More answers needed in wake of H.J. McFarland Home fallout

Reporter Sarah Williams probably described it best in the Gazette newsroom on Tuesday.The mere possibility residents at H.J. McFarland Home might have been sexually assaulted by a staff member was “stomach churning.”

It should be noted at this stage allegations of sexual assault by a staff member towards residents-initially investigated by H.J. McFarland staff and subsequently by a provincial Long Term Care inspector- haven’t been proven in our judicial system.

Certainly, it’s assumed the OPP is currently or has already investigated these allegations but confirmation couldn’t be sourced prior to the Gazette’s deadline.

Nevertheless, the provincial inspector’s report from November 28, 2018 is available for citizenry to read thanks to the Ministry of Health and Longterm Care’s public reporting website. While none of the parties outside the Home’s former Site Administrator are identified, details brought to light by way of the report go beyond deeply disturbing, shocking or upsetting.

Typically, these reports generated by provincial inspectors usually focus on the various minutiae and mechanisms of a Long Term Care operation. Issues with record keeping, falls prevention policies, housekeeping, accessability and efforts to meet new health and safety codes tend to be the typical fodder of these reports.

But this is very much different and, if these allegations are true, the Home, an intended place of safe shelter and care for the valued people in our community who can no longer care for themselves, will develop an unfortunate stigma.

That’s not good news for a municipally owned and operated Long Term Care facility or the County’s taxpayers and there needs to be a deep dive by County Council as to what happened, who knew what and when they knew it and how operations at H.J. McFarland home move ahead in this fallout.

The Municipality announced Monday the former Site Administrator had resigned and that “The employment relationship” between the County and another senior administration team member “had ended.”

This unfortunate language once again employed by the County for the second time this year (The last occurrence being when past CAO James Hepburn left Shire Hall unexpectedly) simply fuels speculation.

County of Prince Edward Communications Coordinator Mark Kerr told this news room the personnel changes and the Nov. 28, 2018 provincial inspectors report were “unrelated” and if that’s indeed true, then what exactly is happening and has happened at H.J. McFarland Home should be on the forefront of everyone’s minds-Council and taxpayers alike.

The public deserves to know more. What also needs to be reinforced at a time like this is that alleged actions of one can’t be allowed to spoil the team effort that goes on at H.J. McFarland Home and other long term care facilities in Prince Edward County.

Thanks to insight by way of my matrimonial arrangement, I’ve seen first hand the work life lived by those that serve and comfort our dear elderly and vulnerable residents.

The times of joy when residents are living life to their fullest and truly enjoying those golden years. Laughter and comfortability are the trappings of excellent care.

The times of sorrow and loss felt directly by staff when a situation turns palliative. The aspect of death and grief is an everyday feeling amongst Personal Support Workers.

The dedication and strength needed to perform these duties can’t easily be measured and those front line staff members who have built careers of caring can’t be forgotten or painted with a brush during this dark time in our community.

-Jason Parks