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Summerhaven residents feel ‘at risk’ from conditions at home

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Physically disabled residents of Summerhaven claim that they are being put at risk because of a broken telephone and alarm system which leaves them unable to call for help.

Sources spoke to The Royal Gazette over fears of residents being left unattended in the event of an accident, as well as about other problems at the Smith’s facility co-founded 40 years ago by disability rights campaigner Margaret Carter.

The sources, who asked to remain anonymous, claimed that rooms were infested with cockroaches and meals were inadequate, leaving residents hungry.

They also lamented a change several years ago in the way some residents received financial aid, which sees their $4,000-a-month fees for rent and food now paid directly by the Government to the Summerhaven Trust, eroding their independence.

That change came about when the former independent living centre was reclassified as a residential care home in 2016. The same year, the Government temporarily took over Summerhaven because of mismanagement.

One source told The Royal Gazette: “It breaks my heart because the place was built to be independent living for the community. If the [late] founders came back and saw what it stands for they would all die all over again.”

The residents met Tinée Furbert, the social development and seniors minister, recently to convey their concerns but the sources complained that little had changed since.

Summerhaven co-founder Margaret Carter

Executive director Colette Simmons confirmed that the phone and buzzer system needed replacing and agreed that the changed financial arrangements for some residents was “an absolute loss of independence”.

She said that the facility — which gets $600,000 annually from the public purse — was under-resourced.

But she insisted that good-quality care was “absolutely” provided to the 19 residents by hard-working staff and that she was committed to tackling any issues head on.

Summerhaven received an A grade after an inspection last year from the Bermuda Health Council, which has oversight of the island’s long-term care facilities.

But another source claimed: “We had a roach problem. It took months for them to go and do what was necessary. It is getting solved now, but it has taken forever.”

They added: “We have had a phone problem for years. Everyone should have a phone and a buzzer. But just like everything else, [those responsible] will turn a blind eye.”

The source said that the main building had 15 rooms. “It’s supposed to be independent living. You can shout and maybe they [the staff] can hear you.”

A third source said that some residents had not had a working phone for about four years.

The second source alleged that the appointed board that is responsible for Summerhaven had in recent years been “in a shambles”.

The Summerhaven Trust was a registered charity, though Ms Simmons said that it rarely received private donations nowadays.

It did not appear on the most recent list of registered charities. The Registry-General said that it was reviewing the file, so it could not explain why or make the file available immediately to The Royal Gazette.

Ms Simmons, who reports to the board of the Summerhaven Trust, said that she herself did not have a phone in her office.

“There are residents here that have a phone. It’s just that not everyone has one,” she said. “It’s an inadequate system and it just needs to be replaced.”

She added that the facility struggled financially but every effort was made to keep it clean and to ensure that residents were well looked after.

The menu and portion sizes are decided by a government nutritionist.

Ricky Brathwaite, chief executive officer of Bermuda Health Council, said: “We have not received any formal complaints in regards to Summerhaven but, as always, we are working with the long-term care sector to support sustainable improvement through our standardised regulatory activities.”

In response to a request for the full report from Summerhaven’s last council inspection and an explanation of what the A grade meant, he said that this could be provided by Summerhaven. He also encouraged people with complaints to bring them to the council (see accompanying story).

Community urged to help care homes

The head of the Bermuda Health Council has urged people with complaints about residential care homes to bring them to its attention as soon as possible.

Ricky Brathwaite, the council chief executive, also urged concerned members of the public to volunteer to help in homes, saying that the residents are the responsibility of the whole community.

Asked if he could advise when Summerhaven was last inspected by the BHeC and explain what the “A grade” listed next to it on on the council website meant, he said: “That is information that would come directly from the homes (their report card).”

He added: “We have been and are constantly working with the industry as part of our regulatory role to hold them accountable, increase compliance and assist them with helping to care for their residents with good-quality care.

“The concerns you raised would, of course, be unacceptable, and they are the types of things that we would absolutely work with the industry to remedy.

“I encourage persons to bring matters like these to our attention as soon as they are aware, so we can address them.”

He added: “Here's my advice — let's all pitch in to help, because these are not just residents ‘belonging’ to a home. They belong to our community.

“Start a visiting programme, gather your neighbours or church members, family, friends and call a care home, and ask them if there is anything that can be done to assist with tasks, daily activities or maintaining the home.

“Adopt a resident, take a weekend and help them organise, donate food from your gardens, take a senior for a walk, sit with a resident and listen, offer to purchase toiletries or new sheets. ”

He added that while complaints were useful in addressing non-compliance, they were not the full solution.

The Ministry of Social Development and Seniors, which provides the annual grant to Summerhaven, did not respond to questions by press time, including a request for an interview with the minister.

It was not possible to reach the newly appointed Summerhaven board chairman, Derek Caines.

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Published August 08, 2022 at 4:40 pm (Updated August 08, 2022 at 4:40 pm)

Summerhaven residents feel ‘at risk’ from conditions at home

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