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LEVY: LTC homes not ready for second wave, say advocates

Posted: October 13, 2020

(October 12, 2020)

By: Sue-Ann Levy, Toronto Sun

Simon Nisbet and mom Doreen in better times. PHOTO BY SUBMITTED PHOTO

Simon Nisbet has much to be thankful for on Thanksgiving Day.

His mom Doreen is alive and doing well at 89 because he pulled her out of Orchard Villa and got her into hospital before COVID-19 and the lack of care — well documented in the media and by the Canadian military — could end her life.

From the time he was contacted after his mom tested COVID-positive on April 22 and the deaths started mounting, he’d visit her every day at her window and see her “deteriorating.”

When he finally got a call from a doctor on May 3, he was told only that she’d had a sip of water and then “everything went silent.”

That was a “trigger,” he said, and it was at that point he pleaded to have her moved to the hospital.

“Within 48 hours I had her out of there,” he said.

He’d learned that his mom had pneumonia, her kidneys were failing and she was extremely dehydrated.

Pickering’s Orchard Villa, operated by Southbridge Care Homes, was the hardest-hit LTC home in Ontario and was cited in the Canadian military report for horrendous examples of negligence.

It took her two months to recuperate in hospital and Doreen is now in another home — Fairview Lodge — in Whitby where she’s “doing much better,” he says.

“It’s an extreme load off my mind,” he said.

“It’s also easy for me to be very angry.”

NIsbet, who acted quickly and advocated for his mom, is one of the lucky ones.

He will be speaking about his experiences to the Ontario Long-Term Care Commission in a few weeks.

He feels there’s something “seriously seriously wrong” with a long-term care system that has a “terrible” timeline of inspections — where follow-up and monitoring is selective and sporadic, where there are no fines for bad operators, or the lifting of licenses or the stopping of intakes.

The 1,888 seniors (as of Oct. 10) who have succumbed to COVID-19 in Ontario long-term care homes — or due to the isolation and malnutrition — were not so lucky.

The three-member commission — headed by Chief Justice Frank Marrocco — stated at the end of July that they have a clear mandate to investigate how and why COVID-19 spread in long-term care homes, what was done to prevent the spread, and how the system impacted on the spread

Despite the Commission and the findings of the Canadian military, it would seem few lessons have been learned as the province heads into the second wave of COVID.

Ontario Health Coalition executive director Natalie Mehra said what has happened during the last month in Ottawa long-term care homes has “struck a chill” through her heart.

On August 30 there was an outbreak declared at West End Villa.

Some 123 staff and residents tested positive for COVID-19 and 19 people have died.

She said despite declarations by the ministry of health that the home had PPE and enough staff, staff came out publicly to say they did not have N95 masks to work with COVID sufferers and families confirmed that residents were still sharing rooms with COVID-positive residents.

There was no isolation procedures either at the 243-bed home, she said.

She added that staff were reporting that were two PSWs for 60 COVID-positive patients.

Mehra said the Ontario government did not put in place a “systematic response” of measures for incompetent and negligent homes as soon as COVID hit.

While there was a significant funding boost of $403-million for COVID costs in LTC homes, “nothing has happened in Ontario” to get the LTC staffing levels up — that is, no big recruitment policy to get proper staff in.

By contrast, Quebec launched a strategy over the summer to hire 10,000 PSWs — training them and improving their wages in LTC homes.

“Nothing substantial has happened at all,” she said.

There’s also been little attention paid to the devastating impact of long-term isolation as the province heads into another lockdown.

Dr. Vivian Stamatopoulos, an associate teaching professor at Ontario’s Tech University, said the LTC commission transcripts have already provided a “painful validation” of “discriminatory and unduly punitive restrictions” for seniors in care.

She said a “paternalistic and incomplete medical model” that prioritized the risk of virus transmission above the risks of prolonged isolation produced “pandemic prisons” that stripped the rights of our seniors in care.

“With the second wave underway and outbreaks beginning to spread across LTC homes, we must heed the words of our seniors and staunchly defend and strengthen their rights to family access.,” she said.

“We simply cannot re-victimize them again…they won’t survive it.”

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