The newly formed Ageing and Disability Services (ADS) Office, set up to handle complaints against Residential Care Homes in Bermuda, has received 20 complaints; 17 have been resolved and three remain under investigation, including 41 complaints of elder abuse since April 2015.

That was one of the disclosures made as a result of an ongoing Bermuda Real series on alleged cases of abuse at Summerhaven, the privately-run facility designed for independent living for Bermuda’s disabled residents.

The Ministry also disclosed that the Smith’s parish facility is now officially registered as per new regulations enforced by the ADS via the Bermuda Government.

Summerhaven made Bermuda Real headlines earlier this year, when resident John Chasty sustained a serious head wound while being transported in the facility’s van in January. Mr Chasty, who required nine staples to close a scalp wound when he was hurled from his wheelchair, was filmed on camera to recount his ordeal in January.

The videotaped recording was released to Bermuda Real by former care giver at Summerhaven, Roger Richardson, who was subsequently fired by newly appointed administrator Rick Wynn, after the video was published.

The Bermuda Industrial Union is now pursuing a case of unfair dismissal against Summerhaven on Mr Richardsons’s behalf.

As promised, Health Minister Jeanne Atherden agreed to an exclusive interview in June, for part three of this ongoing Bermuda Real series.

Since then, the Ministry has confirmed that “the registration process for Summerhaven was completed on 30 June 2016”. That process included “inspections by the Elder Care Team which is comprised of inspectors from Ageing & Disability Services, Nutrition Services, Physiotherapy & Occupational Therapy, Nursing, Fire and Environmental Health”.

A Ministry spokeswoman said : “Inspections, having started in March 2015, have been ongoing to bring Summerhaven into compliance for registration.

“Based on these inspections, Summerhaven has been granted a Conditional Registration Certificate, which will be reviewed in one month. There will be ongoing inspections by the Elder Care Team as well as ongoing capacity building to ensure compliance with the regulations and assure residents’ quality of life,” she added.

The ADS Office “handles complaints on an ongoing basis on issues ranging from care quality in Residential Care Homes throughout Bermuda to senior abuse in any sector of the community”.

With three of the 20 complaints still under investigation, in addition to the “41 complaints of elder abuse, the spokeswoman said: “Details about individual cases and complaints are discussed with parties directly involved.”

But when the Minister sat down with Bermuda Real, Ms Atherden was asked why she has yet to say the word “investigation” with regard to Summerhaven. This after former Progressive Labour Party MP, Glenn Blakeney, who sounded the alarm on alleged abuse, called for a fullscale independent investigation.

In response to follow up questions fielded by Bermuda Real on Friday, July 8, 2016, the Ministry spokeswoman said:

“The Ministry is satisfied that the 8 June interview provided fulsome responses to the questions posed at that time.”

During the actual interview the Minister said: “It really comes down to ‘wordsmithing’ because we have gone and done reviews of the circumstances with respect to registration and residents [at Summerhaven].

“I’m not big on saying ‘an investigation’ which suggests we’re looking for someone to lay blame on – let’s make this person the culprit. We want to make sure they’re [residents] are getting the best care,” said Ms Atherden.

“I’m convinced that with the changes that we’re putting in place that the care will improve and get up to standard. It’s in progress,” she added.

Asked why there were no moves on the part of Government to at least suspend Summerhaven’s van driver pending the outcome of the ADS inspection process, Ms Atherden said: “I have no way of being able to determine why he was not dismissed or suspended – then you get into performance issues.

“From my perspective, all I’m saying is that we try and investigate, and make sure that all of them [care facilities] have proper procedures, so I can’t answer.

“But generally, when something comes up we try to deal with it. That to me would be an issue for the Board of Summerhaven.” she said.

When asked about the other issues raised by Mr Blakeney on the floor of the House of Assembly, the Minister said: “I’m not in a position to answer on all the other things.”

“I’m aware of all of that and the concerns and have raised them with respect to Summerhaven, so we can have clarity,” said the Minister.

“Our focus is on the bigger picture as we obviously are trying to make sure there’s standards for qualty caregivers. If the residents have complaints then we try and make sure that they raise them with the administrator. And that’s why there will be a resident appointed that lives at Summerhaven to represent them before the Board.”

But she said: “At the same time family members should be able to raise concerns with administrators. If there’s some concern that they’re not responding to [administrators] then we have this new body [ADS] to go to.

Asked if she was aware that there are Summerhaven residents who allege that they’ve been threatened by the administrator with eviction if they talk to the media [Bermuda Real], the Minister said: “I am not aware that threats are being made. And if so, then bring it to the ADS.

“We had an acting administrator who was there [at Summerhaven] for three months and I am not aware of anything being reported. The new administrator [Rick Wynn] should be responsive and help improve it,” Ms Atherden said.

She also stressed the importance of the relatively the new legislation designed to bring Bermuda online with international best practice standards.

“It’s time to bring it up to date and raise standards,” she said. “I still believe that our policy is the right policy. And if I can make it attractive to the private sector and they can see that there’s a demand, then that the best win because then we can get people going into that business and be sustainable.”

On that note she said two new homes opened in Bermuda this year. “And that’s a good thing,” said the Minister. “As we go forward we’ve started to identify Bermuda’s long term care needs.

“People have started to recognise the need for mixed homes for independent living, etc. If we can get the private sector on board, then Government doesn’t have to use money for that. I want to use it for insurance so that everyone has health insurance coverage. And we support ageing at home, that was our first step for them to be at home,” Ms Atherden said.

“We keep focusing on the few bad apples without the good! We want to make it easier for those who are doing good!”

As for the “bad apples”, she said: “Yes we’re going to root them out – in cases of financial abuse, physical abuse, so we can deal with those individuals.”

The Minister concluded: “It’s important because we believe that we value our seniors and the disabled. And we want to improve the circumstances of their care. It’s a work in progress.”

By Ceola Wilson