Ontario Premier Doug Ford vows investigation into nursing home crisis

Published On May 26, 2020 | By Anushka Yadav | COVID-19, News
Anushka Yadav
A Canadian Armed Forces member speaks with a worker at Orchard Villa Retirement Residence, after several residents died of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Pickering, Ont., on May 10, 2020. (REUTERS/Carlos Osorio)

Premier Doug Ford said on Tuesday a report by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) shows “heartbreaking” issues at five Ontario long-term care homes with COVID-19 outbreak. 

Military officials were sent into facilities in April upon the Ontario government’s request to assist the staff members to contain the outbreak.

Brigadier-General C.J.J. Mialkowski detailed ‘horrific’ issues identified at the long-term care homes in the ‘heart-wrenching’ report.

They include the patients left in “soiled diapers,” repeated use of medical equipment between patients without disinfection, improper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) by doctors and staff, and insects present in the facility. 

Other key concerns highlighted in the report include “aggressive behaviour” by staff during medical procedures and unresponsiveness towards residents calling for help for up to two hours. 

Patients who tested positive for COVID-19 were not separated from other residents, the report said. 

“It was the worst report — the most heart-wrenching report — I have ever read in my entire life,” Ford said.

Marie Tripp who lost her mother, Mary Walsh, on April 20 to COVID-19 reacts at Orchard Villa Retirement Residence where several residents died of COVID-19 in Pickering, Ont., on May 26, 2020. (REUTERS/Carlos Osorio)

The Ministry of Health said nearly 77 per cent of total COVID-19-linked deaths in Ontario were residents in long-term care homes.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said yesterday he felt “anger” and “sadness” reading the “deeply disturbing report.” 

“The federal government will be there to support provinces in their jurisdictions on dealing with this as we move forward,” he said in his daily briefing on Tuesday.

The federal government notified Ontario officials of the report in a memo on Sunday.

“We knew these homes were having serious problems and needed help,” Ford said.  

“But until yesterday morning, we didn’t know the full extent of what these homes, what these residents, were dealing with,” the Premier said at the daily press conference from Queen’s Park.

The five homes under the “crisis situation” include Hawthorne Place in North York, Orchard Villa in Pickering, Altamount Care Community in Scarborough and Holland Christian Homes’ Grace Manor in Brampton.

While Altamount Care Community failed to deliver three meals a day due to staffing issues, residents at the North York home were found “audibly choking” due to “forceful feeding,” Mialkowski said.

He said residents developed pressure ulcers because there was no evidence residents being moved to wheelchairs for parts of day, repositioned in bed or washed properly.

The CAF noted conditions at all five facilities have “noticeably improved.” 

Self-reported data on long-term care homes showed there are 1,855 active resident cases and 1,335 active staff cases, the lowest since April.

However, Ford promised a full investigation into the allegations. The investigation will include a probe by Ontario’s Chief Coroner Dirk Huyer.

The results of these investigations will be shared with the police to look into any possible criminal charges.

“I will also make the results of these investigations public,” Ford said.

Minister of Long-term Care Merrilee Fullerton said the government is “determined and committed to fix this problem once and for all.”

The Ontario government has requested the military to extend its assistance for another 30 days. 

The government of Canada has reported 15 military members who have tested positive for COVID-19 while working in the facilities under Operation LASER.

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