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‘No senior deserves to be neglected like my mother’: Families rally against Orchard Villa license renewal, expansion

Posted: July 15, 2021

(July 15, 2021)

By: Reka Szekely,

Under a hot sun, families impacted by a devastating COVID-19 outbreak at Pickering’s Orchard Villa Long Term Care home made an impassioned case that the nursing home should not be eligible for license extension or additional beds.

Roughly 100 people attended a July 14 protest outside the facility on Valley Farm Road, where 71 people died in an outbreak in spring 2020.

Orchard Villa was one of the long-term care homes where the Canadian Armed Forces was called in to help respond after an outbreak. In a scathing report on the homes, the armed forces described horrendous conditions at Orchard Villa including cockroaches and flies, residents choking from improper feeding, the stench of rotten food and patients left in soiled diapers.

At the protest, families who lost loved ones pleaded with the provincial government to reject a 30-year license extension and an 87-bed expansion for the home.

Diane Colangelo was among those sharing the stories of loss.

She clutched a newspaper bearing the image of her mother, Patricia Crump, on the front page. In the April 22 photo Crump touches the window at Orchard Villa, her daughter out of reach on the other side.

Colangelo’s voice shook with emotion the whole time she spoke and said her mother was scared and could barely get to the window.

“She was such a good mother,” she said. “She made everybody laugh all the time, she was just a wonderful human being and she was such a beautiful lady … and if she’s watching down now and she sees this picture of her, she wouldn’t even recognize herself.”

Crump died a few days after the photo was taken, the 69th victim of COVID-19 at the nursing home. Colangelo said when her mother was admitted to Orchard Villa she weighed 105 pounds; when she passed away she was only 68 pounds.

“I know one day my daughter called her from Ireland and that was the last day she was able to get the strength from God to pick up that phone … my mother was screaming on the phone … just screaming in pain with nobody to help her,” said Colangelo. “I don’t want this to happen to anybody else. No senior deserves to be neglected like my mother or any of the other families that lost their loved ones.”

The event was organized by the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC).

“They intend to give thousands of beds to the same for-profit companies that were exposed in the military’s report last summer as failing to provide even the basic necessities of life … failed to staff (the homes), failed to feed residents, failed to provide them with enough water, failed to provide them with enough company and left them to die — many of them preventably — from COVID-19,” said Natalie Mehra, OHC executive director.

Mehra said it was torture for families left to watch through windows knowing their loved ones weren’t getting adequate care and stressed that no one has been held accountable for the conditions in the long-term care home.

She doesn’t believe the for-profit company that owns Orchard Villa, Southbridge Care Homes, deserves to be awarded an expansion.

“To give them a new license is to spit in the eye of the people who have suffered so much through this whole process, not just in the pandemic but before.”

Cathy Parkes, whose father Paul died of COVID-19 at Orchard Villa, said she has zero faith in Southbridge to run the home going forward. She would like to see the Region of Durham or Lakeridge Health take it over and wants to see the government transition all for-profit homes into non-profits.

“There is no coming back from this,” she said. “I’m hoping that the region will take it over, give it a new name change, improve quality … no more four beds per room.”

Oshawa NDP MPP Jennifer French was the final speaker of the day and encouraged the family members to continue to hold the government to account.

They plan to rally at Queen’s Park when the legislature resumes in September.

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