No evidence to back neglect allegations at New Horizons

Responding to a public allegation of neglect at New Horizons seniors care home, two divisions of Island Health inspected the site the day after the allegations were made and found no evidence of neglect.

“(Island Health) sent in a licensing officer unannounced the day after these allegations came out on Facebook, did an inspection of the building and were unable to find any evidence of lack of appropriate care,” said Tim Orr, director of Residential Services at Island Health. “I also sent one of my clinical quality leads to do an inspection at New Horizons. She went up, she inspected the building, she talked with staff she talked with residents and resident’s families. She came away and reported back to me saying ‘you know the building looks clean, I didn’t hear concerns from families or residents.’ So I also have been unable to substantiate the accusations made in that Facebook post.”

Orr said that though the inspection didn’t turn up any evidence, Licensing is continuing to investigate the allegations.

“They have not determined yet if there was any violation, but they continue to work on that.”

The allegations were made public by Jenna Hagel, a private care aid who had been looking after a client at New Horizons since May of 2016.

Hagel claims she voiced her concerns to the nurses on duty and the site manager. Orr confirmed that he was sent documentation of a dialogue going back and forth between New Horizons and Hagel going back to last summer.

Mid-January, Hagel took to Facebook to speak out for residents who she believes have been “raped of their dignity.”

She said she has seen briefs left unchanged, feces on the floor or on the bed spread and mouthcare not done.

“I’ve seen the foot of the made bed soaked with urine,” she said in an email interview. “Elsewhere in the facility I saw people at the table sleeping with food down their face or on their shirt. I saw my client’s neighbour waiting with the call bell on to use the bathroom for over an hour.”

Hagel posted her concerns, as well as photos of the alleged neglect, to her personal Facebook page as well as a public Campbell River Rant and Rave Facebook page with a large following.

Ian West, vice president of operations at Park Place Seniors Living which operates New Horizons, said that not only is it against the law to take photos such as that without the resident’s written authorization, he is also unable to verify if the photos are of an actual resident at New Horizons.

“The most referred to photo..was one showing a leg of a person that had drying fecal matter,” West said. “This ‘snapshot’ may lead a person to believe that this is evidence of neglect by staff. Another way of understanding it may be that residents are encouraged and supported to remain active and as independent as their condition allows.

“In doing so, it is industry best practice to have residents go to the toilet themselves rather than label them incontinent and place adult diapers on them… In this process sometimes residents may return from a visit from the bathroom with fecal material

showing.”

New Horizons, operated by Park Place Seniors Living, provides subsidized residential care for seniors. There are 86 subsidized beds and eight private-pay beds on site. According to the Community Care Quickfacts Directory published by the Office of the Seniors Advocate in January, New Horizons funded 3.15 hours of direct care per resident per day in 2015/16. The provincial targets for care hours are 3.36. Less than 10 per cent of care facilities in B.C. met or exceeded the target.

“Even though we are not funded at 3.36, neglect and abuse does not take place at New Horizons,” said West.

Hagel doesn’t think more care hours or staff will fix the problems she says she has seen. She believes that the standards of care set by the legislations are too low.

“All that being said, I wish there was a way to get it across to people that it is not just shortage of staff or hours of care per day per resident, but how we care,” she said. “What has happened to the fundamentals? Meeting the basic needs that we all require? The physiological needs like air, food and water. Safety needs like health,well being and personal security.  The need for love and belonging, like intimacy (just a hand to hold is considered intimate) family and friendships. The need for self esteem, everyone has a need to feel respected, accepted and valued. And self actualization, living to a persons full potential.”

MLA Claire Trevena pointed out that though Hagel’s allegations were troubling, it is important to remember that they are only allegations at this point. However, it brings into question the residential care system.

“We have this very fixed, financially-imposed care model that doesn’t work for all residents,” she said. “Some residents obviously need more stimulation and a lot more care while other residents are much more able to be more self-sufficient, and the fact that we’re limiting the number of hours that any care worker can give a senior comes back to the systemic issue of an underfunded system. It’s hugely problematic.”

She said there needs to be a serious investment in enabling seniors to stay at home as long as possible as well as changing the amount of care hours received to be budgeted based on need instead of prescribed based on budget.

“It must be extraordinarily stressful on the care providers and workers in care homes and on those people who run the care homes,” she said. “This model doesn’t work for anyone.”

Residential care facilities in B.C. operate under either the Hospital Act or the Community Care and Assisted Living Act.

The Community Care and Assisted Living Act, which New Horizons operates under, lays out guidelines for the facility itself such as how wide a hallway has to be (1.83 metres) to the maximum temperature the hot water in the building is heated to (49 degrees Celsius).

It also requires that people with a license under the act provide “comfortably furnished lounge facilities that have, in total, at least two square metres of floor space for each person in the facility” as well as 1.5 square metres of outdoor activity space per resident.

As well as the physical facilities, the act outlines how residents should be cared for. It requires that licensees assist persons in care to maintain daily oral health. They are also required to provide residents, other than those in hospice care, with ongoing physical, social and recreational activities best suited to the needs of the person in care.

In the act, neglect is defined as “the failure of a care provider to meet the needs of a person in care, including food, shelter, care or supervision.”

“I believe the staff at New Horizons, as with all long term care sites, are very committed to quality care and work very hard to provide that care,” Orr said.

West said that the unfounded allegations have directly impacted staff at New Horizons.

“They feel their integrity and their dedication to the residents has been abused and basically maligned,” he said. “Unfortunately, a lot of people at the bedside get hurt by these accusations, they are very proud where they work, they are very proud of the care they give, for someone to have the ability to just post something on to social media where there is no accountability and no fact checking, hurts those individuals.”