By Sue Tiffin
Published March 5 2019
A Feb. 20 meeting for family members of Highland Wood residents who were relocated from the long-term care home in Haliburton in early February due to a leaky roof provided information about the unexpected situation from Haliburton Highlands Health Services senior leadership and board members as well as members of the Central East Local Health Integration Network who were in attendance by teleconference.
According to a summary provided to media by HHHS on Feb. 25 Carolyn Plummer HHHS president and CEO thanked the attending family members for their support and co-operation during the weeks following the discovery of the roof leak on Feb. 5 due to significant ice and snow that had built up and begun to melt.
Outside experts determined on Feb. 6 that residents should be relocated to other long-term care homes or back into the community with enhanced home and community care supports until the roof could be repaired.
At the family meeting Plummer said the displaced residents would have priority to be relocated back to the Haliburton-based facility when it is reopened.
Plummer told what was described as a well-attended meeting that with the residents safely relocated HHHS’s priority is focusing on addressing the current roof conditions.
The area hospitals and long-term care homes including the roof had been assessed by experts in 2017 and were scheduled to be “proactively” replaced within a 2018 – 2021 time frame according to Plummer’s report.
A tender to replace both Hyland Crest and Highland Wood’s roofs was issued in May 2018 and awarded in June that year. Hyland Crest’s roof was completed in September of 2018.
Weather conditions resulted in a plan for Highland Wood’s roof replacement to be rescheduled to spring 2019. Weather conditions were also reported to have caused the excessive build-up of ice on the roof resulting in the significant leaks and subsequent evacuation.
“A preliminary report from our insurer’s roof inspector states that the early failure of the roof occurred suddenly without warning” reads Plummer’s summary. “The report highlights that there were no ongoing signs of water infiltration or roof leaks there are no signs of early failure or ongoing water seepage below the roof deck. There are no signs of previous water infiltration and/or corrosion of the steel decking.”
Additionally she said “We are conducting our own internal investigation to determine if staff had documented any earlier report of leaks or challenges with the roof and welcome the opinion of the inspector that the HHHS team has been proactive in terms of meeting the needs of the overall roof replacement plan and that this incident was unpredictable and occurred suddenly without warning.”
The HHHS team is continuing to work on removing recurring ice build-up so further inspections can occur. A timeline for work to be done as well as a reopening of the facility has not yet been released.
HHHS will be forwarding resident mail to their temporary homes and families can temporarily suspend or relocate phone and cable services to temporary homes with HHHS covering any costs associated with the suspension or relocation of services.
In a frequently asked questions document HHHS is said to be working collaboratively with unions to develop a manpower plan for Highland Wood staff.
“HHHS is working in collaboration with the unions to develop a health human resources plan and we are looking for ways to temporarily redeploy staff to other parts of the organization to avoid layoffs” reads the summary. “This will also be a time for staff to participate in education and development opportunities.”
During the family meeting it was asked if the roof tender process could be expedited with work proceeding and without having to go back to tender.
“Although the tender was previously awarded it was not based on work being done in the winter” reads the response. “This requires a different set of specifications; HHHS is working with the insurers to establish the new specifications and is expediting the process wherever possible.”
It was asked if a funding source for roof replacement had been available.
“HHHS planned to move ahead with roof replacement based on the assessment results regardless of funding sources” was the response. “An application was submitted for the Exceptional Circumstances Program through the Health Infrastructure Renewal Fund with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care however it was later found that this funding applied only to hospitals and did not cover long-term care facilities.”
HHHS will pay for the roof repair with the insurance company paying for unpredictable damage from leaks.
“In the meantime the facility has been kept very dry to prevent further damages and is being monitored 24/7” reads the meeting summary.
HHHS has a minimal reserve fund and when asked how the community could help welcomed interested supporters to contact the HHHS Foundation at 705-457-1580 or by email at email@example.com.
HHHS is offering free transportation for families of Highland Wood residents for visits. Anyone wishing to use this service should contact Community Support Services at 705-457-2941 extension 2925. Counselling services for families is available through Homewood Health at 1-800-663-1142. Families who have incurred expenses due to commuting for visits can discuss with HHHS what support might be available.
The HHHS website has a section dedicated to Highland Wood updates available at www.hhhs.ca/news-announcements/highland-wood-updates as well as a hotline available at 705-457-1392 extension 2400.