Friday, 24 January 2014

Thoughts on the Quebec Fire Tragedy - contributed by Martha Rebelo & Esther Goldstein

Shortly after midnight on January 23, 2014, a small town named L'isle-verte in Quebec was struck with a tragedy that will haunt their small community and indeed, all of Canada, for years to come. A building fire started - we don't yet know how - at 'Residence du Havre', a "seniors  home" (it's not quite clear what level of care they were licensed to provide), killing many residents. At the time this is being written, 5 seniors have been identified as deceased and 30 are still unaccounted for - leading one to surmise that they too are no longer with us.

Under provincial regulations, a sprinkler system was apparently not required.

When a tragedy such as this strikes, one is left wondering where the blame lies. How can we ensure that this never happens again? Is it the home's fault for not moving their residents to a higher level of care when they became too sick or disabled to get out of the home without assistance? Should they have had more night staff? Would it even have made a difference? Or is the government at fault, whatever level of government that manages homes like this, for not insisting on sprinkler systems in all homes?

When it comes to 'senior homes' - and we use that term with difficulty because we are not really clear what kind of care, if any, that label denotes - should certain things not be mandatory in every province? Shouldn't sprinkler systems be in all buildings, especially those with people who don't move fast or need assistance?

Unfortunately, in Canada every province is independent when it comes to care for the elderly. There are even different names for different levels of care in the provinces - the one consistent level of care is long-term care or nursing home care but other than that, there is variation in what you call a certain type of home and what is standard practice in them. Regulation for 'retirement level' is not in every province yet (at this point its only in 4 provinces) and it varies from one province to another. This is a vulnerable sector and we, as a collective society need to do a better job of protecting them!

The images of the fire and destruction are painful to see. These people expected to finish their days in a safe environment. It doesn't seem like too great an expectation. They and their families trusted the home they were in to protect them and trusted that the safety standards in place, were good enough to allow that to happen. Regardless of where the blame lies, or who takes the blame - if anyone, nothing will bring back those who are gone, or replace what truly is lost.  

No comments: