Move to improve island care homes

  • Kim Wilson (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

New legislation will improve the regulation of the island’s care homes and nursing homes.

The Residential Care Homes and Nursing Homes Amendment Act 2017 was presented to the House of Assembly on Friday by Kim Wilson, Minister of Health.

Ms Wilson said the legislation was a “first phase” and explained the burdens on the current care system could cause future problems.

She added: “This first phase addresses the most pressing areas identified by stakeholders and lays the foundation for future improvements.

“Specifically, the objectives of this amendment Bill are to clarify and improve the ministry’s intervention, authority and compliance mechanisms to modernise the regulatory framework in order to provide standards on the model of care, level of care and specific residents’ needs, and to raise the minimum care standards.”

Ms Wilson said that most care facilities are at near 100 per cent capacity and that many homes struggle financially, which made it harder to raise standards.

She added: “Supply and financing of long-term care are currently being targeted in the ministry’s strategic initiatives, such as the Long Term Care Action Plan and efforts to identify incentives for private sector investment in the long-term care sector.

“However, these are not quick or easy fixes. Consequently, the amendments proposed have taken these limitations into account to achieve as much as possible within the current realities.”

Among the changes are higher qualification requirements for some staff and new guidelines on care and registration fees based on compliance levels.

Susan Jackson, the Shadow Minister of Health, said she backed the legislation but more could be done to enshrine the rights of residents in the law.

She added care of seniors can be complicated when their conditions deteriorate past the point at which they can be successfully treated in their home.

Ms Jackson said she would welcome an amendment to create a “legal framework to allow for client reporting”.

She explained: “I am not aware of any real whistleblowing legislation that covers people who want to report.”

Derrick Burgess, the Deputy Speaker, said he would like to see a hotline created.

Mr Burgess said that often family members, or seniors, were reluctant to report physical and emotional abuse.

He explained: “They’re afraid if I leave my momma there or my daddy there that there may be retaliation in some form.”

Jeanne Atherden, leader of the Opposition, said the amendment was a “progression”.

Ms Atherden added high standards had to be set for the wellbeing of the island’s ageing population, who had “helped the community get to where they are”.