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‘Horrified’ family pulls 88-year-old Barrie man from long-term-care home due to ‘depressing’ living conditions

Posted: February 10, 2022

(February 8, 2022)

By: Chris Simon, Simcoe.com

Woods Park

Jennifer Duffield (right), with father Jim and sister Robyn. Jim, now 88, was pulled by his family from Woods Park Care Centre in Barrie due to the alleged living conditions at the facility. – Jennifer Duffield photo

Jennifer Duffield couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

When her family decided to move patriarch Jim, 88, out of Barrie’s Tollendale Village retirement community into a private room at Sienna Senior Living’s Woods Park Care Centre long-term-care home Dec. 21, they assumed he’d get a higher level of care for his Parkinson’s disease and early-stage dementia.

But Duffield alleges Jim became dehydrated and malnourished within a week, and staff would do check-ins by walking past his room, seeing his feet at the end of the bed and moving on.

One night, after Jim vomited, she says she waited more than 40 minutes for help with cleanup.

They pulled him out Jan. 7.

“We were horrified at the lack of care and we were told by administration that if we didn’t like it, we could get him and get out,” Duffield said. “Within 48 hours it became very apparent we had a problem. Nobody seemed to know who he was … He was covered in unexplained bruises. The food: I wouldn’t feed my dog that. We don’t place value on the lives of our seniors, or the people working in these facilities. It’s depressing. It’s sad. It’s wrong.”

Paula Coleman, Woods Park’s board of directors chair, said in an email staff “strive to provide the highest level of care to residents,” though she declined to comment on this specific case.

“We are currently assessing our call-bell system to ensure all residents receive a timely response,” Coleman said, noting there’s a complaint process in place. “We understand that moving into long-term care can be an adjustment. Prior to a resident moving in, the team works with partners to determine the type of care required, including dietary needs. This is done under the guidance of a registered dietician and the presentation of food will vary between residents.”

Ontario Health Coalition executive director Natalie Mehra said Duffield’s allegations aren’t surprising.

“It is horrific,” she said, citing poor working conditions and wages, low staffing levels and inadequate distribution of personal protective equipment as major issues in privately operated homes. “The operators have continued to take tens of millions of dollars of profit per month, while residents go without basic care. There is no consequence and they know it.”

Duffield notes Jim tested positive for COVID-19 while at Woods Park and was still sick when removed from the home. He was placed in isolation in his Tollendale condominium, and is receiving care partly through hired personal support workers.

“He’s back home and he’s unbelievably better,” she said. “He would not have survived.”

The family is seeking reimbursement of the nearly $3,000 they paid toward his care at Woods Park.

An outbreak was declared at Woods Park Jan. 2 and has affected at least 24 residents and 23 employees, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit reports.

“The team at Woods Park has worked tirelessly since the onset of the pandemic to keep residents safe from COVID-19,” Woods Park board of directors chair Paula Coleman said. “Before the highly contagious Omicron variant, there had been no resident cases of COVID-19 in the home since the beginning of the pandemic. As cases reach the highest point in the pandemic, staff continue to work around the clock, following stringent infection prevention and control protocols to contain the current outbreak.”

Most residents are asymptomatic or showing mild symptoms, due mostly to the high rate of third-dose immunizations at the home, she said.

Woods Park received six written notices and committed to three “voluntary plan(s) of correction” in relation to multiple infractions observed during inspections in June 2021, according to the Ministry of Long-Term Care. But, no such violations were found when the home was visited in September.

Mehra said COVID-19 continues to expose the poor conditions in this sector.

“There really has not been any improvement at all in the level of care,” she said, noting there are more than 300 ongoing outbreaks in Ontario long-term-care homes. “There has to be close scrutiny; you just don’t see that happening. Right now is a terrible time. We have a lot of residents dying every day from COVID-19 alone.”

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