The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has released a report that outlines the living conditions in five of Ontario’s long-term care homes.
The report lists numerous examples of dangerous, unsafe, unsanitary and downright inhumane conditions that are prevalent in many long-term care homes across Ontario. These offences include rotten food, cockroach infestations, residents not being bathed for weeks on end, residents being given expired medication, missing narcotics, medical supplies being reused in unsanitary ways, patients crying for help and being ignored for hours, and many more serious issues. There were instances where staff were using the same equipment on residents infected with COVID-19 and healthy residents, without any disinfection practices taking place beforehand.
Our province’s minister for long-term care says that the system has been ignored and neglected for decades.
A huge issue, in light of the pandemic has been COVID-19 patients being allowed to wander around the facilities freely, increasing the spread of the virus. Of Ontario’s 626 long-term care homes, there are currently 150 homes experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19. At its worst, there were 190 long-term care homes experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks. 4,892 cases of COVID-19 have been reported among residents in these homes, and 1,703 cases have been confirmed among staff.1
COVID-19 related deaths among these residents make up for 82% of Canada’s current death toll.2
The staggering number of cases and outbreaks in these long-term care homes brought widespread attention to the current living conditions. Five homes were hit the hardest with COVID-19 outbreaks, and the situations were not improving despite efforts being made. This prompted the Ontario government to request help from the Canadian Armed Forces. At the time, the challenges included staffing, infection prevention and control, resident safety, food preparation and janitorial services.
In an investigation by CBC News, it was uncovered that only nine out of the 626 homes in Ontario had received resident quality inspections last year.3
A public inquiry into the safety and security of residents in long-term care homes done in 2017-2018 unveiled “systematic vulnerabilities” in the system.3
Many people are calling for the abolishment of for-profit homes and an overhaul of the entire system in light of these findings.
The province has requested the government and the Canadian Armed Forces to extend their aid for at least another 30 days. The government has also begun an active investigation into these homes based on the report findings.
“To date, one death has been referred to the Office of the Chief Coroner for investigation,” the government said in their release. “In addition to continued regular inspections, the Ministry of Long-Term Care Inspections Branch will immediately investigate specific critical incidents referred to in the report.” 1
The government will be launching an independent commission into Ontario’s long-term care system starting in September.
“The report from the Canadian Armed Forces on these five long-term care homes is extremely troubling. Our government will take immediate action to investigate the concerns raised by the Canadian Armed Forces to ensure the safety of our residents in these five long-term care homes and in homes across the province,” said Doug Ford in the province’s release.4
The Five Long-Term Care Homes Under Investigation
Altamont Care Community
Altamont Care Community which is located in Scarborough, has lost 52 people to COVID-19. It is owned by Sienna Senior Living, which is one of the largest for-profit long-term care providers in Canada. They own 37 long-term care facilities and 27 retirement residents in Ontario alone, with another 19 facilities and residences in British Columbia. In 2019, they made a $7.5 million profit which was down from their $21.8 million profit in 2017.
In the military report, it was alleged that majority of the residents at Altamont Care Community were not receiving three meals a day and there was a poor nutritional status due to this. They are facing serious staffing issues. Many residents were suffering from pressure ulcers resulting from prolonged bed rest, which in some cases, lasted for weeks.
There was no evidence of residents being placed into wheelchairs, so they could move around. There was also no evidence of residents being repositioned in their beds or even being washed properly.
“To deliver the level of care that our seniors deserve, the staffing challenges we face in the long-term care sector must be addressed,” the company said in a statement. We are committed to working with the government, and our health system partners, to solve this urgent issue. However, the company declined to respond to questions about their financial reports.5
Orchard Villa, a long-term care home in Pickering which houses 308 beds, is owned by Southbridge Care Homes. They’ve lost 77 residents to COVID-19, with 96 staff and 225 residents testing positive. Extendicare manages Orchard Villa, as well as more than 110 homes and residences across the country.
Extendicare’s financial reports state a profit of $28.6 million in 2019 and a profit of $31.7 million in 2018.
Families of resident’s at Orchard Villa have called for a police investigation with alleged neglect, malnourishment and failure to adhere to infection prevention protocols. The military report lists cockroaches and flies in the facilities, and patients being left in their beds with soiled diapers. Their infection prevention practices were graded as “poor.” The report also lists that, “Respecting dignity of patients not always a priority. Caregiver burnout noted among staff.”
June Bendell died at Orchard Villa three weeks ago, after choking on a nutritional drink. Her children were told her death was deemed accidental, but the military report outlines very different circumstances than what they were aware of. The report found many staff members were feeding residents while they were still lying down, not bothering to sit them upright.
Eatonville and Hawthorne Place
Rykka Care Centres is in charge of operations for both North York’s Hawthorne Place Care Centre and Eatonville Care Centre in Etobicoke. 39 residents have died from COVID-19 at Hawthorne Place and 46 residents have died from COVID-19 at Eatonville. The company also runs Anson Place Care Centre in Hagersville, which has recorded 27 deaths from COVID-19 so far.
Rykka Care Centres is privately held and doesn’t publicly report their finances.
The military report for Hawthorne Place outlines numerous instances of patient neglect and little to no disinfection has been conducted amid the pandemic. Infestations of both ants and cockroaches were reported. It was also reported that soiled residents weren’t being changed in a timely manner, resulting in skin breakdowns.
The report for Eatonville lists patients who tested positive for COVID-19 being allowed to freely wander around the facility, putting everyone there at risk. There was a “general culture of fear” among the personal support workers in the home, who were concerned about using costly supplies such as wipes, gloves and dressing gowns. The Canadian Armed Forces found nearly a dozen cases of bleeding fungal infections and very poor peri-catheterization reported.
Holland Christian Homes
Holland Christian Homes, who run Grace Manor, is the only not-for-profit home of the five listed in the military report. 11 people have died at Grace Manor from COVID-19. Staff at this facility moved from COVID-19 positive units to other units without changing PPE or even gloves. The report lists staff were leaving food in patients’ mouths while they slept and not assisting residents during meals. In some cases, the staff would write that the resident refused the meal instead of helping them eat it.
“Like others, including our political leaders, we were shocked and dismayed at some of the conditions identified in this report,” said Ken Rawlins, CEO of Holland Christian. He claims the situation at the home has stabilized, with Doug Ford stating that the home has since made changes and will not be taken over following the release of the report. The home, however, will still receive provincial inspections.
The province is dispatching six teams comprised of two inspections to each of the five homes outlined in the report.
“We are fully prepared to take over more homes if necessary. We are fully prepared to pull licences, to shut down facilities, if it is necessary. We will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes,” says Doug Ford.6
How to Report Nursing Home Negligence and Abuse
Nursing home abuse often goes unreported due to difficulties in spotting it. Moreover, communication struggles complicate matters further. While signs aren’t always obvious, it’s important to stay vigilant over tell-tale signs. To report nursing home abuse in Ontario, you can contact the Director at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (1-866-434-0144) or the Registrar of the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (1-855-275-7472). After that, these individuals must contact the police over any abuse that constitutes a crime.
If you suspect a loved one has been the victim of nursing home negligence and/or abuse, it’s important that you get in touch with a lawyer. Find out what constitutes abuse and what your next steps should be here.
Why Choose De Rose Lawyers?
At De Rose Lawyers, we have over 40 years of combined experience working for innocent family members and their loved ones who’ve been the victim of nursing home malpractice. If your loved one has suffered harm from COVID-19 negligence or any other cause, our nursing home injury lawyers will help you get the neglect compensation your family deserves.