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Saving seniors

There is a section of the community which, in our opinion, is a section that is often either overlooked or it is assumed that their needs have already been met and therefore there is no need to worry about them. I am referring to senior citizens and disabled residents residing in private care.

The total population accommodated in all of these facilities when faced with a catastrophic scenario begs the question of what will happen to them in the event of partial or near total collapse of theses structures? Where will these residents be relocated to? And how long will it take for this process of relocation to be completed? Will the pre-impact services offered to the persons also be available at the relocated facility?

Let us take a closer look at this very important aspect of emergency planning. First, current estimates suggests that there are 51 privately owned and managed facilities located in nine of the 11 parishes, while Government administers four in four parishes.

It is important to note that these four do not include children’s homes. Average population count per facility at maximum is estimated at 30 persons; totalling 1,530 persons in private care; the exact numbers per facility does not influence this scenario.

Information on the preparedness and readiness levels for disaster scenarios impacting these privately run care facilities, differs depending on whom one talks too. All of the facilities are fully registered and are in compliance with all statutes and regulations; however there are no statutes or regulation that dictates how private residential care facilities should function under catastrophic conditions.

Of the 51 facilities identified, more than half of them are two story facilities. Twenty six are shared in two of the most densely populated parishes in the island. Four are located within 500 feet of a coast line, with two subject to immediate storm surge at category Two or higher. Ten are subject to severe isolation in the event of a major flooded. Five of the same 10 are likely to be subject flood intrusion from inland flooding as they located in or near flood plains.

The private facilities all have met the minimum state requirements for operating a private residential care facility; a cursory review of some of these facilities has revealed the following:

* There are trained 24 hour nursing care in place.

* Fire extinguishers have been strategically located.

* Smoke alarms are all installed but not heat detectors were observed.

* First aid kits were observed, and they appeared to be augmented to support the advanced skill levels of the nursing staff.

* Emergency exits were clearly marked and some of them also carried emergency lighting to illuminate the exits.

* All of the facilities reviewed all carried emergency lighting as a back-up to a general power failure. However no emergency generators were observed to provide long-term support.

* Staffing confirmed that there was a basic night time procedure for such occurrences as patient medical emergencies, and other in-house related after hours events. They also confirmed that there was a basic emergency plan for fires and some flooding. However no comprehensive plan could be confirmed for catastrophic scenarios such as hurricanes.

The facilities however, did not possess any comprehensive evacuation plans or facility relocation plans to respond to a major fire or hurricane scenario. Discussions with some of the residents in the surrounding communities also confirmed that they, as residents, were not aware of such a plan to relocate the facility if it was under threat from a hazard.

Even though personnel were of the opinion, that the patients would not be abandoned, no one could confirm that there was an administrative process in place, that would provide suitable alternate accommodation for this group. There was no confirmation received regarding how the transport of the residents from one location to another would be managed and accomplished.

We spoke to some DEOs in St. Philip, and St. Michael regarding their plans for supporting private residential care facilities. In each case, these organisations confirmed that there were some internal plans within their organisations to provide support, but could not confirm if the facility itself had any such plan.

One DEO chairman firmly stated that as far as they were concerned, no plans were in place for any private care facility in any parish. The chairman also said that they were unclear as to what government had in place for its own residential care facilities. The chairman also noted that on varying occasions when they had extended invitations to DEO meetings, no representative ever attended.

They questioned the facility’s internal plans for natural hazards and, that according to their district plans, no emergency shelter had made any provision for a full scale evacuation and patient relocation to any of the emergency shelters under their purview.

As this is a very socially delicate subject, we are going to look at all sides of this issue and ask the following questions:

1. Who will be liable in case of death or injury during a catastrophic scenario?

2. As part of the residential care, are the patients provided with a guarantees that they will be relocated in the event of a major disaster or emergency?

3. What is Government’s roles in providing emergency response support to private r4esidential care facilities before and after a major hurricane response?

4. Will provisions be made at Government emergency shelters to accept [patients from private residential care facilities, and will emergency shelter personnel be appropriately trained to meet the needs of the persons?

Next week we will present some of the answers.

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