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Online protest points to devastating numbers at Roberta Place in Barrie, Ont., in calls for immediate action

Posted: January 30, 2021

(January 29, 2021)

By: Kim Phillips & Roger Klein,  CTV News

BARRIE, ONT. — The management company of a Barrie long-term care home devastated by a COVID-19 outbreak has published an open letter after a report by Ontario’s ministry of long-term care revealed widespread violations.

In the letter posted Friday, Jarlette Health Services president David Jarlette said that “despite proactive infection prevention and control efforts, we could not prepare for the difficulty and grief that our residents, family members and team members would unfortunately be faced with.”

An inspection of Roberta Place in December exposed multiple infractions, including a failure to have staff “participate in the implementation of the Infection Prevention and Control program.”

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit declared the outbreak on Jan. 8 after multiple infections were reported.

On Jan. 18, another inspection found Jarlette Health Services failed to “ensure that the home was a safe and secure environment for its residents, with respect to staff and resident cohorting as required by the direction of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.”

In his letter, Jarlette said the U.K. COVID-19 variant detected through testing at Roberta Place “was responsible for a much higher rate of transmission through our facility.”

A team from Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital is leading the mission to contain the outbreak, which has now claimed 51 lives.

Meanwhile, the Ontario Health Coalition pointed to Roberta Place as an example of the emergency unfolding in long-term care homes across the province.

“People have recoiled in horror at what they are seeing in the homes, and we are asking you today to take action to help save our seniors,” said Natalie Mehra from the Ontario Health Coalition.

An online protest held Friday morning by doctors, families of long-term care residents and union leaders representing thousands of personal support workers called for an end to for-profit care and immediate action by the Ontario government to prevent more casualties.

The government has reported outbreaks in 40 per cent of long-term care homes across Ontario.

“Since phase one, these were all preventable, yet governments do nothing,” says UNIFOR president, Jerry Diaz.

“We are tired,” says Dr. Vivian Stamatopoulos. “We are sick of the system that is designed to support the owners at the behest of the residents and the workers, and we demand change now.”

According to the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit on Friday, the virus had infected 226 residents and staff members. Dr. Colin Lee, associate medical officer of health, says only one resident at the Barrie home has not been infected.

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