THE Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection is conducting checks at all geriatric homes in Tobago to ensure operations are in keeping with industry standards.
Secretary of Health Dr Faith BYisrael made the announcement on Friday, three days after residents of a seniors' home on Store Bay Local Road were rescued from "adverse conditions" by police and health officials.
BYisrael said inquires into that incident are ongoing.
“We are still working through the process. It is a very delicate situation,” she said.
She assured that the division is “working to ensure that all of our individuals, all of our citizens – particularly those who are vulnerable – are safe and secure, and that is what we’re doing at this point.”
BYisrael said that the Private Hospital Act is supposed to govern and determine who has a license to be a home for the aged. She said it is one of the legislations that has been on the books, but it has not really been enforced.
“The Ministry of Health and therefore the Tobago House of Assembly agreed that we would actually start that process of ensuring that all of our homes in Tobago and in Trinidad are actually licensed. That includes going to each of the homes and doing inspections and so forth. That has actually already started, and we are continuing with that process.”
She said that this means very soon all homes would meet the requirements according to the laws that are set out in the Private Hospital Act. She advised the public to do their own investigations before putting a relative into a home, to ensure that it is a space that has met the minimal requirements to be classified as a home for the aged.
“Ensure and ask them whether you are an officially-licensed home. Granted that we are not at the point yet where the homes are licensed, we are going through the process right now, but hopefully by the end of the year, we would have a list of licensed homes that have met the basic requirement.
"So it is up to each individual to make sure the same way when you come to the hospital, you make sure that the doctors are actually doctors and the nurses are nurses; the same way when you go to a food establishment, you look for the public health food badge and so forth, we are asking you that you look for that licensing.”
BYisrael said she is unaware how many homes are operating in Tobago as the number keeps changing.
“That is actually one of the questions that is pretty difficult because as we are going along, we have probably seven or eight official that we knew about. As we go along, we are understanding that individuals have started doing it on their own – having people come and live with them, and so we are learning as we go ahead.”
After residents were removed on Tuesday, the division said that they were medically examined and relocated to alternate accommodations. Family members were also informed as the division said it will continue to be in contact with them to provide the necessary updates, therapeutic counselling, medical and social support to both family members and residents.
The unit said the matter is considered “one of great urgency and importance and the division remains committed to providing the necessary intervention and support to those affected.”
The removal of the residents of the seniors’ home came six weeks after the Children’s Authority shut down the Sylphil Home In Love, in Lambeau, saying it had refused the home’s application for licence and ordered it to cease operations.
In a statement on June 10, the Children’s Authority said, “The move to cease operations at the Sylphil Home is consistent with the authority’s efforts to ensure the best interest and overall welfare of children in care.”
That home’s manager and matron Susan Phillips-Jack insisted her home was no “fly-by-night operation.” She added the matter was in the hands of her lawyers.