Lynn Fanelli has launched an online petition calling on the provincial government to make changes to its Community Care and Assisted Living Act so that B.C. care homes are mandated to properly maintain their facilities.
“Our seniors are vulnerable peoples and they need people to look out for them,” Lynn Fanelli told Global News.
Fanelli is upset that her husband, 72-year-old Paul Fanelli, has been living at the Spring Valley Care Centre for nearly two months now and having to rely on a space heater to warm his room.
“It’s been over 50 days,” she said. “It’s very shocking and I’m sure that a lot of people in Kelowna haven’t lived like this.”
Paul Fanelli, who is also battling cancer, moved into the care home mid-December. Two days later, his wife came to visit and noticed the room was very cold.
“We looked around the room and saw that broken parts off of the main boiler heating system were laying on the floor,” she said. “So we lodged a complaint and a space heater was brought in to keep him warm.”
According to the company that owns the care home, Park Place Seniors Living, the heating system failed during December’s record-breaking cold temperatures.
In an email to Global News, the company stated the failure affects 12 rooms.
Fanelli said she believes the space heaters pose an added fire risk.
She contacted the local fire department hoping it would conduct an on-site inspection.
“They (fire department) did do a phone call and to check to see if they (space heaters) were shut off models so that if they fell over, they would turn off,” she said.
While the space heaters do have the automatic shut-off feature, Fanelli is still concerned. She said she’s worried they may overload the electrical system.
She’s also concerned about another risk that was brought to her attention after her husband’s toilet recently backed up.
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“There was also a risk of electrocution,” she said. “To see the sewage water running across the floor towards a space heater was rather horrifying.”
Park Place Seniors Living has told Global News that the “comfort and safety of Spring Valley’s residents is paramount”.
It also said in a statement that “all involved regulatory stakeholders were immediately informed and brought in to assist. These stakeholders include Patient Care Quality Office, Kelowna Fire Department, Interior Health Authority, and residential care licensing.”
According to the company “each have indicated they are satisfied with the plan to address the heating issue.”
Interior Health (IH) stated that its licensing team regularly inspects long-term care sites and has found Spring Valley Care Centre to be in compliance with the requirements laid out in the Residential Care Regulation.
IH went on to say that licensing inspections have found that Spring Valley is meeting the regulation to ensure resident rooms are at an appropriate temperature and have found them in compliance with their health and safety plan.”
But Fanelli disagrees, saying seniors living in long-term care should not have to rely on space heaters to keep their rooms warm.
“I think that there needs to be legislation in place to stop this from occurring,” she said. “This isn’t the first and it won’t be the last time that this is a problem for our seniors.”
Fanelli is hoping to collect 500 signatures on her online petition.
At publication time, she already had 450 signatures.
As for when the heating system is expected to be up and running properly, the company stated that the improvements “will require a system shut down requiring a written safety plan approved by licencing and will require warmer external temperatures.”
It went on to say that the middle of spring would bring the type of weather it requires to make the improvements.