By Mike Wilson
After months of negative press about the conditions and staffing issues at Brucelea Haven in Walkerton, there is some good news to report.
Jill Knowlton, Bruce County’s acting director of long-term care operations and COO of Primacare Living Solutions, told the county’s homes committee on Dec. 5 that Brucelea Haven is moving closer to compliance with Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care standards.
Knowlton told the committee that four compliance inspectors were at the home during the last week of November, clearing six compliance orders and completing two critical incident reviews around narcotics management issues.
“Both of those were cleared and found to be in compliance,” she said. “It was a very successful visit.”
Knowlton said that of the 24 orders issued by the Ministry at the start of this journey, seven remain as of Dec. 5.
“We are tracking very, very well and we feel that in January we’ll be able to have those orders lifted,” she said. “I’m always cautious about making predictions, but I do feel very confident that those orders are tracking well.”
She told the committee that this is a wonderful accomplishment for the home, and that staff and leadership at the home could be commended for the work they have done over the past few months. Knowlton also indicated that the inspectors did provide some off-the-record feedback about how the mood has changed within the home.
“For the first time since the more intense scrutiny that the home has been under, they (inspectors) did not hear staff shortages as a reason from the staff for the issues in the home,” said Knowlton. “It was very positive. The director even commented that this is very manageable now… they (staff) have gone through a lot and have done very, very well.”
Brucelea Haven has also been successful at recruiting for vacant positions. Knowlton said that the successful recruiting, combined with the halt of admissions at the home that went into effect July 12, has resulted in a better staff-to-resident ratio at the home.
As of Dec. 5, there are 119 residents at the home, 25 below the capacity of the 144-bed.
Knowlton commended the human resources department for their ability to attract quality candidates to work at Brucelea Haven.
“Not just resumes but resumes from people who have the credentials and requirements and would be able to join our team at Brucelea Haven,” she said. “I’m hoping that’s an indicator that the home is turning around and being seen as a good opportunity for employment and a career.”
Knowlton added that this is great to see, as across the province, health human resources is at a crisis level and an emergency task force is being formed by the Ministry and healthcare professional associations, to find a solution to the problem. She mentioned that three homes in the province have had to close beds due to lack of staff, and that one home which was recently awarded new beds by the province, turned them down due to staffing issues.
Knowlton also updated the committee on some of the work done by Primacare and staff at the home to streamline processes, which has resulted in more accurate data that can be used for scheduling staff assignments and increased efficiency. Brucelea Haven is also working on a recreation program for the special-care home area for dementia care, something that the Ministry wanted to see completed.
“That’s been a very detailed quality action plan developed with the home’s program manager,” said Knowlton.
If everything goes as planned, Knowlton said that Brucelea Haven could see its cease admissions order lifted as early as February 2020.
“I think that we’re moving along quite well in that direction,” she said.
She also said that the toughest part of getting back into compliance is over.
“The first three months are the toughest because there is a lot of change,” she said. “We’re coming toward the end of our three months and I expect things to settle down a bit.”
Warden Mitch Twolan thanked Knowlton for the work her and the team at Brucelea Haven have done in recent months.
“This is a real good news story,” he said. “On behalf of county council, we truly appreciate all of your efforts.”
County Councillor Janice Jackson agreed.
“Lifting all of these compliance orders is such a relief to hear,” she said.
Brockton mayor and homes committee chair Chris Peabody said he looks forward to the day that admissions to the home open again, stating that there are families with loved ones on waiting lists around the region.
“There is considerable pressure building in the southern Bruce area,” he said. “Our one seniors’ residence is full and has a waiting list… just a lot of anxious families on waiting lists all around southern Bruce and Grey.”
He asked Knowlton to “politely” ask the province to consider all of the work they’ve done at Brucelea Haven and expedite the re-admission process.
“If there is an opportunity for earlier admissions, we will certainly do that and do everything we can to make sure we can receive those admissions,” said Knowlton.