A rogue retirement home that has been operating without a licence for more than a year, has been ordered by the provincial regulatory body to cease operations by no later than Friday.
The order against In Touch retirement in Weston comes in the wake of an ongoing Toronto Star investigation that revealed the home continues to operate even though it was denied a licence by the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority in July 2013.
A Star reporter posing as someone looking for a place for her elderly father was recently told by owner-operator Elaine Lindo that In Touch, now called Rosemount Place, is home to at least 18 people but can accommodate up to 24.
Rosemount Place is not licensed according to the regulatory body.
Reached by telephone for comment on whether she planned to obey the order to shut down, Lindo was short and to the point: “That is none of your business, you have nothing to do with this, OK,” and hung up.
In Touch has been the subject on an ongoing Star investigation since 2010 when a male reporter went undercover posing as a down and out drifter, and lived there for a week.
The Star found seniors, many of whom suffered from mental and physical impairments, living in deplorable conditions. Some were left in soiled diapers for hours. There were no toilet paper or paper towels available in any of the bathrooms. Seniors were fed substandard meals, and cared for by overworked and poorly trained and paid staff.
The RHRA denied Lindo an operating licence on July 17, 2013, a decision upheld four months later by the Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT). Citing concerns that some residents were subjected to abuse and neglect, the tribunal noted in its written decision that Lindo had lied on licence applications, misled inspectors, and refused to pay the licensing fee.
Lindo has continued to operate the home in the Lawrence Ave. W. and Weston Rd. area despite a charge laid by the RHRA in May for operating without a licence. A first conviction carries a maximum fine of $25,000 and a year in jail.
Critics of the Retirement Homes Act, which came into force in April 2012 to a then-unregulated industry, say the RHRA’s ongoing scuffle with In Touch, and its inability to force the home into compliance, points to serious flaws in the legislation.
NDP health critic France Gelinas wants the government to reopen the bill in order to strengthen protections for the more than 40,000 seniors who live in retirement homes across the province. The government knew the legislation was flawed but rammed it through into law anyway, she said.
“We knew this was going to happen. We told them this was going to happen,” Gelinas said in a telephone interview “We have a duty to protect our most vulnerable persons.”
Mario Sergio, Minister Responsible for Seniors Affairs, sidestepped the question when asked if he or his ministry has the power to shut down a rogue retirement home which flouts an order from the RHRA to cease operating.
Instead, in an email to the Star, Sergio cited the number of “enforcement tools” available to the RHRA, including fines, warnings, and prosecution in court which could result in the jailing of the owner-operator, that could be used to bring a rogue home into compliance.
“We will look for enhancements that we can make that will further strengthen enforcement tools and protection for seniors,” Sergio said, noting the legislation calls for a mandatory review of the Act to be completed by 2016. “We are looking for further steps we can take to strengthen it and continue to increase the safety and peace of mind for seniors and their families.”
And while the RHRA says it has several penalties at its disposal it too lacks the authority to shut down any home, take over its operation, or to “enforce LAT orders directly,” RHRA spokesperson Brenda Bereczki told the Star.
“The safety of retirement home residents remains the RHRA’s priority,” Bereczki said in an email noting that In Touch has been ordered to “cease to operate the premises as a retirement home” by Friday.
“In all cases where resident safety is at stake, the RHRA will vigorously pursue the regulatory and court avenues available to it,” Bereczki said.
The RHRA sent Lindo a notice back in November 2013 asking Lindo to “take timely and appropriate action to cease operating your premises as a retirement home.” The notice suggested Lindo could still provide housing for seniors as long as she limited the residence to five or fewer persons, which would take it out of the realm of the RHRA to licence, police and enforce.
Lindo, apparently, ignored the notice.
The order to cease operating, posted on the RHRA’s website this month, more than a year after Lindo was refused a licence and lost her appeal, notes “the Registrar believes on reasonable grounds that the Applicant continues to operate a retirement home without a licence.”
It is not clear whether Lindo will obey the latest order.
Lindo’s refusal to cease operations resulted in the RHRA charging her in May with operating without a licence. The RHRA says it cannot comment on the In Touch case or on what further action it might take should Lindo refuse to comply with the order.
Lindo is due back in court on Dec. 16.