By Graeme MacKay, Editorial Cartoonist, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday August 24, 2015
“I am very sorry:” They smoked, he sprayed Glade
Ed Steel says, quite simply, that he couldn’t take it anymore.
After what he says was weeks of having to wheel his common-law spouse through a constant crowd of smokers every time he went in or out of Dundurn Place, and after complaining to everyone he could think of — the long-term care home’s administration, the police, the health department, even a city councillor — nothing had changed.
“It’s illegal — there are signs right there. But it all just goes into a dead ear. Nothing happened.”
His frustration arises, he says, not just from the disregard for the law, or the health of those who have to pass through the smoke, but because of his first wife, who he says died from a smoking-related illness.
So on Monday, Steel brought a can of aerosol air freshener with him from home and as he passed through the smokers gathered by the front door in their wheelchairs and scooters, he let off blasts from his air freshener “to show them that I deserved some fresh air.”
On his way out, one of the smokers challenged him, he says, told him “he’d better not spray that again.”
So out came the Glade.
“I sprayed it at the ground, not at anybody’s face … if the wind blew it her way, I am very sorry.”
Police tell a different story and unfortunately for him their witness Ingrid Boiago, the centre’s director of clinical nursing, was until very recently a Hamilton police officer.
Steel was charged the next day with two counts of assault with a weapon; in their press release police allege Steel sprayed the women in the face. In an interview Boiago declined to go into specifics of what she saw.
Kevin McDonald, a manager at Hamilton’s Public Health Services, says Dundurn Place “is a challenging location” for the department partly because some of the long-term care residents have a diminished capacity “and it’s a challenge for them to understand the requirements.”
Enforcement staff have issued 11 tickets (minimum fines start at $365) and these have yielded some convictions, but also some charges have been withdrawn because of diminished capacity. McDonald said staff have met with Dundurn Place staff this week in light of the incident.
Ironically, the Mary Street facility is the only long-term care home in the whole city to have a legal, indoor smoking area, a specially ventilated room that meets provincial requirements and is inspected annually. It also has a rear patio that can be used for smoking.
But many residents, McDonald says, prefer the front entrance because that’s where all the action is.
Leslie Watson, Dundurn Place’s administrator, acknowledges smoking at the entrance “is an ongoing issue. We continue to go out and ask the residents to go down the ramps (away from the front door). I take it extremely seriously and we work very hard to get the residents to understand the requirements.”
For his part Steel, 67, hopes the attention this incident has generated will lead to a more permanent solution and in the meantime he’s looking to move his spouse to a different facility to finish her rehabilitation so she can come home.
“If this is all for nothing, then I’m going to be really upset.” (Source: Hamilton Spectator)