Points West in hot water over neglect allegations

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Slave Lake was back in the news last week, and not for something good. A human rights group in Edmonton is calling for a public inquiry into Points West Living facilities in Alberta, after hearing complaints about the way certain residents in Points West in Slave Lake were being treated.

The report on CBC news spoke of allegations that residents were being “physically, emotionally and culturally neglected.”

The Coalition for Human Rights (CHR) went further in a mass-mailout news release (including to The Leader).

“These seniors were unable to access food, but also living in unsanitary and neglectful conditions,” said Renée Vaugeois, the organization’s president.

Those are serious allegations and quite likely paint a picture that is darker than necessary. The Leader is acquainted with a couple of residents who often praise the care they receive. However it has been suggested that things get a lot more difficult and complicated when it comes to caring for the more severely impaired residents.

Last week, we spoke to the son of another resident. He said as far as the family is concerned, “it’s probably the best place for mom.”

If there is neglect, he says, it could arise from the facility being short-staffed. He says he’s never seen any mistreatment or neglect, but has noticed only one attendant in evidence when he visits in the evening. Some of the more seriously handicapped residents require a lot of time and effort, and if staff is short, things could be missed.

As for lack of access to food, it contradicts most of what we’ve heard from residents and their families. The Leader made an effort to talk to the manager about this and other subjects, but we were unable to get through.

Another person with an aged relative in residence at Points West echoed the impression of a shortage of staff leading to difficulties. It takes two people to properly manhandle an immobile person, he says, but there often aren’t enough people on staff to handle it.

“I don’t think it’s horrible,” he said. “There are good people in there,” just not enough of them.

According to the news release from the CHR, the situation came to a head after the death of Points West resident Joseph Auger on June 7. The local Friendship Centre has been hearing complaints from families of residents for some time, the release says.

Among other things, the CHR is calling for “immediate increase of qualified staff at Points West facilities to ensure a one-to-three ratio of care to seniors.”

The matter came up in Question Period in the Alberta Legislature on June 10. Minister of Health Tyler Shandro was asked by an Opposition member what the government is doing to respond to the allegations. Shandro said AHS was on site “right now” looking into it.

“We take the report seriously,” Shandro said, “but this is a good system, including all of our independent providers in this province, and this is a good facility and a good operator. The site is highly rated.”

Points West is a company that provides ‘designated supportive living’ for residents. It filled a gap in Slave Lake and received government financial support to build several years ago. It has such facilities in several other communities in Alberta besides Slave Lake.

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