11 March 2008

NL gov orders empty care home to close for "life safety"

One of the personal care homes ordered by the provincial government to install sprinklers or close has closed, despite having no residents, according to a news release issued Monday by the province's health minister and his municipal affairs colleague.

The home closed effective Monday.  Another home, with just four residents, also closed.  The closure ordered resulted from a 2003 directive from the province's fire commissioner that personal care homes with five or more beds had to install sprinkler systems.

The original order affected 81 homes across the province. The homes were licensed annually by the province's health department, despite what the Monday release claimed was a lack of emergency procedures.

However, under a government regulation in effect since 2001, all personal care homes are required to carry out monthly fire and emergency evacuation procedure drills.

17. A personal care home shall carry out monthly fire and emergency evacuation procedures in accordance with the required standards.

In February, 22 homes were ordered to install sprinklers or make arrangements to install sprinklers within 30 days or cease operations. The government news release issued at the time said the closure orders were issued because of concerns about the safety of residents.

In a related story, 10 hospital and nursing homes operated by the provincial government remain in operation despite a lack of sprinklers. Patients in those facilities require a higher level of care than those in personal care homes and would require considerably more assistance to evacuate in the event of an emergency.

Fire Commissioner Fred Hollett said Friday he found no immediate fire or life safety issues in the 10 hospitals and nursing homes.