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Kitchener woman wants families involved in long-term care home inquiry

Posted: July 30, 2020

(July 29, 2020)

By: Nicole Lampa, CTV News

KITCHENER — A Kitchener woman says the province should include families in its inquiry into long-term care homes in Ontario.

Premier Doug Ford officially launched a commission of inquiry into how COVID-19 was able to grip the province’s long-term care homes leading to more than 1,800 resident deaths during the pandemic on Wednesday. He said the commissioners will have full rein for their investigation and no stone will be left unturned.

Tracy Rowley’s mother, Shirley Egerdeen, died from COVID-19 in April. Egerdeen was a resident at Forest Heights Long Term Care, which is operated by Revera.

“I believe today, if Forest Heights wasn’t the old unit that they were in, or if they made changes or if the government helped them make changes quicker, she’d still be with us today,” Rowley said.

Forest Heights was one of the hardest-hit long-term care homes in the province. Health officials declared an outbreak at the home on April 1. By the time it ended on June 30, 178 residents and 73 staff tested positive for the novel coronavirus. In total, 51 people died.

“It’s still frustrating,” Rowley said. “I’m hoping the commissioner is going to talk to families, let us be part of all of this.”

The Ontario Health Coalition said it’s worried staff at long-term care homes won’t say anything to the commission, since whistle-blower protection wasn’t mentioned in Wednesday’s announcement.

“Right now, they are at-risk fo getting fired if they say anything publicly,” said Natalie Mehra, executive director of the coalition. “There’s things like that that weren’t included.”

The health care watchdog added few details were released about how the investigation would be carried out.

“We don’t really know what the process is going to be for the commission,” Mehra said. “There’s no requirement for them to hold public hearings.”

Rowley also said she’s worried the commission’s findings and recommendations could come too late. The report is due next spring, but there’s concern about a second wave of COVID-19 coming in the fall.

“Premier Ford specifically said it’s not over,” Rowley said. “We have another wave coming, so what happens to these poor people in the seniors’ home until April of next year.”

Forest Heights is owned by Revera, but St. Mary’s General Hospital took over management of the home to help deal with the outbreak.

The outbreak was declared over in late June, but St. Mary’s is still running the home.

CTV News Kitchener reached out to Revera for a comment, but had not heard back by 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

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