The owner of a retirement complex in Bay Roberts is defending a decision to evict a female resident, saying her failure to comply with strict non- smoking regulations could not be tolerated.
Jerry Kirby of the Kirby Group of Companies, who manages the Bay Roberts Retirement Centre on Country Road, told The Compass April 17 that smoking in the facility is prohibited, and repeated occurrences are grounds for removal.
“I was involved (with this situation) from start to finish, and I am more than comfortable with everything that was done,” Kirby stated in a phone interview.
“Life safety is the most important thing,” Kirby added. “If we have someone who decides to smoke in their room, it’s a safety concern.” Irene Boone, 69, was given a 30day eviction notice on March 26 after she was caught with a lit cigarette in her room.
Boone contacted The Compass in order to share her story, alleging unfair treatment. She insisted the one time she smoked was after a slip-and-fall incident March 20. The fall outside the facility led to a broken arm.
“When I broke my arm, I had a smoke,” Boone explained. “I know I did wrong, but it was to calm my nerves.”
However, Kirby said there were “numerous” infractions, and action had to be taken.
“(The Bay Roberts location) has never had an eviction,” he said. “But when one single issue overpowers everything (there’s a reason to do so).”
The centre opened four years ago, and Kirby said this is a first time a resident has been evicted.
Kirby’s company manages 10 residential care facilities: six in Newfoundland and four in the Maritimes. He said this is only the second incident where a smoking-related eviction had to be given in any of those facilities.
“If they are remorseful, hand over their cigarettes and say they will never do it again, it’s one thing. If that doesn’t happen, there’s a point we have to deal with it,” he said.
Kirby said smoking is a significant risk to the health of others, and pointed to a fire at a seniors’ home in Bas-Saint-Laurent, Que., this past January that killed some 30 people. Smoking was listed as the likely cause of the fire. “It was just devastating,” he said. A spokesperson for the Department of Health, Blair Medd, said evictions are not common.
“Eviction from a (personal care home) or a long term care facility (nursing home) is a rare occurrence and typically occurs when a resident has repeatedly displayed actions or behaviours that pose significant risk to other residents in the home,” he said.
There are 45 residents living at the Bay Roberts Retirement Centre, and upwards of 18 staff. Kirby said he wouldn’t chance the lives of those people.
When a person is caught smoking in any of Kirby’s facilities, Eastern Health is contacted and the resident speaks with a counsellor. There are nurses from the health authority at the facility several times a week, so if issues arise, the resident will have someone to speak with.
On repeated disregard of the smoking policy, the RCMP is called.
Boone said she got a fright when an officer arrived at her room after the incident.
“There was a knock on my door, and there was a Mountie fully dressed to the nines,” she explained. “He said he was going to put me out on the sidewalk. I was scared.”
The eviction letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Compass, refers to “continued unco-operation in regards to smoking in your room,” and informed Boone there was “no choice but to have a social worker find you a more suitable placement.”
Boone remains adament that she violated the non-smoking policy only once.
Meanwhile, she has plans to move into an apartment in St. John’s.