Un­li­censed care homes al­lowed to op­er­ate

Of­fi­cials let Toronto sites stay open de­spite health con­cerns be­cause res­i­dents have nowhere else to go, doc­u­ments show

Toronto Star - - FRONT PAGE - BETSY POW­ELL AND KRISTIN RUSHOWY STAFF RE­PORTERS

They are de­scribed as over­crowded, un­san­i­tary and in “de­plorable” con­di­tion, but un­li­censed care homes in Toronto are be­ing al­lowed to stay open, with pro­vin­cial po­lice and health of­fi­cials turn­ing a blind eye be­cause there is nowhere else for the res­i­dents to go, the Star has learned.

On­tario Pro­vin­cial Po­lice con­ducted a seven-month in­ves­ti­ga­tion last year af­ter re­ceiv­ing com­plaints about un­san­i­tary con­di­tions, over­crowd­ing and a lack of qual­i­fied staff in homes of­fer­ing live-in ser­vices to the el­derly and peo­ple with men­tal health is­sues.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors fo­cused on two peo­ple op­er­at­ing un­li­censed homes in Scar­bor­ough — though they said sim­i­lar res­i­dences are a “sys­temic” is­sue across On­tario — and found that ser­vices ad­ver­tised “are not ac­tu­ally be­ing pro­vided to the res­i­dents,” ac­cord­ing to a let­ter ob­tained by the Star that was sent in De­cem­ber to an as­sis­tant deputy min­is­ter in the Health and Long-Term Care Ministry.

How­ever, en­forc­ing the law would mean dis­plac­ing vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple when there are no hous­ing al­ter­na­tives avail­able, wrote Tay­lore Hald, com­man­der of the OPP’s health fraud in­ves­ti­ga­tions unit.

“There­fore, it has been de­cided that the en­force­ment of this pro­vin­cial act would not be a suit­able ac­tion at this time.”

Sec­tion 95 (1) of the Long-Term Homes Care Act states that “no per­son shall op­er­ate res­i­den­tial premises for per­sons re­quir­ing nurs­ing care or in which nurs­ing care is pro­vided to two or more un­re­lated per­sons ex­cept un­der the author­ity of a li­cence.”

Last Septem­ber, po­lice and ministry of­fi­cials said a “con­sen­sus was reached” not to pur­sue charges. Another OPP doc­u­ment ob­tained by the Star said the Health Ministry “would need to have a strat­egy in place, if these un­li­censed res­i­dences were closed down.”

The Star also re­viewed a sum­mary of the OPP in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which in­cluded in­ter­views with dozens of peo­ple such as mu­nic­i­pal li­cens­ing of­fi­cers, nurs­ing staff and com­mu­nity care work­ers, as well as Toronto po­lice and Scar­bor­ough Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­firmed hos­pi­tal and com­mu­nity groups were mak­ing re­fer­rals to un­li­censed homes be­cause no other “proper hous­ing” was avail­able.

“The al­ter­na­tive for these in­di­vid­u­als is liv­ing in a shel­ter or on the street,” Hald’s let­ter states, adding the prob­lem stems from the hous­ing short­age in Greater Toronto.

OPP health fraud of­fi­cers in­ter­viewed pro­vin­cial of­fences of­fi­cers em­ployed by the city about a mar­ried cou­ple, Win­ston Man­ning and Phyl­lis Jackson, op­er­at­ing homes in Scar­bor­ough.

They call their busi­ness Com­fort Res­i­den­tial Group Home, and the com­pany’s web­site de­scribes it as “a sup­port group home for teens, adults and se­niors in the Scar­bor­ough area liv­ing with men­tal ill­ness.”

“Car­ing staff mem­bers are on site 24/7 to as­sist with meal plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion and sup­port with med­i­ca­tion com­pli­ance. Our res­i­dents can en­joy a home that is af­ford­able, per­ma­nent and safe to ex­pe­ri­ence a bet­ter qual­ity of life,” the web­site says.

Ac­cord­ing to the OPP case sum­mary, pro­vin­cial of­fences of­fi­cers who vis­ited two Com­fort homes last year found un­safe con­di­tions caused by “il­le­gal con­struc­tion, med­i­ca­tions (in­clud­ing nar­cotics) not prop­erly stored; strong odour of hu­man urine and fe­ces, con­verted bed­rooms with mat­tresses on the floor with mul­ti­ple oc­cu­pants per bed­room, mouse fe­ces, de­ceased mice, un­li­censed per­sonal sup­port work­ers, and in­ad­e­quate food sup­ply.”

The sum­mary said of­fi­cials re­main concerned about res­i­dents af­ter Toronto of­fi­cials re­ported finding “de­plorable con­di­tions.”

Toronto Fire Ser­vices has laid 50 fire code charges against the pair, a city spokesper­son said. Fire ser­vices also re­moved sev­eral oc­cu­pants from the base­ment of a Com­fort home af­ter post­ing two im­me­di­ate-threat-to-life no­tices.

Some charges are still be­fore the courts.

Oc­cu­pants ei­ther pay cash or turn over their so­cial as­sis­tance cheques di­rectly to Man­ning, the OPP sum­mary said.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care alerted po­lice to al­le­ga­tions about un­li­censed Toronto homes in 2016.

The ministry also “en­gaged the Scar­bor­ough (Gen­eral) Hos­pi­tal to make them aware of the con­cerns and to en­sure that no dis­charged pa­tients seek­ing com­mu­nity liv­ing would be re­ferred to these res­i­dences,” said spokesper­son David Jensen.

In the re­port, po­lice said that the Scar­bor­ough hos­pi­tal was known to make re­fer­rals to the un­li­censed homes. How­ever, a hos­pi­tal spokesper­son said the pol­icy is to pro­vide a list of reg­u­lated homes, and leave it to the pa­tient or care­giver to de­ter­mine where to go.

How­ever, in light of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, it is now “re­view­ing how this is be­ing im­ple­mented to en­sure that it is be­ing ad­hered to across all de­part­ments.”

In an in­ter­view last week, Man­ning said he was unaware of the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion but said the fact that it had con­cluded with­out ad­di­tional charges proves he is do­ing noth­ing wrong.

“I’m here try­ing to help these peo­ple,” he said.

Man­ning said he is a per­sonal sup­port worker and Jackson a reg­is­tered nurse who are both qual­i­fied to look af­ter peo­ple. The cou­ple said they are cur­rently op­er­at­ing five homes, with be­tween four and eight res­i­dents in each rang­ing in age from their 20s to 70s.

Man­ning said the money he col­lects from res­i­dents goes to­ward pay­ing for the rent, food and up­keep of the homes and for part-time sup­port staff.

“I’m strug­gling. I can­not pay my bills half the time,” he said.

He ac­knowl­edges that there might be “messes. You have dirt, but we do clean it.”

There were mice at one house, “but we called in pest con­trol and got a cat.” He noted there are mice ev­ery­where, “in kitchens, in restau­rants, all over the town.” He pulled a bank state­ment from his pocket, point­ing out gro­cery charges.

“I spend three to five hun­dred ev­ery week,” Man­ning said. “We are pro­vid­ing for them.” The OPP sum­mary said a res­i­dent told a so­cial worker that they were be­ing fed food from a food bank. Man­ning de­nied they used a food bank.

Jackson took the Star on a tour of one of their homes on Rouge River Dr. in Scar­bor­ough, which had two fire depart­ment no­tices on the front doors.

A long­time res­i­dent in her 60s died there re­cently, though Man­ning is un­clear about her cause of death. He in­sists she was well cared for.

“If I wasn’t giv­ing her proper care, they took her away from me one time and took her some­where else and she came back to us.”

The in­te­rior of the two-storey brick home was clut­tered, but ap­peared clean. “Take a pic­ture,” Jackson in­vited as she opened the door to an en­suite bath­room next to a bed­room with a man asleep on one of two sin­gle beds.

“I’m sure it’s far bet­ter than Seaton House,” she said, re­fer­ring to the down­town men’s emer­gency shel­ter. Its sched­uled clo­sure this year has been de­layed as Toronto strug­gles to house dis­placed res­i­dents and fund the George St. re­vi­tal­iza­tion project. Another man gave a thumbs-up when asked how he was do­ing.

On the main level, two men sat watch­ing a large-screen TV. Wet cloth­ing was hang­ing on a line stretched across the back­yard, and Man­ning was pre­par­ing noo­dle soup for lunch.

Sam Sat­gu­narajh, 31, who said he suf­fers from schizophre­nia, told the Star he feels well looked af­ter at the home where he has lived for the past five months.

“There’s three meals pro­vided per day. They take good care of you, do laun­dry,” he said.

Jackson dis­missed the un­flat­ter­ing as­sess­ment in the OPP in­ves­tiga­tive sum­mary as “pro­pa­ganda” and com­plained of ha­rass­ment by city and fire of­fi­cials. The pa­tients are get­ting the care they need, she said.

Res­i­dents are served three meals, their med­i­ca­tion is ad­min­is­tered, and “we . . . take them to their clin­ics, if there is on­go­ing health is­sues,” she said.

Home care work­ers also pro­vide as­sis­tance, but when they’re not avail­able, “we make sure (res­i­dents) have clean clothes on and hair care and what­ever is nec­es­sary,” she said. “It’s hard work.” The pro­vin­cial Health Ministry says it is “ad­dress­ing the wider is­sue of both sup­port­ive and af­ford­able hous­ing across the prov­ince,” with $45 mil­lion over three years for 1,150 units for vul­ner­a­ble pa­tients, and other in­vest­ments.

But NDP health critic France Géli­nas, who says un­li­censed homes are also an is­sue in her north­ern Nickel Belt rid­ing, said very lit­tle change has hap­pened in the long-term care sec­tor since the Lib­er­als took power, and pa­tients are still dis­charged with few op­tions un­less they can af­ford pricey re­tire­ment homes.

“This is On­tario,” she said. “If some­body needs care, they should be get­ting care.”

For Jackson, the care she and Man­ning pro­vide fills a void in the com­mu­nity.

“If you let these peo­ple out on the street, it’s cruel,” Jackson said. “They would be pan­han­dling, wip­ing wind­shields to . . . buy a ham­burger. They’d have nowhere to sleep.”

Man­ning ac­knowl­edged they’re not pro­vid­ing Cadil­lac care. He lives in the base­ment at Rouge River Dr. with his cousin, who fills in when Man­ning is else­where.

“I’m try­ing my best,” he said. “All we need is help from the gov­ern­ment or say, ‘Go ahead and do your thing and we’ll work with you and mon­i­tor you. We’ll help you de­velop some­thing that is vi­tal to these peo­ple.’ Let us work and look af­ter these peo­ple, but also work with us. They’re work­ing against us.”

CAR­LOS OS­O­RIO/TORONTO STAR

Win­ston Man­ning and Phyl­lis Jackson run Com­fort Res­i­den­tial Group Homes, an un­li­censed care res­i­dence, out of this Scar­bor­ough house.

Man­ning in­sists that a woman in her 60s who died at the home was well cared for.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.