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Cambridge Estates families hear post-blackout promises

Families of elderly people who were bundled up and removed from a private personal care home in St. John's are taking a wait-and-see attitude to the owner's pledge to make changes.

St. John's councillor calls for provincial law making generators mandatory at such homes

People with relatives in Cambridge Estates discuss meeting after no power means seniors sent to hotel 7:35

Families of elderly people who were bundled up and removed from a private personal care home in St. John's are taking a wait-and-see attitude to the owner's pledge to make changes. 

About 100 people gathered in the dining room of Cambridge Estates on Tuesday night to meet with Gary Harper, a spokesperson for the owner, Ontario-based Regal Lifestyle Communities. 

The meeting came three nights after they were hurriedly called to take their loved ones out of the complex, which did not have a generator to produce energy in the midst of a power blackout that had struck much of Newfoundland. Residents who could not be placed with family were taken to the nearby Holiday Inn. 

Harper presented a list of planned improvements, including a backup generator and new emergency lights. 

"If he acts on the generator and on the lighting and on the development of the emergency plan, things will happen," said Margot Connors, whose 88-year-old aunt lives at the assisted-living complex.

"I just hope action happens."

Sheila Butler, whose 88-year-old father lives at Cambridge Estates, said she is not raising her hopes too far. 

"This time last year, we had a power outage, the same thing," she said. 

"I'll wait to see what comes of this." 

Law needed, Bernard Davis says

Meanwhile, a St. John's councillor is calling on the Newfoundland and Labrador government to require by law that all personal care homes have backup generators. 

Bernard Davis said he has been getting calls from family members ever since Saturday's ordeal. 

"They were just disgusted at the fact that the most vulnerable in society, our seniors, would have to deal with the fact of picking up and moving to a different location when they pay the biggest kind of rent to stay at this location," said Davis. 

Seniors pay up to $4,000 a month to live at Cambridge Estates. Many of them are frail and have mobility issues. 

Home should have backup power, says Davis

Davis said Cambridge Estates should have a backup source of heat. 

He said he wants the province to require personal care homes to be equipped with generators.

"I think we've got to call on the owners of these homes to bring them up to standards that we require," said Davis.

Davis said when residents were moved, he called Regal Lifestyle Communities and spoke with a vice-president.

"He suggested that he had just finished talking to a family member, and said that, 'Well, they can't do everything. If they put a generator in here, there will be no profit made here this year.'"

'Cost is not an issue'

However, Simon Nyilassy, the president and CEO of Regal Lifestyle Communities had a different response.

"Cost is not an issue. The main objective behind all the decisions that were made, was that that residents were warm, fed and kept safe," said Nyilassy.

"If those objectives can be best met through the use of a generator, that's what we'll do."

Davis said he thinks changing provincial laws would be the best way to deal with the situation. 

"There should be legislation in place to protect the most vulnerable in our society, our seniors. Some of them are not going to get over this."

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