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LEVY: Upset families of LTC residences accuse province of not taking second wave seriously

Posted: January 24, 2021

(January 23, 2021)

By: Donald Macdonald, Sudbury Star

Jennifer Penny’s 81-year-old mom died of COVID-19 on Boxing Day, two days after staff at her Niagara Falls long-term care home claimed she was “doing well” despite testing positive for the virulent virus.

In an emotional presentation to an Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) Zoom media conference — attended by more than 100 seniors advocates, union members, health professionals and families of residents in LTC homes — the Oshawa woman said she drove through a snowstorm from home to Niagara Falls on Christmas evening after being called suddenly and told that her mom was no longer eating and drinking.

Yvette Brauch passed away within an hour of her arrival, Penny told the press conference.

She said her daughter, who’d also gone to see her grandmother, didn’t make it in time because “no one answered” the front door of the facility.

Penny was just one of five families from all corners of the province (with loved ones in for-profit homes) who wanted Premier Doug Ford to know that contrary to what he contended earlier this week, everything is not “hunky dory” during this deadly second wave. They also wanted to challenge Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton’s contentions that there is no staffing crisis.

Natalie Mehra, executive director of the OHC, said the second wave has devastated long-term care — yet again — with the number of cases now far exceeding those in the first wave.

She said there are 1,200-1,500 new cases per week and 257 LTC homes are currently in an outbreak. Some 99 of them have 10 residents and/or staff cases or more.

Mehra told the press conference that the number of deaths in a week has grown to 171, which equates to one LTC resident dying each hour.

In some homes up to 90 or 100% of the residents are affected.

“People are dying at a rate never seen before,” Mehra said.

She asked for immediate action to recruit new staff for LTC homes where employee numbers have been much depleted by the first and second waves.

“There are many, many LTC homes in a staffing crisis,” she said. “Staffing has crumbled.”

She also feels the military should be deployed, yet again, to help in some of the hotspots.

“For profits are doing what they can get away with,” Mehra said. “There are no fines and no consequences.”

Penny said she found out about the outbreak in the for-profit LTC home where her mom Yvette resided through an automated message.

She claims she spent five days trying to reach someone about her mom’s condition — either no one would answer the phone or someone at the nursing station would pick up the phone and quickly hang it up.

When she arrived on Christmas night, no one was at the nursing station and after her mom passed away, she said a nurse told her she’d been working for 16 hours straight.

After her mom died, Penny said she went out into the hall and found a resident in a wheelchair begging for water.

Later, after the dust settled, she realized her mom hadn’t stopped eating and drinking — she just wasn’t being fed.

“The conditions were horrific and inhumane,” Penny said. “They were confined to their rooms and the only people they saw were in gowns and masks.”

Jo-Ann Beggs lost her 91-year-old mom Barbara — who was blind, deaf and bedridden — on Oct. 9 in an Oakville for-profit LTC home.

Beggs said she was “pathologically isolated” in her bed for 22 of 24 hours a day and started to yelp in pain five months into the lockdown.

She said the pain was not adequately managed by the home.

“It still sickens me to think of the pain she endured,” Beggs said. “I’m left anguished considering how much she suffered.”

She believes her mom’s death was preventable and feels what is happening in some LTC homes is “sadistic.”

Beggs said this needs fixing now and before the “full boomer aging wave” hits us.

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