Documents obtained by CBC News show problems at the Castle Manor special-care home started in February 2007. ((CBC))

Moncton's Castle Manor special-care home had received several warnings from the provincial government dating back more than 18 months that it must increase its staffing levels, according to documents obtained by CBC News.

Residents, mostly seniors, of the 100-year-old special-care home were shocked earlier this month when the provincial government said it could be closing in 30 days unless a new operator could be found. The Department of Social Development has since given the 47 remaining residents until Jan. 15 and possibly longer.

Although the potential closing surprised many of the residents, problems at Castle Manor first came to light when provincial inspectors performed the home's annual inspection on Feb. 26, 2007. The internal assessment record said a four-month temporary licence was given "because so many issues are occurring, many complaints from staff and families."

A follow-up letter sent to Castle Manor that day from the Department of Family and Community Services (which has since been renamed Social Development) indicated that the facility was below the proper staff-to-patient ratio considering the home only had three workers on shift when it required five.

Another staffing problem flagged by the province indicated staff were leaving the property on their lunch break, again dropping the facility below the required staffing levels.

"Apparently the issue of paying staff during lunch breaks was an issue and you are not paying them during this break so they feel they can leave the facility," the social worker's letter said.

The province mandates one staff member for 10 patients overnight and one for every six during the remaining 16 hours of the day. Castle Manor was notified it could ask for a one-to-15 ratio during the nights if it met certain standards and was approved by the Fire Marshal's Office.

The province performed another spot check on April 25, 2008, after receiving a number of complaints that Castle Manor was not meeting the staff ratio, particularly at night.

When the social worker arrived at 12:15 a.m., there were only two staff members working. The letter said another employee was called in to work immediately.

The social worker was told another worker would be called in but even with the fourth person, the staff ratio standards would not be met. The letter also indicated there were questions as to whether staff ratio standards were being met on the evening shift as well.

"In the past 18 months you have been cited on two other occasions due to concerns that you were not meeting the staff ratio. At one point in October 2007 your beds were frozen and no new admissions were permitted. The Department of Social Development considers this a very serious issue as it directly impacts the safety and security of the residents of your home," the letter said.

The province halted all admissions to the home until it could show it was maintaining its staff ratio for one month.

Another follow-up meeting on June 5 demonstrated that the proper ratio was still not being met. "Staff expressed having been short of staff on a few nights," the social worker's summary indicated.

Special-care homes are privately owned and operated in the province, but the Department of Social Development is responsible for handing out licences. Among the areas the department examines before determining if a facility can be licensed are resident care standards, staff training qualifications, operational procedures and the environment of the home.

Earlier this month, the department had identified 371 vacancies at other special-care homes in the Moncton area for residents who might want to move from Castle Manor.