Family speaks about parents' death

In 1951,  Alfredo and Maria Luisa Bonaldi moved from Italy to Canada in search of a better life.

They settled in Summerland where they raised three daughters and worked in the fruit growing industry, she at a packing house and he at the Summerland Research Station.

It was a good and happy life in the small Okanagan town, according to daughter Edi Inglis,

They lived independently for many years. About five years ago Maria Luisa was moved to the Summerland Seniors Village, suffering from severe dementia.

Last summer she slipped and fell, then laid in a bed for five to seven days with a broken femur, according to another daughter Patricia McCoy.  Following surgery at Penticton Regional Hospital, she immediately went downhill and passed away soon after.

In January 2012, Alfredo Bonaldi , still in good health, moved into an independent living/assisted living suite at the care facility on Atkinson Road.

He was fine until late November, when he was found gravely ill, suffering from a staph  infection and blood poisoning  in his room, after missing several meals. He died on Dec. 7 at Penticton Regional Hospital.

Prior to the illness he had been perfectly healthy, according to McCoy.

Now as they deal with making arrangements for their father’s funeral, the daughters want answers.

“I want truth and transparency from Interior Health and want them to look at every care home in the province because the system they have here is clearly failing,” said McCoy.

On Wednesday, Minister of Health Margaret MacDiarmid addressed the issue saying there are a number of regulations and laws in place on what the government can do to find out exactly what happened, where the ministry has authority and what they need to do.

“What I’ve heard from family members and what I think all of us feel is what happened and what can we do to avoid something like this happening again in the future,” she said.

The situation is being looked at from a number of different perspectives and the ministry sent someone in to the Summerland care home right away.

“An investigation began immediately because I was so deeply concerned,” she said. “Interior Health Authority is doing an investigation and it will now be a coroner’s case because Mr. Bonaldi passed away on the weekend.”

At this time everyone is working together, with Retirement Concepts, the operator of the Summerland care home,  doing their own look at what happened and what the lessons are to be learned.

At this time the ministry does not have anything to report, but MacDiarmid said she does not think it will be very long before the ministry can at least say what happened.

“Once there is a clear understanding and there is an actual action plan on what went on at Summerland Seniors Village, we will be very public about that,” she said.

What complicates the matter is Retirement Concepts is what is called a campus of care, which is exactly what you would want if you were an older person. The complexity is who has the authority, and the authority is different depending on whether its independent or assisted living. The goal being patient-centered care, she said.

The health minister  understood there have been issues elsewhere but has not been made fully aware of those. She also had not heard of any care homes being shut down in the province.

According to prior Castanet news reports, in 2006, Retirement Concepts, which offers a variety of housing options for seniors throughout the province, was  under scrutiny following news that staff members had been abusing residents at the Summerland care home.

One of the more disturbing allegations was that several staff members   were involved in taking and distributing inappropriate pictures. The incident was reported to the RCMP and Interior Health Authority.

In 2007, the health authority launched a review at Beacon Hill Villa in Victoria, also operated by Retirement Concepts.

Issues of concern included  inadequate staffing levels,  inadequate care including missed baths  and poor and inadequate documentation and reporting of incidents.

Similar problems have also reportedly taken place at another facility run by the company in Williams Lake.

Tony Baena, vice president/operations for Retirement Concepts, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.  But in regards to different situations in the past, he has said the company will not make excuses, that it believes in transparency and will work to make improvements.

In response to Alfredo Bonaldi’s  situation, the  company issued a letter of apology to McCoy.

McCoy wants more than a letter of apology, she said this week. The family has been pushing Summerland Seniors Village for more information since her mother’s death.  Now she wants to get to the bottom of what exactly happened to her father.

“My dad was 91, he was active and you couldn’t keep him in his room, so when he didn’t show up for meals for three days that is where Seniors Village failed." she said.

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