Seniors are desperate for housing and willing to accept anything — including unlicensed boarding homes, says NDP seniors issues critic Gerry Rogers.
Those boarding houses are not subject to any mandatory inspections by the provincial government.
This has left seniors vulnerable, Rogers said, including a 96-year-old man still living at Riverside Country Manor after its personal care home licence was revoked eight months ago.
"He has fallen between the cracks," she said. "He is now totally abandoned by the system. There's no oversight in this particular house... We don't know how the boarding house is providing personal care."
The man's nephew told CBC News the level of care has not changed since Eastern Health stopped monitoring the Mount Carmel facility in July.
The home now operates as a boarding house, and is no longer under the oversight of the health authority that stripped its licence for a history of significant problems.
On July 6, 2016, residents at Riverside Country Manor were given the choice to leave and go to a different home on the Avalon Peninsula, or be discharged from Eastern Health and stay where they were.
In the previous two years, Eastern Health noted concerns and violations in the home during regular visits — sometimes as many as eight violations at a time.
Not an uncommon situation, MHA says
The Mount Carmel situation is not unique, Rogers said. There are many seniors living in boarding homes in her riding.
"I have situations all over St. John's Centre where there are seniors living in boarding houses," she said. "Some of these boarding houses are absolutely horrendous."
With no oversight and a high demand for seniors housing, the province is failing the elderly, Rogers said.
During question period at the House of Assembly on Wednesday, Progressive Conservative MHA Tracey Perry asked what the government planned to do about the home in Mount Carmel.
Health Minister John Haggie said there is nothing he can do.
"There are four people living there of their own choice and free will, as a boarding house, which is not regulated by the Department of Health and therefore now outside my jurisdiction," Haggie said.
Perry then posed the question to Sherry Gambin-Walsh, minister of children, seniors and social development.
Gambin-Walsh said it is the residents' choice to live in the home, but they can contact her department if they have concerns about their safety or care.
Meanwhile, Rogers believes the province needs to craft legislation to encompass boarding homes as soon as possible, and then enforce those standards.
"We have seniors — vulnerable, vulnerable seniors — who need care all across the province, living in the community without the community's support," she said.
"That's what government has to be responsible for."