HALIFAX – Four mothers with adult children at a special care home in Halifax say an independent probe into its operations is needed after one of its residents died following an alleged assault by another man living there.
© Metro Halifax/Jeff Harper
Quest Regional Rehabilitation Centre in Lower Sackville on Tuesday.
Police are investigating after Gordon Longphee, 56, died in hospital on May 17 after a scuffle a week earlier with a 28-year-old resident at the Quest Regional Rehabilitation Centre, a facility that houses adults with intellectual disabilities.
Nancy Walker, the mother of a 24-year-old man with autism who lives in the same, 24-person unit, said Longphee’s death has heightened her concerns about the well-being of her son Ben James.
“I think there should be some sort of external group coming in and looking at the whole facility and the ability of the administration to provide the level of care it needs to provide for the complexity of the residents who live there,” she said Monday in an interview.
“Obviously there needs to be a higher level of attention for these kinds of things not to happen.”
Walker, who sat for three years on the board of directors at Quest, said she respects the efforts of front-line workers. But she said they need more expertise and access to outside resources to help people with a variety of disabilities and mental illnesses. She is also calling for a change of membership on the board.
A spokeswoman for provincial Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard said she was unavailable for comment due to the police investigation.
But Nancy MacLellan, the associate deputy minister of Community Services, said it’s premature to conclude an outside inquiry on Quest’s operations is necessary.
She said in addition to the police investigation, the department is investigating the incident under its Protection of Persons in Care Act, which assigns staff to look at incidents of alleged abuse and make recommendations in an effort to avoid them from happening again.
“We need to see the results of the two investigations and see what next step is warranted,” she said.
The executive director of Quest did not return requests for comment.
Three other mothers with adult children living at Quest are also calling for an external review.
Brenda Hardiman said the group Parents Advocating for Change will hold protests on June 8 outside six special care homes. Hardiman has become an advocate for her daughter Nichele Benn after the 27-year-old was charged with assault for biting and striking a staff member at Quest.
She said the parents want the Liberal government to end all referrals to Quest and other special care homes and expedite placement of residents into the community.
Leslie Lowther said she is worried about the safety of her 28-year-old son, Richard Rector, who has been at Quest for five years. She said an outside investigation of Quest’s structure and operations is needed because “professionals have to look at what goes on behind those doors.”
“There’s too much mix and match,” she said. “My son has a traumatic brain injury. That’s different from someone who has autism. They need different programming and they need different care.”
But Betty Rich, a mother of a man with cerebral palsy living at Quest, said she doesn’t agree with a push to shift care to community-based group homes as those too come with safety risks.
“The staff there (at Quest) as far as I can see … they’re doing their utmost as far as I’m concerned,” she said.
MacLellan said the province is continuing to work on ways to bring more residents of larger facilities into community-based housing, and that work will continue regardless of what is occurring in the Quest inquiry.
She said the province has a plan to bring more people out of facilities and into communities and demonstration projects are being organized.
“We have to create the capacity in the community and we have to create a transition plan for folks to support them to that change,” she said.