Seniors Minister Jeanne Atherden *File photo
Seniors Minister Jeanne Atherden *File photo

The new seniors minister says she does not know whether an independent inquiry needs to investigate the state of the island’s nursing homes.

Minister Jeanne Atherden, who has been in the job for a little more than a week, says it is too early in her tenure for her to say whether or not there is a need for an independent complaints committee to handle senior home grievances.

That statement comes after Shadow Seniors Minister and Deputy Leader of the PLP Derrick Burgess said he was troubled by harsh and inhumane treatment of seniors in some of Bermuda’s nursing homes.

Independent inquiry

 Mr Burgess is pushing for an independent inquiry to be spearheaded by Governor of Bermuda George Fergusson, to examine problems plaguing the homes. 

Governor Fergusson told the Bermuda Sun: “I have no plans to convene an inquiry on this issue, though I have followed Mr Burgess’s recent statements with interest. 

“I am aware that the Minister for Health and Seniors has also been in discussion with Mr Burgess on the subject.”

At a press conference earlier this week, Mr Burgess said the government was brushing aside the problem.

“Before we can fight an issue, we must face it,” he said.

He added: “If there are spot checks on nursing homes with written reports and recommendations for improvements, why are there so many nursing homes that are in breach of regulations?”

Burgess ticked off various alleged problems at nursing homes on the island — a festering foot infection that led to an amputation, bed sores, lack of nutritious meals and instances of verbal and physical abuse. He said he had heard of instances where staff at certain homes struck and in one case choked a resident. 

He told stories about seniors being strapped into beds and chairs. He showed photos of gruesome bedsores. He said the death certificate for one individual who passed away in one of the homes lists malnutrition as one of the causes of death, which suggests that person was not being fed properly.

He says he will not yet identify the problematic homes by name.

Ms Atherden, speaking to The Bermuda Sun earlier this week, said: “There were some things drawn to our attention recently and subsequently I have had a conversation with MP Burgess about some of the things he said.”

She added: “Within the Ministry I have asked for information on how we monitor these homes and what type of regulations are in place. 

“I want to be able to go through and see how the process works. Until I see that I do not know what needs to be done.” 

The seniors Minister is encouraging anyone who has concerns with the operations, conditions or the care provided at any residential care home or nursing home to contact the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged at 278-4900.