Care homes respond
A residential home criticised by Derrick Burgess, the Shadow Minister for Seniors, has hit back at his claims of inadequate standards — while staff at a second facility named by the Opposition politician say a community-wide effort is needed to ensure that seniors get the long-term care they deserve.
Mr Burgess identified Herb Garden Rest Home in Southampton and Packwood Home in Somerset in a letter to Health Minister Jeanne Atherden dated December 9 last year.
Having first raised the issue in Parliament without naming the homes, he claimed in his letter that the former was in breach of the Residential Care Homes and Nursing Homes Regulations 2001 and that a resident at the latter had been told that she could not move elsewhere by the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged (NOSPC).
Ms Atherden has yet to reply. However, Herb Garden owner-administrator Paulette Godfrey said that she was outraged by the Progressive Labour Party politician’s claims about the surroundings, food and care at her home.
“I am not running a shabby home,” she told The Royal Gazette. “I am trying to do the best that I can. Whenever I have an inspection, I’m always on target and there is nothing to complain about.”
Ms Godfrey said though Mr Burgess criticised her home in his letter to the minister, she was unaware that he had been to visit and suggested that he ought to make that a priority.
“I feel really let down because I have a lot of people who can’t even pay me for my services and I continue on anyway,” Ms Godfrey said. “It’s really not fair to be treated like this. I’m really disappointed in Mr Burgess.
“He needed to investigate first before he talks like that. That’s very wrong of him.”
Mr Burgess wrote in his letter that he had recently received reports about Herb Garden, suggesting that it was in breach of the regulations for seniors’ homes and claiming “immediate attention” was needed.
Ms Godfrey said the correspondence prompted the NOSPC to send an inspector to check out his claims.
“They came and they didn’t find anything at all,” she said. “The accusations that he is talking about, they are not true.”
The second home mentioned in the letter, Packwood, is not directly criticised by Mr Burgess but is mentioned in relation to a senior who wants to move elsewhere and has had her request allegedly refused by the NOSPC.
Packwood administrator Karen Mitchell invited The Royal Gazette to visit the home at short notice in the week before Christmas and gave the newspaper a tour of the Somerset facility.
She said that the home was regularly inspected and that there was no question of ever failing an inspection, as homes were given the opportunity by the NOSPC to correct any shortcomings.
Ms Mitchell, nurse co-ordinator Debra Darrell and registered nurse Gaylia Landry all agreed that families should have the right to choose where their loved ones live and said they were surprised that the NOSPC would block a transfer request.
They explained that different homes offered different levels of care — be they rest homes, nursing homes or skilled facilities — and that it was important to find the right facility for each senior but difficult because of a shortage of beds and nurses. They pointed out that the NOSPC has just a handful of staff, while the Island’s elderly population is rapidly growing. The last census in 2010 pegged it at more than 8,600.
“Take the number of people at the National Office and divide it into the number of elderly and ask if they can deal with that,” Ms Mitchell said.
She said of the elder care sector in general: “It’s so few people doing all of the work.”
Ms Landry added: “We need to value the elderly as a society.
“I don’t see a lot of public service announcements about elderly living.
“There has to be collaboration across the community.
“The focus has to be on elderly care.
“We need a task force for the elderly and we need to think about how we can bring everyone together on this issue.”
We asked a Ministry of Health spokeswoman whether Mr Burgess’s letter had prompted any action, but did not hear back.
•See Opinion, Page 4