Residents of The Pines Retirement Home are still living in the shadow of Hurricane Ivan.
With one-third of the facility still uninhabitable, residents have been forced to double and triple up in their rooms, with some living in ward-like conditions.
Sue Nicholson, who has managed the home since 1997, recalled the hurricane and described the present situation.
During Ivan, the residents were evacuated to Prospect Primary School, she explained.
‘We thought after three days we’d be back, but the building was badly damaged,’ she said.
Part of the zinc roof was lost and there was four feet of flooding which destroyed the equipment and residential area downstairs.
The residents moved back into The Pines before Christmas, starting out in one-third of the building and eventually taking back another third, with the rest still badly damaged.
‘The rooms are overcrowded and the communal areas are reduced to a minimum, which isn’t ideal for the long term.
‘We’ve turned a communal area into a ward for eight people who are considered highly dependent patients, who previously would be two to three to a room,’ Mrs. Nicholson said.
To rectify the situation, management decided that an upgrade was needed.
‘The board made the decision that rather than use the money to restore it to its previous state, we would use the opportunity to upgrade it and meet the needs of the patients, for example making it handicapped accessible.
‘We were also beginning to understand the growing need for a residential home and nursing home for the elderly in Cayman. We wanted to expand the service and increase the number of people we could serve,’ she said.
The board approached government about the continuing need for the Pines and was reassured that there was a future for the facility, Mrs. Nicholson explained.
By January this year, Chalmers Gibbs Architects had drawn up the redevelopment plans.
‘We’ve been told the total cost is in the region of about CI$5 million. We are confident we can raise 50 per cent of the total cost. By the end of this year, we will have $2 million set aside, largely due to the Maples Foundation.
‘Maples and Calder very kindly gave us $1 million straight after Ivan, over a two-year period, so there is still $500,000 to come from them. We have $1.2 million plus the $500,000 from Maples and Calder.
‘Our hope is that we’ll get much more public support once they see the building going up. People need to know when they donate funds to The Pines it is applied specifically for the benefit of the residents and the building of the new facility. The board are considering fundraising options at the moment,’ Mrs. Nicholson said.
She is also looking to government for help, since a majority of the people living at The Pines have been placed through the Department of Children and Family Services.
‘Because government has 65 per cent of the number of residents in The Pines, we didn’t think it unreasonable to ask them for 50 per cent of the cost,’ Mrs. Nicholson said.
She recently met with Minister for Health and Human Services Anthony Eden to hand in the proposal for funding. Government is reviewing the documents, she added.
‘We’ve asked if they could (supply the funds) over a two-year period, in the 2006-7 and 2007-8 budgets. With government support, this whole project could be completed by 2008 which would coincide with our 25th anniversary of the opening of The Pines,’ Mrs. Nicholson said.
Mr. Eden explained that the decision on funding is pending in Cabinet.
‘In principle, we like to see the private sector and government working in partnership for the benefit of the people. Where it’s allowed in the budgetary process, we look forward to supporting them,’ he said.
The best part of the new building will be its ability to weather hurricanes, Mrs. Nicholson said.
‘The biggest plus for me of the new facility is that the residents won’t have to be relocated during a hurricane. It will meet all the current building codes locally required to withstand hurricanes,’ she said.
The building will have its own generator, raised floors to prevent flooding and a roof that is hurricane-proof, Mrs. Nicholson explained.
‘We’re so anxious to get this building started and completed so the residents can enjoy a good quality of life,’ Mrs. Nicholson said.
Meeting operating costs is another continuing concern. In the upcoming budget starting 1 July, she explained, the government has reduced the funds available to be used toward the cost of residents’ fees.
‘We understand and said we’ll accept it but can’t cope with it for the next year. Government has explained there is still a huge amount of Hurricane Ivan expenses to deal with.
‘The minimum cost is $2,500 per resident but it can be a lot more if they need greater medical care. What we get from government falls way short,’ she said.