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Grace Villa worker struggles with PTSD months after Hamilton’s worst COVID outbreak

Posted: July 7, 2021

(July 6, 2021)

By: Maria Iqbal, Hamilton Spectator Reporter

Grace Villa’s operator said the home did what it could to support staff and residents during this time.

“With any issue or episode that has a dramatic impact on our staff, we got staff in as quickly as we could,” said Mary Raithby, CEO of APANS Health Services. “Staffing and resident care was our priority.”

“I understand that some staff felt it wasn’t quick enough. We moved as quickly as we could,” she added.

In terms of staff being able to access supports for mental health, Raithby said “we understand that the system is overwhelmed.”

In early June, she said APANS was working with unions and staff and was “open” to other ways they could help support workers, but declined to share details, saying she didn’t want to discuss individual cases.

About 51 per cent of nurses who worked in a long-term-care home with an outbreak reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in a January survey by the Ontario Nurses’ Association. That number rose to almost 61 per cent for workers who were in homes with a large outbreak.

The Long-Term Care Commission report in April said home licensees should cover counselling services for residents and staff who were in long-term care during the pandemic.

The mental-health impacts of the pandemic on Grace Villa workers inspired Hamilton Mountain MPP Monique Taylor to table a private member’s bill at Queen’s Park that would provide essential workers easier access to mental-health benefits through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). It was struck down in April.

“There needs to be an organized, systematic approach to provide people with the support that they need,” said Natalie Mehra of the Ontario Health Coalition.

“We don’t need any more PR nonsense from the province. We need actual action.”

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