An unlicensed seniors' home on the outskirts of Halifax is closing permanently and has notified residents they have one month to move out.
Since at least 2016, officials with Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency have asked the owners of Adelaide Senior Care Home in Waverley, N.S., to update their building to meet the standards expected of a care home.
Owner Jody Munn said the home hasn't turned a profit since he bought it in 2015, and the necessary upgrades aren't feasible.
"I feel really bad for the families and feel bad for staff," Munn said.
But, he added: "I can't keep feeding this business when actually I'm basically losing money on my income by trying to keep the Adelaide open."
Munn said he only learned after buying the business that it wasn't permitted to operate as a care home for seniors. He said he's looked into changing the operating permit, but it would require costly upgrades, including additional fire exits, a new sprinkler system and the installation of fire walls and doors.
He said the upgrades could cost more than $300,000. That is based on an engineering assessment and his own estimates.
Following an inspection in 2019, Matt Covey, division chief of fire prevention with Halifax Fire, told CBC the business had been on the fire department's radar for years because of the conflict between its operating permit and its actual operations. At that time, the fire department ordered five non-ambulatory clients to move out.
Munn said he's only accepted mobile clients since then, but that hasn't entirely solved the problem.
Threat of fines 'sealed the deal'
In a Jan. 29 letter to Adelaide clients that notified them of the closure, Munn said he was recently notified he could be subject to fines if he continues operating under the current circumstances.
"That pretty much sealed the deal," Munn said. "We have no choice but to close."
The home currently has six long-term residents who each pay $4,500 per month, and occasionally some short-term respite clients, Munn said.
All 10 staff have been notified that they'll be terminated when the business shutters on Feb. 28.
The century-old house that Adelaide occupies has been on the market since last May. Originally listed for $585,000, the price dropped this month to $545,000.
According to a real estate listing, the house has nine bedrooms. Since it was built in 1899, it's been a single-family home, duplex, bed and breakfast, and a law office — all before the current business was established.
Munn, who is based in Fredericton, N.B., said he started trying to sell the business in 2018, hoping someone local to Halifax would be interested, but he couldn't find a buyer.
"We just thought someone who was more hands-on as an owner could make a go at it better than we could, and that just never materialized," he said.
As of publication, the building was still listed for sale, but Munn said he has an agreement with a buyer who intends to return the building into a residence.
Advocate for seniors calls for provincial intervention
Munn said all the residents in the home need help with basic daily activities like personal hygiene, making meals and taking medication.
He said he'd like to help find the clients a new place to live, but "all I can do is make some phone calls, see if [other facilities] are willing to take any other clients on."
Access to long-term care is an ongoing problem across Nova Scotia, with about 1,500 people on the waiting list for provincially licensed facilities.
Bill VanGorder, the chief policy officer and Atlantic spokesperson for the Canadian Association for Retired Persons, said he hopes the province will make exceptions for the residents of Adelaide and bump them up that list.
"It's always difficult to find placement in long-term care homes and in this case with such short notice, almost impossible," VanGorder said.
"What is a family going to do? … They're obviously [at Adelaide] because they're not able to look after them in the community, so they need another place for them to live right away."
VanGorder said he's also concerned about how difficult a move could be for the residents. He called it a potential "trauma."
"This is much more than just moving from one apartment to another. This is a whole move of a life that's not able to deal well with moves and changes."
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