Nursing home’s plan to downsize slammed

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A London nursing home wants to transfer dozens of beds to smaller markets in Southwestern Ontario, angering some residents and a Queen’s Park critic who say the beds are needed in London.

The 122-bed Meadow Park nursing home, owned and operated by Jarlette Health Services, has applied to the province to transfer 17 beds to Southampton and 29 to Chatham , to other homes it owns, as part of a 30-year licence.

But with 1,093 people in London, Elgin and Middlesex counties on the waiting list for long-term care beds according to the regional health care administrator, and the average wait time pegged at 87 days, the move is angering some.

“More long-term care beds are needed, not fewer,” said London MPP Teresa Armstrong, the NDP seniors affairs critic at Queen’s park.

“Every day, I receive heartbreaking phone calls, letters and emails from families concerned that their loved ones are not getting the care they need,” said the London-Fanshawe MPP.

Armstrong joined more than a dozen staff, residents and community members who voiced opposition to the proposal at a public meeting held by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care in London.

“These aren’t just beds, they’re human beings,” said Colin Bell, president of Meadow Park’s residents council. “They should be thinking more about the human angle.”

Moving the beds is part of a redevelopment plan for the aging Meadow Park building, which requires upgrades by 2025 to comply with ministry regulations. Ontario is offering incentives like construction subsidies and licence term extensions for private and not-for-profit homes that make the needed changes.

Meadow Park submitted its redevelopment application to the ministry in 2015.

“Updating Meadow Park London to modern design standards would see the elimination of four bed wards, providing a higher quality of life, privacy and dignity for our seniors,” wrote Judy Maltais, director of long-term care operations.

“This would also result in larger rooms, combining generous spaces and places for private time.”

Meadow Park isn’t alone. Of the 78 long-term care homes in a health care region of Southwestern Ontario stretching from the Bruce to the Niagara peninsulas, including London, 47 are slated for improvements.

But with 90 per cent of clients waiting up to 291 days for a basic room at Meadow Park, and only six spaces opening each month according to the South West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), the agency that allocates health dollars in that region, the union for the home’s workers said the bed transfer is wrongheaded.

“It’s unconscionable for the ministry to even be considering it,” said Robert Buchanan, national representative for Unifor Local 302. “The ministry should be adding beds, not taking them away.”

Maltais said the needs of people seeking long-term care beds in London and the South West LHIN are being “adequately met.”

“We’re looking at options to ensure the future sustainability of this home so that our residents are able to thrive within this community,” she said.

Meadow Park was where serial killer and ex-nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer killed her eighth and final victim in 2014. Arpad Horvath, 75, died Aug. 31, 2014 after Wettlaufer, then employed by the home, injected him with a fatal dose of insulin. His family is suing the home in a recently-filed lawsuit.

Wettlaufer was fired from Caressant Care in Woodstock, where she murdered seven others, in March 2014, amid allegations of medication-related errors. She told police she was hired by Meadow Park within a month of her dismissal.

She’s now serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years, after pleading guilty in June to eight counts of first-degree murder, four of attempted murder and two of aggravated assault. The province says it will hold a public inquiry into Wettlaufer’s crimes, but the details — who will head it, and its scope — haven’t been announced.

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