Home sweet home?

Posted by on April 27, 2012 at 11:38 pm.

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.

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