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‘They are afraid’: Worker says staff fear showing up at West End Villa long-term care home

Posted: October 10, 2020

(October 9, 2020)

By: Elizabeth Payne, Ottawa Citizen

With 47 cases of COVID-19 among staff there, many people have been afraid to show up for work at Ottawa’s West End Villa, creating staff shortages, a worker from the Ottawa long-term care home claimed Thursday.

“They are afraid they are going to spread it to their families, so we work short every day,” said the worker who asked that her name not be used for fear of retribution. “They never have the right amount of staff to take care of residents.”

As a result, residents are suffering, says the family of a 79-year-old woman who lives at West End Villa. The woman has not received a bath or shower for five weeks, despite pleading for one, say her concerned family members.

Although workers view residents as their own family, the worker said they are not able to provide the kind of care they should.

Staff are chronically exhausted and rushed, she told a video press conference sponsored by the Ottawa Health Coalition. “They are not able to do what they need to do. They are not able to change their PPE (personal protective equipment) properly.”

There have been times when two PSWs are in charge of 60 residents at the home, she said, because so many people have called in sick. She said things have improved somewhat since the province ordered The Ottawa Hospital to take over management.

A spokesperson for Extendicare, which operates West End Villa, contradicted the worker’s claim and said the home is currently “overstaffed. That said, working in a home in an outbreak is not easy.”

The spokesperson encouraged staff to raise concerns with them “so we can see them addressed as quickly as possible.”

West End Villa is the site of the largest, most deadly COVID-19 outbreak in the province. Nineteen residents have died and 130 residents and staff have tested positive for the infectious disease since the outbreak began at the end of August.

The province ordered The Ottawa Hospital to take over management of the home and of Laurier Manor, which is also in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak and is also operated by Extendicare.

In a letter to families of residents this week, the regional director for Extendicare said West End Villa had hired 17 new PSWs to work at the long-term care home and continues to recruit.

Extendicare said bed baths are being used in the home to limit the risk of transmission during the outbreak.

The company spokesperson said residents receive two bed baths a week, but the family of the resident say she had her hair washed after pleading for a shower, but the rest of her body was not washed.

 The family said they are concerned her skin will soon begin to break down because of lack of proper care. This newspaper has agreed not to name her to protect her privacy.
Skin degradation was reported among some long-term care residents by members of the Canadian military who offered emergency assistance to hard-hit homes during the first wave of the pandemic in Ontario. In a report, military officials said soldiers were told some residents hadn’t received a bath in weeks.

Long-term care staff, family members and advocates say history is repeating itself with continuing staff shortages resulting in reduced care at long-term care homes in Ottawa and across the province.

That was the message from advocates, staff and others who took part in a province-wide day of action and called for an end to staffing shortages, better pay and working conditions for long-term care staff and minimum care standards for residents.

“The second wave is upon us and, if anything, staffing levels are worse than they were before COVID-19,” said Ed Cashman of the Ottawa Health Coalition.

“We need to be clear, without staff there is no care. In a number of homes, there is not enough staff to bathe residents, to reposition them, to give them daily care,” and other necessary daily tasks, he said. “The situation is serious and has not improved since the first wave of COVID-19 last spring.”

Betty Yakimenko, who chairs the family council at Madonna Care Community long-term care home, said families have always been concerned about the lack of staff there. During the first wave of the pandemic, when close to one-third of the home’s residents died of COVID-19, the home lost almost 60 per cent of its staff, she said.

She said there are more staff now, but still not enough, and Yakimenko is concerned about what will happen if the home has another serious outbreak.

“Is there anybody to take over? Hospitals are not going to be able to help out. We need more staff. There are no two ways about it.”

In an earlier email, an Extendicare spokesperson said the support of The Ottawa Hospital at West End Villa and Laurier Manor “helps our staff, residents and their families to have confidence that everything possible is being done to contain the outbreak.”

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