A 64-year-old Islander has been kicked out of Prince Edward Home for insisting on running a Wi-fi enabled surveillance camera in her private room to oversee the care she receives.
Despite no written policy directly addressing surveillance cameras in residents’ private rooms, Health PEI contends, the unauthorized camera could violate the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act as well as Section 184 of the Criminal Code regarding recording of conversations when no party consents to the recording, among other indirectly related policies and guidelines.
Because of Health PEI’s interpretation of legal requirements, Debbie Gallant was discharged effective last Thursday, one day after the decision was made.
Ms Gallant and her family are now considering challenging Health PEI’s legal interpretations in court.
“It’s devastating,” said Ms Gallant, who is staying with her daughter, Elizabeth Cole. “I feel like a burden here.”
Hear Prince Edward Home administrator, Trevor Cudmore, inform Ms Gallant's daughter of the decision in this audio recording:
Prince Edward Home administrator, Trevor Cudmore, informs Debbie Gallant's daughter of the decision to discharge the resident. This was a response to a dispute about Ms Gallant's legal rights to a surveillance camera in her private room which reached a deadlock.
Ms Gallant is of sound mind but lives with COPD, mobility issues and other health concerns requiring continuous care.
Unnerved by alleged slow responses by staff to call an ambulance or her daughter during health setbacks that led to three separate hospital admissions, Ms Gallant had the camera installed in her private room so family could respond immediately if she became incapacitated.
After her family notified the home, staff began a persistent push for Ms Gallant to either take the camera down or accept she would have to leave to receive care.
In response, Ms Gallant left the home on a pass to stay with her daughter.
She hoped for a discussion about how a surveillance camera could roll in her room while ensuring no laws, regulations or policies were breached.
Ms Gallant reflected on how live video streaming is allowed in provincial long-term care homes for instance when residents use Zoom or Skype to connect with family, staff are recorded by cameras in public spaces in the home, the audio/visual recordings from her camera couldn’t pick up anyone beyond her private room.
She considered how in a long-term care home setting, residents have the same rights any citizen enjoys in their private home as long as exercising these rights doesn’t infringe on others'.
Ms Gallant thought a discussion to find a way to assuage administration’s liability concerns about the camera could have taken place at a care plan meeting arranged with her and her family by Prince Edward Home administration.
Throughout the meeting, which was recorded, Prince Edward Home administration didn’t entertain any conversation about how the camera could be allowed before making the decision to discharge Ms Gallant that evening.
Ms Gallant and her daughter know a lawsuit would be expensive - easily over $15,000, according to one lawyer they approached.
“They can’t afford that,” said Ms Gallant about Ms Cole and her husband Kevin Cole who would foot the bill.
Ms Cole has considered starting a GoFundMe campaign to cover the legal costs but she wants some time for the family to weigh all options before asking for help.
While Health PEI is currently developing relevant policy, the family wants to know what direction that policy will follow.
They are calling on the Minister of Health, Ernie Hudson, to ensure the safety and rights of residents, one of the Island’s most vulnerable populations, is at the forefront.
Ms Cole is also dismayed the home chose to discharge her mother before an ethics committee’s assessment of the situation, initiated by Health PEI, was available.
Even since frightening events and the following dispute have eroded her trust, Ms Gallant would like to return to her home as long as she can have a camera installed for peace of mind.
Without it she would fear for her life.
Neither the province’s Minister of Health, Ernie Hudson or Health PEI’s executive director of Community Health and Seniors Care were available to comment by press time.
The Graphic has agreed to use Ms Gallant’s maiden name and Ms Cole’s unofficial family name for this article.
Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic