Interior Health has placed another high-level administrator at the beleaguered Summerland Seniors Village in what it described a “rare and unusual” measure.
The health authority announced late Friday it appointed the administrator to oversee residential care at the privately owned facility, which has been under intense scrutiny of late.
Provincial legislation allows IH to appoint an administrator to run even a private community care facility if there are reasonable grounds to believe that there is a risk to the health or safety of a person in care.
“This is a rare and unusual step but one that we feel is necessary,” Dr. Andrew Larder, a senior IH medical health officer, said in a press release.
“Interior Health has also brought in additional nursing staff to work at the site to help bolster the clinical leadership we feel is crucial.”
The health authority funds 75 of 80 residential-care beds at the facility and 18 of 36 assisted-living suites. Summerland Seniors Village also boasts 70 independent-living units.
It was in one of the independent-living units where 91-year-old Alfredo Bonaldi was found near death in November after he was stricken with a suspected case of food poisoning. His absence at meal times should have caused staff to check on him, but didn’t, and he died in a hospital two weeks later.
Multiple investigations were launched after Bonaldi’s family went public with the story. The facility is owned by Retirement Concepts.
Watchdogs remain in place at Summerland Seniors Village as its operator corrects deficiencies identified during an inspection triggered by a complaint from a resident’s family.
In a report released Wednesday, the inspectors, working under the umbrella of the B.C. Assisted Living Registrar, outlined 14 action items that operator Retirement Concepts must address to keep its assisted-living licence.
That review complements additional inspections by Interior Health, which has directed the company to increase staffing levels and strengthen its leadership team at the facility, plus improve staff training.
“The bottom line is that we are going to remain that site, providing clinical oversight, indefinitely until we’re satisfied with the care that we’re seeing,” said Karen Bloemink, regional director of residential services for IH.
Bloemink said the deficiencies were first noted last fall, and IH staff is now “working very closely” with Retirement Concepts on the facility’s staffing model. A pair of consultants appointed by IH in December will remain at the site indefinitely.
Problems at the home surfaced in late November when the family of former Summerland Seniors Village resident Alfredo Bonaldi went public with concerns about his care there.
Bonaldi, a 91-year-old independent-living client, was felled by a suspected case of food poisoning and left unattended in his room for several days before he was discovered by a family member on Nov. 25. Bonaldi’s absence at meal times should have prompted staff to check up on him, but didn’t. He died in Penticton hospital on Dec. 10.
The facility’s policy around missing residents was one of the areas of concern identified in the Assisted Living Registrar’s review, which was conducted Dec. 3-6. It found the policy had been “recently revised to include documentation of resident absences from meals,” and “was not followed by staff.”
Other areas of concern listed in the report include: no evidence of staff training related to processes to follow in the event of accidents, deaths and medical emergencies; not all care aides registered with appropriate provincial regulators; and no evidence of routine evaluation of care aide competencies.
The report also noted that staff “stated they were afraid of repercussions by management should they put forth complaints and said they felt unsupported because the union aligned themselves with management.”
Retirement Concepts said Wednesday it’s taking the report seriously.
“We will continue to work closely with IHA to ensure that we address every issue raised in the report,” vice-president of operations Tony Baena said in a statement.
“Even before the report was published we implemented improvements to our policies and procedures and now have an experienced Retirement Concepts regional manager acting as interim general manager at Summerland Seniors Village and working with the team to address all the issues.”
Bonaldi’s son-in-law, Gil Inglis, said the man’s three daughters will continue to press government for stricter oversight of B.C. care facilities to prevent a similar tragedy.
“They’re still pushing,” Inglis said. “Hopefully there’s something satisfactory at the end.”
Katrine Conroy, the B.C. NDP’s critic for seniors and long-term care, also called for stronger government regulations, plus better enforcement of those rules.
“The government’s ultimately responsible for ensuring the safety of our citizens, and we need to ensure that there’s regulations in place to make sure people are going to get the care that they need and deserve,” said Conroy, the MLA for Kootenay West.