N.B. suddenly suspends licences at 2 special care homes

Foyer St. Bernard is one of two special care homes that had their operating licences revoked by the Department of Social Development. (Michèle Brideau/RADIO-CANADA - image credit)
Foyer St. Bernard is one of two special care homes that had their operating licences revoked by the Department of Social Development. (Michèle Brideau/RADIO-CANADA - image credit)

New Brunswick's Department of Social Development is revoking the licences of two special care homes in a move to "protect the well-being of residents," but won't say what "infractions" prompted the move.

The department said in a news release Tuesday night that it had revoked the operating licences of Villa Neguac and Foyer St. Bernard, both of which are located in Neguac, a village in northeastern New Brunswick.

Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard said in the release that the department has "no choice but to take action" when it cannot get assurance of total compliance with provincial standards.

"The safety and well-being of residents in long-term care facilities remains an utmost priority for the government," Shephard said, in the release.

"When we cannot get the assurance of total compliance with provincial standards, we have no choice but to take action to protect the well-being of residents."

The release said the 29 residents affected have been notified and the department is working with them to find an alternative solution that meets their needs.

The department did not grant CBC News's request for an interview with Shephard.

In an email, spokesperson Rebecca Howland said the department cannot speak on specific situations, nor share information that might identify someone as a client of the department.

"We are also not in a position to elaborate on the nature of the infractions and the investigation that took place regarding the two establishments in Neguac," she said.

Howland said operators who have their licence revoked have the opportunity to correct issued before operations cease at their facility. However, once the facility is no longer operational, the operator is not able to run another facility, she said.

Howland said there are other facilities in northeastern New Brunswick that have beds and services able to meet the needs of the residents from the Neguac facilities.

'Inhumane' how residents were notified, worker says

Cynthia St-Coeur, a resident attendant at Villa Neguac, said staff from the Department of Social Development showed up Tuesday and informed staff and residents that they were being given until Feb. 17 to find somewhere else to live.

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"They just came here and it's just inhumane the way they did because Social Development [staff] came here and they had not advised or called any of the family members of the residents at all," St-Coeur said.

"We are a [home] where there's old age people, you know, there's elders, there's some that has the start of dementia, there's some [who have] anxiety and all that, but they came in, went to all the residents, all of them serving them a letter."

St-Coeur said the Department of Social Development never gave an explanation to her and other staff as to why the home's licence was being revoked.

New Brunswick's corporate registry lists Dr. Amarjeet Singh Jatana as the director of both special care homes.

CBC News was unable to connect with Jatana for comment.

St-Coeur said since last summer, Villa Neguac has run into problems after staff learned that food and waste contractors for the home had been going unpaid.

That was leading to problems around garbage not being taken out, and difficulties buying food to provide to residents.

"We had to fight all the time to make sure there's always enough food," St-Coeur said. "We never waited until we ran out of food, but I mean, it's just they're not responsible people."

Submitted by Cynthia St-Coeur
Submitted by Cynthia St-Coeur

St-Coeur said staff at Villa Neguac consider the residents to be family, and are prepared to remain on duty for as long it takes for them to find new homes.

However, she said the Department of Social Development has shown limited involvement in helping out, and she worries about what could happen to her grandfather and the other residents.

"They're happy here. They don't want to leave. This is their home," she said.

"There's no other places down or around the community that's available for them."

Neguac Mayor Georges Savoie said he's also concerned for the 29 residents affected by the homes suddenly losing their operating licences.

He said they're the only two special care homes in Neguac, with the next closest home in Tabusintac — about 10 kilometres away — already full.

He said that leaves homes in Bathurst and Miramichi as the next closest option for hosting those residents being displaced.

"They [residents] are people from Neguac and… they'll have to go outside the community, and their family and close friends will not be able to visit them as often as they were now," Savoie said. "It's terrible for those people."