Still accepting clients this month; ‘We were trying to keep going,’ says chairman. ‘We had not written it off’
By CHARLIE FIDELMAN, The Gazette
April 16, 2010 – Families are upset that the administration at the Griffith-McConnell extended-care home continued to accept admissions until shortly before announcing Wednesday the residence is to close June 30.
“I’m shocked,” said Maura Jansen, who drove in from Ottawa yesterday. Her mother, 88, was accepted as a resident in March at $4,300 a month.
“They had to have an inkling … I’m sure this wasn’t decided overnight,” Jansen said. “Had I known, I would not have chosen this place.”
Jansen said she chose the non-profit private facility because of its reputation for excellent care. “But the move was extremely traumatic,” she said. “I’ve noticed a real decline in her faculties. I don’t want to exacerbate the situation by moving her to a transition facility.”
A total of 170 seniors, with an average age of 85, will be forced to quickly find other living arrangements.
Officials say a monthly deficit of $100,000 and a vacancy rate exceeding 40 per cent has left them with no choice but to close the facility, a two-storey building housing patients with Alzheimer’s disease and an adjacent 13-storey tower for autonomous living.
“Until we had made a decision to close, we were still open,” board chairman Peter McAuslan said. “We’re in the business of offering beds and trying to keep going. We had not written the thing off.”
But no clients were accepted after April 6, which is when the board made the decision to shut down.
The residence needed a $13-million upgrade to be able to compete with modern, hotel-style private residences now available for nearly the same price, he said.
“We’ve been worried about this since Aug. 4 and trying to find other options to allow us to survive,” McAuslan said.
In August, the Montreal Health and Social Services Agency informed Griffith-McConnell that it would no longer rent 70 to 92 “transition” beds for extended care because it could fill the need within its network.
Most of the Griffith’s transition beds are occupied by chronic-care patients from the Jewish General and St. Mary’s hospitals awaiting placement in nursing homes.
Some have been on a wait list for nearly a year.
Private residences have a much higher vacancy rate. Many reported being inundated with calls yesterday from families seeking placement.
“It’s not something I would ever want to go through again,” said Barbara Dylla, who moved her father out of St. Mary’s last year when families were given four months to relocate relatives to public nursing homes; several ended up at the Griffith.
Now the time frame is 21/2 months to find appropriate care. Some angry families are calling it “incredibly insensitive.”
Jansen said she hasn’t told her mother yet.
But the news has spread, and some patients are “freaking out,” said nurse Fraida Weiskop, especially those without family. “They say, ‘Will they throw me out on the street?’ “
The Griffith has been a home for staff, too, Weiskop said. “It’s tough because we’re a close community.”
Health officials from CSSS Cavendish, the local community health service, dispatched a team of psychologists and social workers to help families cope.
“In the worst-case scenario, they can’t adjust – we’re trying to prevent decline and death,” CSSS executive director Francine Dupuis said. “We feel for them – at that age, it’s difficult to move your physical environment.”
Not everyone is upset. Ken Hall said his mother, 96, took the news in stride.
“That’s just the way it happens. I’m looking for a residence near Montreal West. My mother still does her banking here,” he said while circling potential homes on a list.
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