Connect   |   Newsletter   |   Donate

BLOG: A personal note as I’m leaving to protest one of the worst LTC companies today

Posted: July 14, 2021

(July 14, 2021)

After what we have seen in the last sixteen months, on a very personal level, I can’t let this happen without doing everything in my power to stop it. If you don’t mind, I thought I’d share a few thoughts with you.

Quietly the Doug Ford government is proposing to give new 30-year licenses and even expansions for thousands of for-profit long-term care beds. Included among these are thousands of beds owned by the for-profit chains with the worst records for neglect, poor care, abysmal management. These corporations are responsible for the deaths of thousands of the residents whom they were entrusted to protect and care for in the last sixteen months, many of their deaths preventable.

Orchard Villa is located in a leafy suburb in Pickering. It is a for-profit LTC home owned by chain company Southbridge Care Homes. Southbridge doesn’t actually operate its LTC facilities. It owns the licenses and takes profit, but it contracts out the operations of the homes to another for-profit corporation to run. Two sets of for-profits make profits out of the public funding and residents’ fees. While the for-profits in general have far worse pandemic death rates, Southbridge has the worst, according to an analysis by the Toronto Star.

Orchard Villa’s verdant surroundings betray no sign of the hair-raising suffering that has happened behind the walls of the home. Last spring, 206 residents out of 233 contracted COVID-19 along with more than 100 staff. Seventy-one residents died as a result of the virus. Others died of malnutrition and dehydration. The Canadian Forces described the condition in which they found residents: left in in soiled, cockroaches and flies, the smell of rotten food, understaffing, poor training, inadequate medical supplies, locked supply cabinets, staff who had been brought in by that point from agencies and the hospital not oriented, unable to access supplies they needed, unable to document.  Residents were put on mattresses on the floor to prevent them from standing up and walking or had their walkers taken away, or left on bare mattresses without linens. Food and important belongings were left out of residents’ reach. Hydration schedules were not followed, medication errors were documented and infection control protocols were not upheld.

Families testified before the COVID-19 Long-Term Care Commission describing dire understaffing and poor management conditions that predated the pandemic by years, resulting in extreme weight loss, bed sores, infections and other harm. The families did not blame individual staff. They describe dangerously low levels of staffing that were chronic. In the pandemic families who were shut out of the home described phoning repeatedly but there was not enough staff to answer. One family, unable to get through by phone, watched through the window as their mother with COVID-19 vomited in her room with no staff around. They had to bang on the window until they could get staff to come and give their mother water. She died days later.

Eventually — terribly belatedly — the local hospital took over the management of the home from Extendicare, the company that Southbridge had contracted to run the facility. Residents who had survived until then were finally transported out to hospital where they were found to be severely dehydrated, anorexic from malnutrition, some in kidney failure. A hospital spokesperson reported that the home had dropped to 20% of a full staffing complement.

Orchard Villa’s for-profit long-term care operator was never fined. It never lost its license. There has been no accountability for the unspeakable suffering of the residents and their families.

Quite the opposite. Last fall, in fact, the Ford government passed a law shielding Orchard Villa and the other for-profit long-term care home operators that were facing lawsuits for negligence, wiping out the claims of families who had lost their loved ones. The families had to start again and file suits for gross negligence which has a higher burden of proof.

Southbridge’s license for Orchard Villa is coming to an end. Now, to add insult to injury, the Ford government is proposing to give it a new 30-year license. Not only that, but also an 87-bed expansion.

Suffering and death on the scale that we saw at Orchard Villa requires an unmitigated “never again”. What happened at Orchard Villa should never have been allowed to happen. But since it did, it should have resulted in a reckoning – real change and real accountability. Instead, the owners are being rewarded.

The lives of the elderly cannot be treated as disposable. Profit and greed cannot be allowed to trump fundamental human rights and the duty to care and compassion.

We can and must stop these plans. If we do not, what kind of a society are we?

For all our members and supporters, our heartfelt thank you for your care and your compassion for the residents, their families and the workers.

Let’s all do everything we can do to stop the Ford government from saddling Ontarians with another generation of for-profit long-term care. We will still need to fight to improve standards and care, but currently the power of the for-profits that oppose minimum staffing standards, regulation to protect care levels, annual surprise inspections and enforcement, has proven impossible to overcome.

We have this opportunity now to stop them. Let’s never look back at this time and think there was more we could have done.

With warm regards,

Natalie Mehra

Executive Director

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

  • JOIN US TODAY AT NOON if possible: 1955 Valley Farm Road, Pickering, outside Orchard Villa
  • JOIN THE GOVERNMENT’S TELECONFERENCE CONSULTATION. The Ministry is required to do a public consultation when considering a new license. We are asking as many people as possible to join that call and tell them how much Ontarians oppose this plan. The call is at 11 a.m. tomorrow, Thursday July 15. Dial 1-855-340-5809 Passcode: 2400102#
  • PRINT THE ATTACHED PETITION, get signatures, send back to us at the address provided by July 23.