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Listeria found at Vaughan daycare where toddler died

Eva Ravikovich, 2, died at an unlicensed daycare in Vaughan on July 8, 2013. Source: Gogetfunding.com

Health inspectors found contaminated, expired and rotting food at an unlicensed daycare north of Toronto the day a two-year-old girl died there this summer, documents show.

A report from York Region’s public health unit shows an inspector visited the daycare in Vaughan the night of July 8 and found listeria in three different foods.

Eva Ravikovich died at the allegedly overcrowded daycare, which was operated out of a home on Yellowood Circle.

The inspector went to the home that night and found numerous health concerns, such as garbage in the kitchen with dirty diapers, a garlic and tomato mixture in the fridge that appeared to be fermenting and deli meat that had expired three weeks prior, their report shows.

Samples of the deli meats as well as a chicken and potato stew and a cooked grain product tested positive for listeria monocytogenes. Listeria contaminated food can pose a serious health threat.

The report also lists sanitization as a concern and the inspector wrote that daycare operator Olena Panfilova had not been properly disinfecting kitchen utensils or toys.

She had “limited to no understanding of proper disinfection techniques for a food premise or daycare setting,” the inspector wrote.

The daycare was ordered shut down on the grounds of health hazards.

It also appeared that the home next door was also being used as part of the daycare, the inspector wrote, as nine children were found there after Eva’s death and some food for the daycare was being prepared there.

There were also 14 dogs in that home, the inspector noted.

The report shows that when an inspector visited again on July 19, one of the operators mused about eventually reopening a daycare at that secondary home.

The Ministry of Education got an injunction that prohibits those daycare operators from providing daycare to any children in Ontario.

Eva’s parents have launched a $3.5-million lawsuit against the owners and operators of the daycare and the Ministry of Education.

The statement of claim does not reveal what the family believes happened inside the daycare that led to their daughter’s death, but alludes to an “incident.”

The family alleges the daycare was an unsafe environment and the operators failed to both monitor children for potential health issues and respond properly to an emergency situation.

Unlicensed daycare providers in Ontario can legally care for no more than five children under the age of 10 in addition to their own children.

When Eva died there were at least 27 children in the facility, and possibly more, her parents allege in the lawsuit. The health inspection found seven day beds in one bedroom and five cribs in another.

The ministry failed to properly inspect, investigate and regulate the daycare, the family is alleging.

Sixty days notice must be given before suing the government, so while a statement of claim was issued in August against the daycare, a notice of an impending statement of claim was issued against the ministry.

Neither the daycare operators nor the ministry have filed a statement of defence.

Andrea Calver of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care said the report shows “a public health nightmare” at the site and is calling on the province to ensure all home daycares that operate as a business are licensed.

Ministry officials have admitted that they failed to follow up on two of three previous complaints lodged against the daycare.

Two ministry employees were suspended.

Monique Taylor, the Ontario NDP critic for children and youth services, said she was “totally shocked” at the health inspectors’ findings.

“It’s important to remember that this home should have been investigated in the first place,” Taylor said. “The ministry of education absolutely, willingly ignored the evidence that there were serious problems here and we’re looking forward to the ombudsman’s recommendations.”

Ombudsman Andre Marin has launched an investigation into whether the government is doing enough to protect children in unlicensed daycares.

Education Minister Liz Sandals said in a statement that the government is reviewing the Day Nurseries Act to “strengthen the safety and quality of child care options for families.”

“My heart goes out to the family of the child at this incredibly difficult time,” Sandals wrote.

“We are bringing forward legislative amendments that will, if passed, expand the authority of the ministry to address complaints related to unlicensed child care providers, and we are establishing a dedicated enforcement team to investigate complaints about non-compliant unlicensed providers.”

York Region Public Health FOI by CityNewsToronto