. We have regular visits from Nurses, Doctors, Social Workers, Building Inspectors, Dieticians, etc. If we were unsafe we would not be permitted to operate. YOU people should be ashamed of yourselves for critizing hard working people who provide excellent care to these seniors of our province for $ 2.10 per hour per resident. We the older personal care home owners/operators work endless hours and go well beyond the call of duty to ensure the safety, happiness and well being of the seniors .
    Our facilities save you, the tax payer, millions and millions of dollars per year.

  • Jack
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    If you have been following the stories on various stations you would know that funding for these systems never came till late 2004.

    Also, the homes biggest issues are with connections. The majority of these homes are not on city or commercial water hookup. You need a certain amount of pressure and water supply to able these sprinkler systems to be affective.

    People think that these homes are not safe, but have you heard in the news of a personal care home assaulting someone? or abusing someone? or people being mistreated. NO but we have heard in the past of Government ran facilities where personal care is not being properly administered and abuse has been reported.

    Some residents started to cry when they we told by officials you got to leave .

    As for the recent fire at the apartment complex, did you hear the fire department say they had to go around and knock on doors to wake people up because they could not hear the alarm? I was at the scene in a professional capacity, and you could hear the fire alarm well before you got to the complex. So should the government make all seniors complexes install vibrating bed pads that activate when the fire alarm goes off?

    How about having a nurse, social worker, doctor and dietician make weekly and regular visits to these Seniors Complexes like they do with Personal Care Homes or have monthly fire drills, like Personal Care Homes have to do.

    There is a lot more to the situation than most people think, and with a parent in one of these 22 homes, who knows that they are cared, and well looked after, upsets me because now I need to find a place that will take my parent who worked all his life, and try and put him into another home, that wont look at you if you dont have the money.

    These smaller homes are not in it for the money. These homes are the ones that take in the Government Subsidized seniors who CAN NOT afford private and semi-private rooms at the Mansion style homes.

    Government needs to make this better, just like they do for the Fishery, Social Services, and every other group in Newfoundland that puts the issues on the Government.

    We will have to see if they come through for the Homes, like they do for all the other groups!

  • M
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    And I do not think the gov't should provide subsidies to these home care operators. The mess they are in now is their own faults... spend the money on those MORE deserving!

  • Kayla
    July 01, 2010 - 20:07

    I have to agree with Holly. There is more than one sprinkler installer in Newfoundland. There is no reason that there should be such delays. If they were booked at the time of the first letter, why not go on a waiting list. You would more than likely only be on it for a few months to a year ... tops! What is more important to these personal care home operators? The seniors which they are taking care of or the buck they can save .. regardless of the sacrifice? I think the answer is obvious.

  • M
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    Let's also think about how any of these homes could obtain insurance w/o sprinkler systems. I bet some of these places do not even have insurance.

  • Sue
    July 01, 2010 - 20:01

    I am reading these comments and thinking how stupid some of you are.

    These homes are regulated more than schools, schools that our kids attend. Which by the way, 83% of the schools in the province don't have the sprinkler systems. So lets shut down the schools, the kids will be happy, the parents won't and child care givers will be making the big money then.

    I remember and issue with a day care in the east end. Day care centers are no where half as regulated as personal care homes, and as the previous person said about the government ran facilities, there have been several incidents over the last few years at those places.

  • Kathie
    July 01, 2010 - 20:01

    The seniors in these homes should be outraged that their care providers have not installed these systems. It isn't the government fault -as much as we like to blame them for everything-this is an example of trying to do something right and being blocked by care providers unwilling to give up the profits however miniscule their costs would be. I tremble to think of other abuses these seniors are subjected to if their safety isn't number one priority.

  • Mount Pearl Resident
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    I bet the home owners/operatees didn't give the residents a discount on their monthly living expenses even though there were no sprinklers installed....its all about the money!

  • Ann
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    One would assume that the costs of installing these systems has now risen greatly since the order was first issued 5 years ago-more cost to the taxpayers

  • Diane
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    I, too, agree with previous comments. Do these people not understand the implications of not having these sprinklers installed? This is for the safety of our seniors! And I think 5 years is more than adequate to comply with these regulations. I personally would not want any of my relatives residing in a complex that was not up to par.

  • Holly
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    These homes should be ashamed. They had ample warning from the fire commisionner to install the sprinklers...most of it is being PAID for by the government. It isn't rocket science! Get the work done and stop procrastinating. An elderly woman died recently in Tiffany Lane apartments and that facility was up to code...imagine if one of these homes went up in smoke without thier sprinklers....death and law suits all around! It doesn't take YEARS to get a contractor to put in a sprinkler system....I think it is a lame excuse. Get the work done fast so these elderly people can live in peace without worrying about eviction because thier landlords were too slack to listen to Fire Commision regulations in 2003.

  • gary
    July 01, 2010 - 19:45

    I agree 100% with Holly. These Homes had ample time to get this work done. Now because of the these penny pinchers our Mothers and Fathers are now put into more stress when they should be enjoying their golden years.
    Now come on Mrs Spurrell, you can't say that you could not get a contractor in the 5 years you had this notice.