Bill seeks to protect elderly and disabled
Safeguarding Bermuda’s vulnerable is the aim behind stringent measures for persons under care proposed by shadow health minister Kim Wilson.
Service providers and administrators would be tasked with reporting “all allegations of abuse to the minister” under the legislation, Ms Wilson told The Royal Gazette.
The Progressive Labour Party MP said that persistent allegations of abuse at the Summerhaven home for the physically challenged had provided some of the impetus for the Bill.
Claims of mismanagement and abusive treatment were revealed by this newspaper in June 2015, with the case against Summerhaven administrator John Powell growing increasingly public. It was 18 months before the ministry intervened and took over in December 2016.
With Summerhaven, “the minister kept referring to it being a privately run facility, which made it more difficult for the Government to intervene”, Ms Wilson said.
Under the PLP Bill, the requirement to report abuse would apply to “health facilities” — which would include an independently run facility such as Summerhaven.
Ms Wilson said the present Residential Care Homes and Nursing Homes Act 1999 only addressed registration, and issues such as furnishing, hygiene, fire exits and other requirements for operating a home.Breaches are enforced by the Chief Medical Officer, who can apply to a magistrate for a licence to be “revoked or varied — as was the case in the Summerhaven situation”, she said.
An Office of the Public Guardian was proposed in the 2015 Throne Speech, Ms Wilson pointed out, but never rolled out — and such a measure “still does not address the need to provide further protections to those vulnerable residing in care facilities whether it be nursing facilities or those for the disabled”.
But the Protection of Persons in Care Act 2017 would place a specific duty on the provider to declare potential issues.
“This Act will promote prevention and respond to reports of abuse to our vulnerable seniors or disabled persons,” Ms Wilson said.
“It would apply to nursing homes and care facilities for the elderly and or disabled population.
“Abuse will be defined in the regulations, which can include physical mistreatment causing emotional harm, threatening, intimidation, sexual contact, misappropriation or improper or illegal conversion of money or other valuable possession, and a failure to provide adequate nutrition, care, medical attention or necessities of life.
“Abuse will not include the situation where the service provider carried out their duties in accordance with professional standards and practices.”
The Opposition Bill would also require the minister to commission an investigation of reported abuse of a senior or disabled person.
“Under existing legislation, there is no absolute duty requiring staff to report abuse, etc, caused to a patient — nor is there the duty that a care provider has to ensure that no abuse occurs nor report same,” Ms Wilson said. “No longer will the only option be for the Chief Medical Officer to have to apply to the courts to be a receiver and step in to run a facility.”
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