Shadow Minister, Health Minister: Care Of Seniors

January 12, 2015

[Updated] “Denials, delays and inaction must end, and the condition and well-being of our seniors must become a priority for the OBA Government,” Shadow Minister for Seniors Derrick Burgess said today.

Mr. Burgess said, “ The recent coverage of the poor and in some cases dangerous treatment of seniors in some of our senior care facilities should have come as no surprise to the public or the OBA Government. In June of 2014, we wrote to Health Minister Jeanne Atherden outlining serious issues that had been brought to our attention.

“We called on the OBA to review the facilities for seniors and to address the inadequate oversight and enforcement of the Residential Care and Nursing Home Act 2001. The Minister did not respond until almost 4 months later.

Mr Burgess’ press conference in June 2014 regarding the care of seniors:

“We were forced to write to the Minister again in December on behalf our seniors. Five weeks have passed with no response. These concerns were also brought to the Government’s attention on the floor of the House of Assembly by Shadow Seniors Minister Derrick Burgess.”

“We have not been the only ones to bring this issue to the OBA’s attention. Numerous complaints have been taken to the government and now these complaints have been taken to the media. All to no avail. Is the OBA interested in our seniors?

“The Residential Care Homes And Nursing Homes Regulations 2001 Act [PDF]:

  • Article 3 addresses the Duty of Operator to comply with regulations
  • Article 8 requires the employment of a full time nurse
  • Article 10 lays out the staffing ratio
  • Article 11 outlines Dietary requirements
  • Article14 mandates the employment of a registered dietitian
  • Article 29 outlines the Architectural Requirements
  • Article 45 outlines the penalties.

“There is ample evidence that these regulations are being flouted with impunity,”added Mr. Burgess. “This must be addressed immediately.

“The PLP further recommend that all policies and regulations relating to seniors be reviewed specifically in the areas of staffing ratios, physical restraint of seniors and physician visits. We must also modernize regulations relating to the right to choose your own rest home and bring them in line with the Human Rights Act.

“Denials, delays and inaction must end, and the condition and well-being of our seniors must become a priority for the OBA Government.”

Minister of Health, Seniors and Environment Jeanne Atherden recently addressed the concerns, saying “it is my particular responsibility to make sure we deliver for our seniors. I take this responsibility very seriously and will continue to report to Bermuda on challenges and progress as we move forward.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

There has been a series of articles in the press this week highlighting concerns about the care provided to seniors. While I don’t agree with all of the information presented in the articles, I am sure that for the people involved the events were terribly traumatic and that they understandably feel they were not adequately served.

If a member of the public did not receive a response to their concerns from the National Office for seniors and the Physically Challenged [NOSPC], or they do not feel that their needs were met, I offer my sincerest apology.

From what I have been able to ascertain, the incidents highlighted all took place some time ago. While I can’t go back and change what happened, I can say that we have new staff at NOSPC who are dedicated, caring people who have the best interest of seniors and the disabled at heart. Although they have only been in place for a relatively short time, they have already had a positive impact on office operations.

In addition, knowing that staff at NOSPC would be retiring, we commissioned a review of the Office’s roles and responsibilities and staffing needs. I now have the completed report, which is being reviewed to determine additional changes needed.

What has become apparent is the need to clearly define those things for which NOSPC is responsible and those things for which it is not responsible.

Clearly, enforcement is one of NOSPC’s functions, and we have taken steps to ensure that effectiveness in this area is improved. Enforcement of the Residential Care Homes and Nursing Homes Act and Regulations is key to ensuring public and private care homes are held to a high standard. This is the reason we introduced a minimum of two unscheduled inspections a year at each home. If that high standard is not met and maintained, the home must be closed. The Senior Abuse Register Act must also be upheld to ensure that reports of senior abuse are properly investigated and that those who are convicted of senior abuse are properly recorded in the Register.

NOSPC also has a role to play in educating the public on how to select a care facility for their loved one. Families do this for their children when selecting a nursery school or child day care facility and they need to be encouraged to make the same effort when selecting care for their seniors. Families need to be involved and stay involved in the care of their children and seniors. The aim should be to have seniors stay in their own home, in a safe and supportive environment, where they can be close to those who love them the most, with outside support provided as appropriate.

NOSPC helps families to identify home care and other support services. They also assist with referrals to other Government agencies and charitable organizations.

NOSPC is also investigating the introduction of certification or accreditation for care homes. The Act and Regulations deal with bricks, mortar, staffing and qualifications, but don’t speak directly to more qualitative aspects of care such as the quality of meals provided and the type and appropriateness of activities. These are more subjective qualities that are typically assured by accreditation.

In reviewing the historical files, I have been struck by the fact that many of the senior abuse complaints that come to the NOSPC are often the result of family disputes. I encourage families to put aside their differences for the sake of solutions that serve the best interest of their senior. This would not only reduce the number of complaints received but also allow the Office to make the best use of its resources.

I want to take this opportunity to express my confidence in the current staff at NOSPC. They are working hard to ensure that people receive the best service possible. Again, I apologize if families don’t feel that their concerns were properly dealt with in the past. It must also be stressed that, due to confidentiality restrictions, it is often difficult for NOSPC to counter some of the claims made and the accuracy of those claims.

Although the press articles give the impression that all care homes in Bermuda provide sub-standard care, I can assure the public that this is not the case. There are many homes that are well run, have dedicated and caring staff members who work and provide care in a pleasant and home-like atmosphere.

In the weeks ahead, I will be appointing a new Seniors Advisory Council. The Council will include a broad cross section of the community who will serve as a policy resource for the Ministry and be tasked with finalizing a National Ageing Plan. As a community, we have to encourage and support collaboration, coordination and action across all sectors to address the opportunities and challenges of ageing.

I want also to acknowledge the advocacy groups that have come forward since I have been Minister to share their concerns and present their ideas on how seniors can be better served. Their insights have been very helpful, and their role will be vital as we work together to implement the Ministry’s vision of Ageing Well in Bermuda.

I’d like to end by noting that some good has come from this week’s media spotlight in that we have received more calls from members of the public who are concerned about the care that seniors are receiving – often in their own homes. The articles have certainly increased public awareness and reinforced the need to ensure timely communications with the individuals who raised the concern.

We are working hard to strengthen the effectiveness of the National Office and the quality of service it provides. It is through good service, working with families, that we can do best for our seniors. I am so far very encouraged by the spirit and commitment of the staff and the direction we are heading.

Making things work better for the people of Bermuda is a big part of this Government’s mission. As Minister of Health, Seniors and Environment, it is my particular responsibility to make sure we deliver for our seniors. I take this responsibility very seriously and will continue to report to Bermuda on challenges and progress as we move forward.

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Update 6.04pm: The Ministry issued a response, saying the “good care of Bermuda’s seniors is a Government priority. It follows in full below.

The good care of Bermuda’s seniors is a Government priority, the Minister of Health, Seniors and Environment the Hon. Jeanne Atherden said today.

Minister Atherden reiterated changes she has brought forward in recent months to make sure seniors get the quality of life and protection they deserve. These include:

  • Staffing changes at the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged [NOSPC] to ensure the office carries out its responsibilities in an effective and timely manner. Minister Atherden said she has been impressed by the commitment of the new staff to the welfare of seniors and to strengthening the performance of the office.
  • The implementation by the NOSPC of a new inspection regime to make sure the operators of rest homes and nursing homes uphold standards of care each and every day; and
  • Following a series of care home visits at the start of the summer, the Minister initiated a review all aspects of the NOSPC, from vision and mandate to mission and staffing. That review was received last week and its recommendations will be used to make sure the Office fulfils its mission to ensure proper care and protection for the Island’s seniors.

“All of these changes are designed to make sure existing standards of care and protection are upheld and to raise standards wherever necessary,” the Minister said.

The changes initiated by the Minister were brought forward as a result of Government concerns with the operations of the NOSPC, which was strongly criticized in a series of stories by The Royal Gazette for failing to ensure proper protection for seniors.

Under the new inspection regime for Rest Homes and Nursing Homes, the operators of homes were notified during the summer that there would be at least two unscheduled visits each year and one scheduled visit, which is linked with the annual registration process. Since June 2014, NOSPC staff have made at least one unscheduled visit to each of the 19 homes. In all, 25 unscheduled visits have been made in that period.

“The implementation of these unscheduled visits has had a noticeable impact on the state of the residential homes,” the Minister said. “While we have improvements still to make, we have definitely seen a positive change.”

Minister Atherden also noted that the NOSPC’s Coordinator for Seniors had initiated regular monthly meetings with the administrators of residential care homes. These meetings give NOSPC the chance to discuss issues and review service standards.

“Along with unscheduled visits and administrator meetings, the Ministry, NOSPC and Age Concern have been working together to discuss the implementation of a system of accrediting care homes in Bermuda,” the Minister said. “Accreditation will provide residents, their families and the public in general with an assurance that each home has reached a recognised quality of care standard. Linking the legal requirement to Register care homes with an accreditation standard will produce long-term benefits.”

When it comes to selecting a rest home or nursing home, the senior and their family have the right and the responsibility to choose the home that will be the best fit for their needs. However, when there are more applicants than beds, as is the case with the Government operated homes, Sylvia Richardson and Lefroy House, there must be a system for assessing and prioritizing placement. This is the role played by the Community Assessment and Referral Team (CART) which reviews applications and recommends placement in the Government homes.

“As Bermuda’s population ages, it becomes even more important for us to plan for the future,” Minister Atherden said. “We have to educate the young and middle aged on the importance of planning for their retirement and old age. We need to promote the concept of Active Ageing and the benefits of seniors ageing at home, and only transition to residential care when really necessary. We need to ensure that we have sufficient long-term care capacity, and at a quality and price that is accessible.

“This is a big challenge; one that will take a community-wide effort to bring about. To that end, I will be appointing a new Seniors Advisory Council. The Council will include a broad cross section of the community who will serve as a policy resource for the Ministry and be tasked with finalizing a National Ageing Plan. As a community, we have to encourage and support collaboration, coordination and action across all sectors to address the opportunities and challenges of ageing.”

The Minister reiterated that improvements have been made at the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged, and that she has confidence that further improvements will continue to be made. By tightening controls and upholding standards we make sure that seniors get the care they need.

The Minister concluded: “I will continue to work hard to strengthen the effectiveness of the National Office, to ensure that, as a Government, we make things work better for our seniors and that we deliver for our seniors.”

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  1. Politricks says:

    As if the abuse/neglect all started only 2 years ago.

    When ‘Aunt’ Louise Jackson brought this subject up, time and time again, Burgess and his cohorts shut her down and even barred her from entering Lefroy House when she showed up to see if the promised work had been completed by the PLP. It didn’t, despite numerous promises and apparently funds allocated to the project. Yet nothing.

    As noted these recent stories that have hit the press occurred years ago. So stop with your pathetic and predictable politricking PLP. You did nothing while you were in power and now have the nerve to act like all this has only come to fruition under this Government.

    Having said that greater inspections need to be carried out on all these so called ‘rest homes.’ Actually, one of the rest homes named by Burgess (in Southampton) was where one of my grand parents lived when they died. Prior to and after their death our family issued numerous complaints to the Government regarding the sub par nature of the home. We were simply brushed aside with false promises of following up. This was in 2010/11. How ironic, now out of power, Burgess and his colleagues want to raise a stink and pin this on the Government. It is absolutely pathetic. But yet so predictable.

  2. Longtail says:

    Is Derrick Burgess going to be the NEW LOUISE JACKSON? If so, he has big shoes to fill and a long way to go yet!!!!

    • inna says:

      If only he had as much conviction as he does about seniors when Dreb and Burch were on their rampage! I guess things were too good back then to complain!!

    • Yahoo says:

      He doesn’t have half the integrity or commitment to anything other than a paycheck than Mrs Jackson did. Please don’t mention him in the same sentence as her.

      • stunned... says:

        i seem to remember Derek Burgess jeering Mrs. Louise Jackson in the house and calling her “Aunt Louise” whenever she took up the cause for Seniors…well well well. Selective amnesia or the onset of dementia…?

  3. Starting Point says:

    “address the inadequate oversight and enforcement of the Residential Care and Nursing Home Act 2001. The Minister did not respond until almost 4 months later….”

    sooo, the previous government did have oversight or enforcement of the act from 2001 – 2012 or 11 years and you are displeased with a 4 month response? The ability of this opposition to remind us how insanely inept the former government was is staggering.

    That aside, lets pretend the call for action came from a credible source, we do need some significant action on the Seniors issue, Bermudians are less and less likely to care for and support their parents in their own homes, or the care becomes too medical in nature so unfortunately many need to enter a facility. Is there a measurement, rating system for care homes, is this published? Then we as users could see what homes are providing quality care and what homes are not, this should be a published report. Same with schools fyi.

  4. San George says:

    Can’t wait for him to get checked into one of the elder homes – keep peddling Burgess. Old age is on the way.

    • Terry says:

      Not to fear San George.

      He will end up in Westmeath ($12000 a month) or at a rest home next to Dreb in Marthas or Caymans.

    • Yahoo says:

      On the way? Look again… it’s here.

  5. Cottereaux says:

    this might be radical thinking, but why did Minister Burgess not conduct and document his own investigation into the issue of poor services and conditions in Bermuda’s senior care homes? no reason for him not to move forward if his complaint is Minster Atherden is not addressing the issue. then he could hand a report to Minster Atherden with specifics, recommendations for changes, and then move to implement his recommendations. some people call that being proactive vs. reactive.

    the optics seem like a lot of time was wasted waiting for people on both sides to either take the initiative, or do their jobs.

  6. Onion says:

    PLP demands the OBA fix the PLP’s mess. Typical.

  7. Tough Love says:

    Here’s the real issue; senior homes need regulation and seniors need help. Doesn’t matter who the government is/was or is going to be, something needs to be done NOW!

    Keep pointing fingers back and forth doesn’t change anything. Just as we are pulling together for the AC, lets pull together for our seniors! No it doesn’t make anyone money, but maybe karma will remember the good that is done now when you are old.

  8. Northshore says:

    Still the same broken record of the PLP/BIU/PC! Nothing to offer the Country.

    • inna says:

      Offers me a good laugh every now and then! Thats about all!

  9. Ricko Chez says:

    PLP:

    Out of power
    Out of ideas
    Out of time

    RIP PLP

  10. stunned... says:

    perhaps the Honourable Derek Burgess would like to give an account of the Auntie Em debacle that occurred circa 2007 thru 2010. still looking for the indignation and outrage then that he seems to be displaying now in 2015.

  11. Great News says:

    OK so a lot don’t like Mr. Burgess and I get it but I just so happened to pay a home a visit over the holidays and I did notice a few things that can and should be addressed and am doing something about it. Don’t get side tracked by the messenger our seniors deserve everyone fighting for them

  12. CommonSensenBda says:

    Shadow Minister Burgess, please produce the info on what initiatives were put in place to insure that no senior care facility or rest homes have QUALIFIED professionals in charge of those facilities when the PLP were the overseers in charge. Then we an see jjusst where the OBA has turned back and/or ignored the regs so that we can inviserate them with facts

  13. just saying says:

    Rest homes are very different to Nursing homes..however, the standards have been questionable for both for MANY years…Thanks to Louise Jackson, the predicament and plight of many seniors would have remained buried had she not raised the alarm. She had a determination to bring senior issues to front page news…what did the Government of the day do…nothing? The legislation for monitoring these facilities has been absent- period. It’s been a “Bury your head in the sand” attitude from all administrations so they must all take the blame for not acting. So Mr Burgess..please do not lay blame on the OBA but man up and take some responsibility too. To do nothing is to condone the situation. There are horror stories from around the world about elderly care facilities but our seniors have no protection at all. We owe our seniors more than gratitude..we stand on their shoulders and they sacrificed so much so they deserve nothing but the best..respect, dignity, loving care, warmth, nutrition..

  14. Joonya says:

    Deez bies continya to ambarrass dem selves ohmost errrridey. SMFH