Council hears grave concerns about care at H.J. McFarland

Joy Vervoort, representative of H.J. McFarland Home presents concerns about resident care to council Tuesday December 15, 2015.  (Photo: Nicole Kleinsteuber / Quinte News)

Joy Vervoort, representative of H.J. McFarland Home presents concerns about resident care to council Tuesday December 15, 2015. (Photo: Nicole Kleinsteuber / Quinte News)

Grave concerns about the quality of resident care at H.J. McFarland Home were brought to Prince Edward County council Tuesday night.

Council was presented with a report outlining a recent investigation by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care at the senior’s residence that resulted in 20 written notifications, three of which were considered significant enough that the Ministry issued four compliance orders.

Among those was the inability of some staff, including senior registered staff, to perform basic care functions such as using patient restraint devices properly.

The report says intense re-training is underway with staff, but that some people working at the home are resisting any change.

A December 8, 2015 compliance deadline was issued for a number of the orders, to which Commissioner of Corporate Services Susan Turnball (who oversees the home’s administration) said have been met. She stated more details will become clear in a January 15 report containing recommendations on how council can move forward.

Joy Vervoort a member of the H.J. Family Council was one of several residents who addressed the horseshoe Tuesday.

Vervoort pointed to how the report highlights a lack of knowledge and adherence to legislative requirements under the long term care act and policy regulations by the Saint Elizabeth Health Care management team.

Joy Vervoort

Saint Elizabeth was contracted for 18 months at a cost of $600,000/year to provide interim senior administration after the dismissal of the home’s two senior managers in 2014. (Lori Kimmett, director of care and Beth Piper, administrator.) $320,000 more than the cost of Kimmett and Piper combined.

“Some residents who have expressed their feelings say the home is going to Hell that the state of the H.J. McFarland is no longer a home but an institution,” said Vervoort speaking of the perceived changes that have taken place since the management changeover.

“There is a lack of access to the Director of Care (Jenny Bedard) when addressing concerns of the residents and their families,” Vervooort told council.

She explained how Bedard had moved her office to the second floor and “out of sight.”

“The office door is closed most of the time and only recently was a phone installed,” said Vervoort. “We have perceived this as a message ‘I don’t want to be disturbed’,” she said. “Staff do not openly complain but it is obvious that the environment is uncomfortable. Staff no longer smile, there is no kidding around among them, no sharing of stories, they often appear drained and you can feel the tension in the building.”

Vervoort said when staff was questioned about what was going on some expressed their frustration at not being able feed into the changes taking place.

“They feel devalued, they feel management is not interested in what they have to say pointing out the location for the director of care’s office,” she said. “Some fear for their jobs feeling that if they speak up, they will be labelled a trouble maker or worse that management will find an excuse to fire them.”

“Many staff feel a genuine sadness for the residents for whom they care very deeply,” she explained. “They have been told they can no longer bring in pets or children to share and brighten the resident’s day on their own time. They can no longer undertake small gestures of kindness for residents in need such as paying for a haircut, purchasing a personal item or chocolate bar. They feel they are hindered from demonstrating kindness and compassion towards the residents.”

Vervoort said the family council is also concerned about the lack of consultation and communications on the part of the management team along with commissioner Turnball regarding the implementation of changes at the home affecting both staff and residents.

“Typically we hear about the change once its has already taken place,” Vervoort said speaking to move of palliative care room, the consolidation of two dining rooms and the changing of resident’s foot care services.

Mayor Robert Quaiff who was visibly angered by the issues at the home told the chambers that when he and CAO James Hepburn sit down together every Monday morning the first topic of discussion is the home.

Robert Quaiff 2

Quaiff said he doesn’t believe there has been a situation where a resident has been put in absolute danger.

“I believe that they have received the care that they deserve, but with change sometimes difference of opinion occurs,” said Quaiff.

Councillor Kevin Gale said he was advised by the mayor to ‘cool his jets’ before the meeting because he was ready to put a motion on the table to see Saint Elizabeth removed. It was a suggestion that received a loud round of applause from the gallery that was filled with H.J. McFarland staff and family of residents.

Gale said it’s been hard to hear the staff and resident’s story as his also grandmother lives in a nursing home.

Kevin Gale