Elderly residence lacks appropriate fire alarm system
by Jess Berry
Feb 11, 2015 | 5612 views | 0 0 comments | 99 99 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The deplorable conditions at the assisted living facility Prospect Park Residence (PPR), where a handful of senior residents remain and are fighting eviction, may soon be on their way to improving.

In a court hearing last week, Judge Wayne Saitta ruled in favor of the elderly residents, requiring that the Department of Health (DOH) assist the residents’ counsel in appointing a temporary receiver to manage the facility.

The ruling comes after the current management’s failure to follow a number of court stipulations regarding conditions, from heat and hot water to food services.

At the most recent hearing, DOH expressed concern with the current conditions at the facility, saying that “these violations must be addressed or the facility must close in a short time frame.”

One of the most egregious violations mentioned in court is the facility’s current fire safety system, which is outdated. The counsel for PPR said that the updates would cost upwards of $1 million, which is why the facility was going to close.

Family members of current and former residents say that the fire alarm system has long been ineffective, as most recently demonstrated by a fire in the building in December of 2012.

According to Sandy Reiburn, whose mother used to be a resident at PPR, the scene that took place during and in the aftermath of the fire was horrific.

Reiburn’s own mother, in addition to a number of other residents, was never evacuated from her room. One employee was sent to the hospital for smoke inhalation after trying to deal with the fire himself.

But what is most concerning to her and the other residents is that the same fire safety system is still in place.

According to PPR’s counsel, “the same conditions that exist now existed then and the DOH did not demand that the conditions be rectified.”

In fact, DOH issued temporary licenses to PPR throughout this time period, continually deeming the facility fit for operation every six months until PPR owner Haysha Deitsch sent in a closure plan in November of 2013.

Many residents’ family members are infuriated by this, calling it a “lack of oversight” on behalf of DOH.

“There are going to be parasites, predators, sociopaths, but the system is supposed to weed them out and prevent it,” one family member said. “Where was the system all of these years?”

Now Judge Saitta wants to appoint a temporary receiver to ensure that the conditions in the building are appropriate for senior living. PPR management is arguing, however, that the temporary receiver would have no right to install capital improvements to the building to fix the fire alarm system.

Regardless of the temporary receiver’s ability to fix the problem, family members are wondering how the facility was allowed to operate for this long with a faulty system in the first place.

“PPR is saying, ‘But if you appoint a receiver, the receiver can’t go spend a million dollars on the owner’s building,’” Reiburn said. “But the question should have been, ‘Why wasn’t it fixed in the first place? Why was this a chronic problem way back when? Why was the authorization relicensed all of this time when these people could have been in imminent danger?’”

The new management will work to keep the facility running smoothly until a settlement can be agreed upon among all parties, including PPR owner Haysha Deitsch, the residents and DOH.

The remaining families worry that the settlement will still leave Deitsch with a full pocket — a precedent that they fear will become standard practice with facilities for the aging across the city.

“The system rewards delinquency, irresponsibility and fraud,” one family member said. “To me, it’s as if someone burns down their business and is now asking to collect insurance, which is illegal. It’s fraud. But this is open fraud, and he’s going to get away with it and make a lot of money.”

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