Coroner looking into care home following senior's death
A funeral will be held Saturday to remember Alfredo Bonaldi, whose death last week triggered another investigation into his care at Summerland Seniors Village.
The 91-year-old passed away 12 days after he was rushed to hospital in Penticton suffering the effects of a suspected case of food poisoning, which left him near death after spending three days alone and uncared for in his room.
Bonaldi was a resident on the assisted-living side of Summerland Seniors Village where he received twice-daily meals and housekeeping service. His absence at meal times should have prompted a well-being check by staff, but didn’t.
After being discovered Nov. 25 by son-in-law Gil Inglis, Bonaldi was treated in hospital for a staph infection, salmonella poisoning and kidney failure, and showed some signs of improvement before he died on Dec. 7.
Shortly afterwards, the hospital referred the case to the B.C. Coroners Service, which probes all unnatural, unexpected or unexplained deaths in the province.
“The investigation is still in its preliminary stages, and it is too early to comment on reports of potential problems arising from Mr. Bonaldi’s stay at the Summerland care home,” B.C. Coroners Service spokesperson Barbara McLintock said in a press release.
She also noted that the investigation will result in either a publicly available report or an inquest.
“In either case, the mandate of the Coroners Service is not to find fault or lay blame, but it may make recommendations to try to prevent future deaths in similar circumstances.”
Both the Ministry of Health and Interior Health, which has placed a consultant at the site to ensure patient safety, had already begun investigations into Bonaldi’s care at Summerland Seniors Village prior to his death and will carry on with those probes.
Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid said in an interview Tuesday she remains “very concerned” about Bonaldi’s case and said his passing will make the investigation more difficult.
Like the coroner, the ministry is trying to determine what went wrong and if, and how, similar incidents can be avoided in the future, and the eventual findings may very well have provincial implications, MacDiarmid added.
Bonaldi’s wife was also a patient at the care home and died in August two days after she had surgery to repair a broken leg that Inglis said resulted when she was dropped by staff who failed to report the injury for a week.
Retirement Concepts, which operates the facility, apologized to the family in a letter dated Dec. 7 and signed by president Azim Jamal and vice-president Tony Baena.
“We sincerely apologize to you and your family for all you have gone through over the past several weeks and months as a result of what happened to your parents at our facility,” the executives said in the letter.
It goes on to note that thanks to information brought forward by the family, “we now know that errors were made by our staff in reporting the injury to your mother.”
“In your father’s case, there was an obvious breakdown in communication that resulted in his absence from meals going unreported for several days before he was found in his room,” the letter continued.
“Unfortunately, even the best policies and procedures cannot eliminate human error. Nevertheless, we will continue to strive to improve our systems and staff training so we can reduce human error to an absolute minimum.”
Inglis said the family appreciated the company’s apology, but Retirement Concepts brass “have been trying to cover themselves.”
He said Bonaldi’s three daughters “feel they’ve been let down” by the system that regulates care homes, and will press for whatever legislative changes may be required to prevent other families from losing their loved ones under similar circumstances.
“It’s not over yet,” Inglis said.
Bonaldi’s funeral is set for Saturday at 11 a.m. at Holy Child Catholic Church in Summerland and is open to the public.