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Fight against license extension for Orchard Villa in Pickering continues

Posted: September 2, 2021

(September 1, 2021)

By: Durham Radio News

The company that owns the Orchard Villa long-term care home in Pickering is applying for a license extension.

The proposal is for a new 30-year license to rebuild and an 87-bed expansion to Southbridge, the for-profit long-term care home operator.

News of the license renewal has been met with a lot of opposition given how badly the home was ravaged during the pandemic.

At least 206 of Orchard Villa’s 233 residents contracted COVID-19, along with more than 100 staff.

At least 70 residents died.

Protests against the license renewal have been held outside the home.

Reports from the Canadian Forces and inspections before and since the pandemic began showed troubling accounts of failures to provide sound infection control; dire understaffing; inadequate hydration and feeding; uncleanliness; flies and cockroaches; lack of vital supplies and egregious lack of care.

An independent commission on how Ontario’s long-term care sector responded to the COVID-19 pandemic found numerous issues with the home.

The Ontario Health Coalition and families of Orchard Villa residents are leading the charge against the license renewal.

On Wednesday, they held a virtual press conference where lawyers joined to give a legal opinion on the current situation.

“In our view, in light of Southbridge’s appalling record at Orchard Villa, it would be unreasonable and contrary to law for the government to find that Southbridge is eligible to be approved for a new license and expansion at Orchard Villa under s. 98 of the Long-Term Care Homes Act,” said Steven Shrybman, lawyer at Goldblatt Partners. “Accordingly, if the government made such a decision, a Court would likely find the decision to be unreasonable and quash it.”

“No reasonable application of s. 98 of the Act could conclude that Southbridge is “competent” to operate Orchard Villa, or that its “past conduct … affords reasonable grounds to believe” that the home will be operated “with honesty and integrity” and “not … in a manner that is prejudicial to the health, safety or welfare of its residents,” as the words of the Act require,” he concluded.

The families of loved ones who died at the home also joined the press conference.

“On behalf of our loved ones living in Orchard Villa we will continue to advocate,” said Catherine Parkes, who lost her father –a resident of the home– in the first wave of the pandemic. “We carry with us daily the defeat and heartbreak of having watched our family members suffer and die. The personal discussions I have had with family members who still have loved ones living in Orchard Villa reveal that nothing has changed. I strongly believe that the Long-Term Care Act indicates clearly the direction the Minister needs to take regarding Southbridge Care Home’s request for a 30-year license and an extra 87 beds, which is an absolute denial of their request.”

“We are extremely concerned that the Ford government, which has close connections with the for-profit long-term care industry, may be ducking the controversy and waiting for people to stop paying attention. The Minister and the Premier have evaded responding to protests, open letters, and petitions calling on them to institute real accountability and improvements in long-term care,” said Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition.

Click here to read the full legal opinion released Wednesday.

Click here for original article