Two Ontario LTC homes close in part due to need for sprinkler system

Residents of a long-term care home in Guelph, Ont., and their loved ones are shocked and scared, a representative for the families says, after the home announced it will close in part because it will not be able to meet an impending requirement for install a sprinkler system.

LaPointe-Fisher Nursing Home, a 92-bed facility with 146 people still on the waiting list, is one of at least two homes that have announced they will not be able to meet the Jan. 1, 2025 deadline for long-term care. houses in the province and will close instead.

There’s no question that fire safety is important, but losing long-term care spaces at a time of such critical need doesn’t make sense, said Lisa Sharp, president of the home’s family council.

“It feels wrong, and to do it when you know long-term care is very necessary,” she said. “It disgusts me to think that they have allowed a long-term care facility to close.”

All long-term care homes in Ontario must have sprinkler systems installed by the end of this year, under changes announced a decade ago, and LaPointe-Fisher said meeting that requirement “has proven difficult” due to structural issues. of the aging building.

“As the safety of our residents is our top priority, we believe that the age of our building and the significant investments required to maintain its state of conservation cannot be achieved in the current economic situation,” a statement from the home said.

“Due to a combination of other factors, such as the upcoming expiration of our license, substantial increases in construction costs, and healthcare human resources challenges, we are forced to make the difficult decision to close our home.”

Sharp’s partner Cathy, who is 65 and living with a disability and increased needs after an accident, has been at LaPointe-Fisher for five years. She is now worried about what will come next, Sharp said.

“Everyone feels exactly the same,” Sharp said.

“There is still an element of shock and dismay. Everyone is a little glazed over. The residents who are there cognitively are also shocked, because they are afraid of what they are going to do. This was their home and now they will have to go somewhere else “.

Mount Nemo Christian Nursing Home in rural Burlington, Ont., said a sprinkler system is not feasible at its current location, where it does not have access to municipal services, and also plans to close.

“We have a well and septic and water filtration systems, all of which would require substantial improvements to sustain a renovation or redevelopment of our current home to meet current standards,” the home wrote on its website in January 2023.

He had hoped the closing could coincide with the opening of a new home in Hamilton, but it is scheduled to open in late 2026. Mount Nemo now plans to close on September 13.

Long-Term Care Minister Stan Cho said the ministry is reviewing data on sprinkler compliance from a household survey to see how many might need more help. He has been speaking to the Ministry of the Attorney General “about the possibility of exceptional cases occurring.”

“It’s a balance,” Cho said.

“The safety aspect of this is certainly important, but we have to be reasonable and understand that the pandemic was very disruptive to these homes in the day-to-day running of their operations, given the urgent nature of the care they needed to provide. “We are doing everything possible to be reasonable with the houses.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Michael Kerzner said his ministry, “through the Fire Marshal’s Office, has been in regular contact with the Ministry of Long-Term Care and its stakeholders to help ensure that nursing homes long term continue to comply with Ontario Fire Code standards.”

The Ontario Fire Chiefs Association has long pushed for legislation to require sprinklers, particularly after a series of fatal fires in seniors’ homes across the province.

In 2009, a fire at the Muskoka Heights retirement home killed four people and left six elderly residents seriously injured. A jury at a coroner’s inquest recommended automatic sprinklers, which fire chiefs said was the fourth jury to request such systems in nursing and retirement homes.

St. Catharines Fire Services Deputy Chief Andrea DeJong, who sits on the fire chiefs association board of directors, said she doesn’t have much sympathy for homeowners facing closure.

“The owners and the companies that own the nursing homes have had more than 10 years to prepare the budget and everything else,” he said.

“We don’t want these houses to close, but we also want them to be safe for the people, the residents who live in them, and we have been working collaboratively with the ministry.”

DeJong also said there are many rural buildings with sprinkler systems.

Donna Duncan, executive director of the Ontario Long-Term Care Association, said she believes only a minority of households are struggling to meet the requirement and is hopeful solutions can be found.

For Sharp, the closing date for the LaPointe-Fisher home, Nov. 29, is quickly approaching.

In early September, once the closing date is 12 weeks away, LaPointe-Fisher residents will be placed on “crisis” admissions lists and government agencies will help place them in new homes, Sharp said. Both she and her partner are anxious.

“You make friends there, the staff, the residents,” Sharp said.

“Now, again, she has to start over, with a new roommate, with a new facility, a new staff, training the staff on all the things she likes to happen, and the way she goes to bed.” at night”.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2024.

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