No reimbursement for families of displaced Highland Wood residentsBy Jenn Watt
Family of residents of Highland Wood who incurred expenses when they travelled to visit their loved ones during the evacuation of the long-term care home were informed recently by Haliburton Highlands Health Services that they would not be reimbursed.
Letters were sent last week to families who had requested reimbursement explaining that efforts made to find funding had been unsuccessful.
“HHHS was informed by its insurance provider that our policy does not cover such expenses,” the letter signed by CEO Carolyn Plummer states. “Unfortunately, despite many conversations and inquiries in the months since the temporary closure, HHHS has been unable to find any alternative funding sources. We regret to inform you that expenses incurred by family members will not be reimbursed.”
Highland Wood was evacuated in early February of this year due to several roof leaks, with 28 residents relocated to other long-term care facilities. Once the roof was replaced and damage repaired, the building was reopened in early June.
"HHHS made arrangements to provide supports to the families of residents who were displaced by the unexpected and temporary closure of Highland Wood. This included the provision of free transportation services to families travelling to visit their loved ones," Plummer wrote in response to emailed questions from the Echo. "Group and individual transportation was available through Community Support Services. A number of families accessed this service."
During a meeting with families on Feb. 25, HHHS representatives were asked about what should be done about travel expenses for those who needed to travel to see their loved ones. According to the letter, “HHHS agreed to work with families to see how HHHS might be able to support you [the family members].”
Asked by the Echo whether HHHS told families there would be reimbursement for travel costs and/or food expenses while visiting loved ones, Plummer said no.
“HHHS agreed to work with families to see how HHHS might be able to support them, and we also made arrangements for the provision of free transportation through our Community Support Services program,” she said via email.
Jenn Wilson’s father is a resident at Highland Wood and was relocated to a long-term care home in Lindsay during the evacuation. Wilson said she’s disappointed that HHHS hasn’t found a way to reimburse families’ travel expenses.
“My mom’s 80 years old, driving back and forth to Lindsay, putting miles on her old car and paying for gas to go see my dad,” she said. Although her mom took advantage of the free transportation offered by HHHS, it was available to her two days a week and she wanted to see her husband more frequently.
Wilson totalled the receipts her mother collected over the nearly four-month displacement from Highland Wood. She spent $353 on fuel and did not keep receipts for food.
“It’s not that it’s a huge amount of money. That’s not the point,” Wilson said. “The point is all these residents were displaced due to an insurance claim and I mean, if you or I were to have a flood in our home and we had to stay in a hotel, that’s covered by insurance. Why are these families not being compensated? It just makes no sense to me.”
Wilson said that her father received excellent care in Lindsay and her family is happy with the staff at Highland Wood.
“This has nothing to do with the amazing nurses, doctors and the everyday staff of Highland Wood. This is just what’s right and what’s wrong and how people should be treated,” she said.
Plummer said due to privacy concerns she could not disclose how many family members requested reimbursement and would not give an estimate of how much money was sought, also citing privacy and confidentiality.
Along with free group and individual transportation services, HHHS also offered counselling services through Homewood Health. “A number of families accessed these supports,” Plummer said.