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Care and compassion: When Country Haven was evacuated, 55 residents given refuge at Carefor Mackay Centre

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

Carefor Mackay Centre

Carefor Mackay Centre

When Beachburg’s Country Haven Retirement Home was evacuated in November, it would be Carefor in Pembroke that would welcome its residents.

The 55 residents were removed from the home on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016 after the sprinkler system went off on the third floor, saturating the centre portion of their building and causing about $500,000 damage. While the residents’ rooms were unaffected, the central core of the building was rendered uninhabitable by the water, and there was no way the residents could stay in the facility while the clean up and restoration work was ongoing.

That included drying things out, installing new floors, light fixtures, ceilings, drywall, and interior painting.

Kelly Kosnaskie, Director of Care for Country Haven, said it wasn’t until that evening they realized the need to relocate their residents.

“We didn’t know we’d have to do a complete evacuation until the last minute,” she said. That was accomplished with the assistance of the Whitewater Fire Department, ambulances with the County of Renfrew Paramedics, and their own transportation, along with Carefor’s passenger vehicles, which helped once the decision was made to evacuate.

Sharon Maye, client services manager for the Carefor Mackay Centre, the former Marguerite Centre, said they got the call from Renfrew County emergency management that evening.

“They called Steve Perry, our director of operations, and asked if we had accommodations,” she said. “He said yes, at Mackay Street.” There, eight residents currently stay in the building.

By 9 p.m. Nov. 4, Carefor staff were told the Country Haven residents would be on their way, so they mobilized and got the rooms ready for their new guests. This meant getting the beds ready, laying out linens and many other tasks. Early Saturday morning, Nov. 5, the first of the residents began arriving.

“Renfrew County paramedics arrived and set up a triage for the incoming residents,” Maye said. Many were stressed by the move and quite elderly, so this was done as a precautionary measure. Several residents were hospitalized overnight for observation, but were resettled at Carefor within a day or two.

Country Haven staff joined Carefor staff, and together they did what they could to make the residents comfortable and cared for as they adjusted to the changes.

“To go from eight residents to more than 50 was quite the change,” Maye said. Country Haven staff went back into their building and brought back food supplies and equipment to help.

The group stayed over Christmas and New Year’s, leaving Friday, Jan. 6 to head back to their home in Country Haven.

Maye said Country Haven staff helped residents celebrate the holidays, as their recreation co-ordinators were with them.

“They had a Christmas party, Santa paid them a visit, and on Christmas Day, some family members visited them and joined them to have dinner.”

The residents were glad to be able to head home, with Carefor and Country Haven pooling resources to return them to the retirement home.

Maye said both staffs and management worked well together to ensure the residents received the best care possible under the circumstances. The staff at both places came together to make sure everything went well, and she added everyone had such a caring way with all the residents.

“This worked out really well,” she said. “We were able to provide the space and have all of the residents under one roof, so they got to stay with people they already know.”

Kosnaskie agreed, saying everyone worked hard in the best interests of the residents.

“Our residents were very happy to get home after this,” she said, but they, their families and staff were grateful they had a place to stay during this trying time.

“If it wasn’t for the Mackay Centre, I don’t know what we would have done,” Kosnaskie said. 

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