Category Archives: Ideas

Home sweet home?

It seems that despite reports from Shire Hall that all is well, McFarland Home is a troubled place for some residents. While the home’s municipal administrators try to keep a lid on allegations of theft in the facility, fresh allegations of abuse at the hands of staff are being uncovered.

The home has even caught the attention of provincial overseers. A complaint made by a resident of McFarland Home to the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care this spring led to inspections on May 12, 13 and 16.

Lynda Hamilton, the inspector, determined that the home’s staff and administration were not in compliance of the Long Term Care Homes Act (LTCHA), which protects residents in homes like McFarland from abuse.

“A resident reported that staff refused to assist the resident with care, and yelled at the resident,” the report said. Further, “the administrator reported [incidents] of staff yelling at residents, isolating a resident and failing to provide a resident with care.”

Hamilton went on to say that the abuse was not immediately reported. Not to the administrator nor to the director of resident care. And even when it was reported to them, they did not contact the resident’s substitute decision maker. According to the Act, this is a required action and must be done within 12 hours of the incident.

Following the investigation, the home was ordered to create a plan to retrain staff on how to treat residents with respect and dignity. One resident, who spoke on the condition her identity be protected (“I have to live here, you know,”) offered an inside perspective about the turmoil at McFarland Home.

“There was a vast amount of worry and upset and anger all through the summer, because we were terribly short-staffed, and one or two people resigned. Some of the junior staff went and took part-time jobs elsewhere, with a view to leaving, which doesn’t speak well of things,” said the resident. “People were unhappy. Very unhappy. And when you’ve got an unhappy staff you’ve got an unhappy resident. That I can tell you really was true, and it was sad.

“There’s always problems. There’s always nice people and not such nice people, there’s always grumpy residents and happy residents. I mean, people are people, wherever they are. But it was nothing like that. There’s all kinds of things I could tell you. But it would not be things that you would want published, because it would cause too much trouble,” said the resident, declining to elaborate further.

Then there are the lingering questions surrounding allegations of theft at the nursing home.

A news release that emerged from Shire Hall earlier this month asserted that reports of theft at H. J. McFarland Home for the Aged in the Times were untrue, but the statement left a lot unanswered. Not the least of which are the accounts of two witnesses, a police report and the acknowledgement of the municipal administrator tasked with overseeing the nursing home that disciplinary action was taken with regard to the issue.

“McFarland Home policy requires all such allegations to be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly,” the news release stated. “The investigation found this allegation of theft to be untrue and further there have been no suspensions in connection to such allegations.”

But when Susan Turnbull, who oversees the home’s administration, was asked about allegations of theft two weeks before the press release, she confirmed that there had been at least one suspension in the matter.

“We have had instances where people have been suspended pending investigation,” Turnbull said in direct response to the question of staff stealing from residents. “But based on the results of that investigation, there’s a number of criteria that’s required before further action can occur. And so if we don’t meet all of that criteria then the suspension is lifted, and the person does return to work.”

Constable Kim Guthrie of the Prince Edward OPP said that two police reports, one in 2008 and one in 2009, indicated staff may have stolen cash and jewelry from residents and even other staff. No one was charged in either case, but one report stated the matter was dealt with internally.

According to the Times’s source, a staff member returned the stolen items, the charges were dropped, and the staff member dismissed. The source added, however, that another staff member who had admitted openly to taking property from residents was allowed to stay on after being suspended with pay.

A second source also described incidences of theft, but said she felt too intimidated to speak up again.

Although Turnbull agreed to speak initially, all further communication was by email.

Questions to the home’s administrator, Beth Piper, were redirected to Turnbull. When the Times inquired about the press release, she responded with an email, simply stating “an investigation took place as a result of the allegations of theft made by the Times.

Love your lifestyle? Make it a living

gay friendly rv park opensA decade ago, if anyone had told Derek Meade and Clinton St. Germain they would be running a RV park, they would have laughed. After all, they’d never even been in an RV.

Then they had an awful vacation.

Meade had rented a small cottage in Florida for the couple to enjoy while they were escaping the winter blahs. The cottage was terrible.

“It was really bad,” says St. Germain. “It was really tiny, it was in a bad neighborhood and it was in bad condition.”

Feeling miserable, Meade and St. Germain visited an RV campground near Disneyland on a friend’s suggestion. Enchanted by the park and the community, they came back the following year, and the year after that they showed up with a newly purchased trailer.

Meade is a freelance writer. St. Germain is a contractor and online business owner. Having jobs without nine to five commitments made it easy to get away.

For seven years, Meade and St. Germain followed the RV community in the United States. They travelled to parks hosting events that interested them. They made friends and then met those friends all over the country.

They were enchanted with the lifestyle, the people and the comfort of sleeping in their own beds, no matter where they found themselves.

A few years ago a campground went up for sale. It was a lovely property at a good price, close to family. They toured the property and loved it, and thought that owning an RV park was something they would enjoy.

The sale came and went. The property was sold before the couple had made an offer.

“We hemmed and hawed and then it sold,” laughs St. Germain. “We really regretted it at the time.”

A year later, the Hidden Valley campground showed up on the market. The parcel was lovely: a hundred acres bordering a small river and some marshland. This time Meade and St. Germain were ready.

The purchase was difficult and stressful. The previous owner had left the site in disrepair. The park had gained local notoriety for rowdy parties and undesirable visitors.

“It was an intimidating place to be,” says Meade.

Meade and St. Germain took ownership of the park on June 24 2010, well into the season and it was as if they had stepped on a beehive.

When the couple purchased the park, they attracted the curiosity of local news. When they decided to clean up the park and didn’t renew contracts for seasonal renters, they riled up community newspapers.

With media attention about the poor state of the park and talk of mass evictions, it seemed like everything was going wrong for the new owners.

But the reaction was better than they expected.

The gay and lesbian community immediately caught on: the new owners of the infamous Hidden Valley campground were a gay couple.

Soon the phones were flooded with calls inquiring if Meade and St. Germain were planning to open a gay and lesbian RV park.

“The response to the articles we had in the paper was so overwhelming,” says Meade. “We thought, ‘ok there’s this huge market here that is not being served.’ It would be a bad business decision not to open as a queer campground.”

Now Meade and St. Germain are preparing for the 2011 season. The park has been renamed the Riverside RV Campground. Landscaping and construction include building a pond and a drive-in style movie theatre.

“We want to turn it into a nice destination park for our community, the gay community,” says St. Germain.

With waterfront lots already booked for the season and only a month to go before the first long weekend, preparing the park is a full time job.

There is a bit of regret that, at least for a little while, there won’t be time to go on another RV trip.

“We’re hoping, in a few years, once the park is more established we can get away in the winter,” says St. Germain.

In the meantime, the two look forward to their first season as proud owners of the Riverside RV Campground.

Who’s in charge

Members of the South Shore Conservancy are claiming the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) broke its own laws when it allowed a contractor hired by Defence Construction Canada (DCC), on behalf of the Department of National Defence (DND), to commence work at Ostrander Point Provincial Wildlife Area.

They also worry that actions to clear the proposed site of an industrial wind project have already damaged the habitat for two endangered species, the Blanding’s turtle and the whippoorwill. According to Frederic Beaudry, who has a PhD in wildlife ecology, the activities at the site may have seriously harmed the year-round habitat of the Blanding’s turtle.

In a memo the Natural Resources ministry wrote that DND “does not require approval from the Ministry of Natural Resources” to enter the site and clear it of unexploded munitions. This despite the fact that Ostrander Point is protected by the provincial Endangered Species Act, which the MNR enforces.

Prince Edward – Hastings MPP Leona Dombrowsky explained the MNR’s decision in an email, stating that because of an intergovernmental immunity doctrine, provincial laws do not apply to a federal agency like DND.

Not so, according to environmental lawyer Charles Birchall. Birchall has reviewed Dombrowski’s comment, as well as the report created by DCC for DND. In his professional opinion, there is no basis for allowing a federal government agency to cause damage to endangered species on provincially owned land.

Birchall provided samples of precedents in which the Supreme Court and the federal Court of Appeal had turned down the immunity argument, although in both cases it was a government versus a federal crown corporation, not a federal agency.

Dombrowsky attended the conference, as did Conservative MPP candidate Todd Smith and Green Party MPP candidate Treat Hull, both of whom were quick to condemn the Liberal government for the damage done.

Dombrowsky responded that she had said what she believed was right, and that while Birchall was qualified to give a legal opinion it was just that, and another lawyer may be glad to argue against it.

“The Endangered Species Act is a very important piece of legislation that our government brought forward because we do understand why it is important that we have legislation to protect species that are endangered,” said Dombrowsky. “We also understand that at the federal level, for example, there may be activities that may be carried out in the interest of public safety and national security.”

Since the survey at Ostrander is now complete, Birchall suggested in his letter that a team be formed to figure out how to mitigate any damage done. No one seemed to disagree.