'Troubling' prospect as provincial regulator says Rosslyn must help residents find new homes

The provincial retirement homes regulator says an order revoking the licence of the Rosslyn Retirement Residence requires the home to help its former occupants find a new place to live.

Andrea Horwath has 'very little hope' the home has the capacity to help anybody

The Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority revoked the licence of the Rosslyn Retirement Residence on June 15. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

The provincial retirement homes regulator says an order revoking the licence of the Rosslyn Retirement Residence requires the home to help its former occupants find new places to live.

But some, including Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, say that stipulation offers little comfort.

"I hold out very little hope that the operators of this particular retirement home have the capacity to help anybody," said the Hamilton MPP.

"They've shown quite the opposite as a matter of fact and I think it's quite troubling that the response of the regulator is to simply wash their hands of it all, notwithstanding the fact they know what terrible managers they've been and what a terrible situation they put people in."

The Rosslyn is associated with the Martino family, which owned the Royal Crest Lifecare chain of nursing homes that went bankrupt in 2003. It was evacuated on May 15 amid a massive COVID-19 outbreak that infected 22 staff members and all but two of the 66 people living there.

Fourteen people from the home have died of the virus. It's the site of the deadliest outbreak in the city.

Now dozens of residents who were transferred to hospital have been left in limbo after the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA) announced it was revoking the home's licence. 

Residents can't come back during the revocation process and the home can't bring in any new residents.

"As part of the Order, if residents request help to find alternative accommodations, the licensee of Rosslyn is required to assist them," explained RHRA communications manager Phil Norris in an email to CBC.

"We are also working alongside community partners to help residents in this regard."

Representatives of the Rosslyn have not responded to repeated requests for comment on conditions at the home before the outbreak or the fact its licence has been revoked.

The home can still appeal or apply for a stay of the revocation order.

A paramedic pushes a stretcher into the Rosslyn Retirement Residence in Hamilton, Ont. on May 15. Health-care staff spent the next eight hours transferring residents from the home to hospital. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Norris said people who lived at the Rosslyn can also access the RHRA's emergency fund to help cover the costs of moving or paying for a new home.

Local health integration networks assess the condition of residents and determine whether their needs require long-term care or another level of support, he explained, adding hospitals can also help.

"It's a collaborative effort and involves several partners with different roles to play," said Norris.

48 residents in hospital

Forty-eight residents from the Rosslyn were still in hospital Tuesday, with fewer than five being cared for in an intensive care unit, according to a joint statement from Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton.

"We are continuing to care for those in hospital and to support patients when they are ready to be discharged to another community setting," it read.

"This care planning occurs with patients and their family members, and is carried out in collaboration with other community partners as needed."

Brian Melnike says he and his wife Tracy raised questions about a lack of COVID-19 precautions at the Rosslyn Retirement Residence in the weeks before an outbreak was declared. Now his mother Joan Wallace is in hospital and they're not sure where she'll go if she survives. (Supplied by Brian Melnike)

Brian Melnike, whose mother Joan Wallace lived at the Rosslyn before being taken to hospital, said he doesn't believe she would have been able to return to the home even if it was able to reopen.

"There is help out there to relocate the seniors," he said, referencing the RHRA's fund.

"I don't know where she's gong to end up, but at this point we have to go for change and if it means somehow, someway of stopping these people from getting another licence than that's what we have to do."

Horwath critical of RHRA

Horwath called for the Rosslyn's licence to be revoked and wrote a letter to Hamilton Police Chief Eric Girt about the "long history of horrendous incident" at the home and calling for an investigation to see if there was justification for criminal charges.

She's also described the provincial regulator as "toothless" and said it should be replaced by an independent body with "real enforcement powers and a clear mandate to protect seniors."

On Wednesday Horwath again took aim at the RHRA and the way its dealt with the Rosslyn.

"I think there's a big problem here with the regulator itself, the way it operates, the expectations they put on an obviously-failing ownership group in the first place," she said.

"What we really need to do is turn that around and focus on what people need and what these residents need and what their families need to make sure they're able to find a place to live that's safe."