Military report details ‘disturbing’ allegations on Ontario long term care homes

A report by Canada’s military exposing horrific living conditions in Ontario's long-term care homes has been released. As Cynthia Mulligan reports, the findings are prompting questions about why provincial inspections didn’t reveal the problems.

By The Canadian Press and News Staff

A military report on five long-term care homes in Ontario details troubling allegations such as rooming COVID-19 positive patients with uninfected ones, insect infestations and aggressive resident feeding that led to choking.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford called in military assistance last month for five long-term care homes dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks.

Ford called the report, “the most heart-wrenching report I have ever read in my entire life,” and added, “appalling, disgusting, what has happened. The dignity of these patients … not being cleaned. These are standard operating procedures.”

Ford said despite inheriting the issues with the long-term care system, “I take full accountability for the system we inherited, but I’ll tell you i’m going to fix this system no matter what it takes. The buck stops with me.”

He added there would be accountability and justice for the families. Ontario has launched a “full investigation” into the allegations and will share the results with police so they can look into any possible criminal charges, Ford said.

Four of the five homes are private, but Ford said there are 626 long-term care homes in the province and they shouldn’t all be painted with a broad brush. He suggested creating a fully public system wouldn’t be feasible without help from Ottawa.

“We financially wouldn’t be able to sustain that,” Ford said. “Now, if the federal government comes in to support us, that would make it more sustainable.”

“The reports they provided us were heartbreaking, they were horrific,” he said. “It’s shocking that this can happen here in Canada. It’s gut-wrenching.”

After reading the report, Ford said it’s clear the system is broken. He said he is now not ruling out a public inquiry, which he previously declined.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has seen the report, calls it “deeply disturbing.”

The allegations detailed by Canadian Armed Forces members also include failure to isolate COVID-19-positive patients and allowing them to wander outside of their rooms.

At one home, the military reports “significant” fecal contamination in resident rooms, cockroach infestations, residents not being bathed in weeks, and some crying out for help for more than two hours.

Residents at another home were bed-bound for weeks, with a “significant” number having pressure ulcers. Due to severe staffing issues, “most” residents were not receiving three meals a day, the report alleges.

At Orchard Villa, there was also a reports of personal support workers and nurses not sitting up residents before feeding, hydrating or giving them medications leading to a high risk of choking or aspiration, including one incident “that appeared to have contributed to a patient death.”

You can read the full report from the military below:

Canadian Armed Forces report on Ontario long-term care homes by CityNewsToronto on Scribd

Since members of the military began providing operational assistance in Ontario, 14 of them have become infected with COVID-19.

“I read the report yesterday, coming from the Canadian Armed Forces, and I can tell you that it was extremely troubling,” Trudeau said.

“I was sad, I was shocked, I was disappointed, I was angry. I believe that we’re talking about a situation that clearly is a reality associated with COVID-19, but has also existed for quite some time now.”

Trudeau said there is no doubt more needs to be done for seniors in long-term care, and Ottawa will help.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath responded to the report in a statement, calling the conditions and treatment of seniors revealed were “outrageous, horrifying and saddening.”

“The horror seniors in these homes are being forced to live is inhumane,” read the statement from Horwath. “It breaks my heart to think about what these people are living through even today, and how scared and outraged their families must be feeling right now.”

She called for inspections, the takeovers of all homes deemed not safe, and a full, transparent public inquiry.

The military has been assisting at Orchard Villa in Pickering, Altamont Care Community in Toronto, Eatonville Care Centre in Toronto, Hawthorne Place in Toronto and Holland Christian Homes’ Grace Manor in Brampton.

Orchard Villa, Altamont and Eatonville had all seen dozens of COVID-19 deaths each when the Canadian Armed Forces were called in, and a personal support worker from Altamont also died.

Orchard Villa has now recorded 69 COVID-19 deaths, with Altamont has recorded 52 and Eatonville 42. Hawthorne Place has seen 39 residents die – roughly double the number of fatalities at the time military help was requested. Eleven residents have died at Grace Manor.

Ontario has seen more than 1,500 residents of long-term care die in COVID-19 outbreaks, along with six staff members.

The province has also appointed hospitals to take over the management of two long-term care homes that have been unable to contain COVID-19, despite receiving supports from hospitals for weeks.

Humber River Hospital will manage Downsview Long Term Care Centre, which has reported 52 deaths, up from 40 just a week ago. Southlake Regional Health Centre will manage River Glen Haven Nursing Home in Sutton, a 119-bed facility where there have been 20 deaths and 54 confirmed cases.

The government has said it is launching an independent commission into the province’s long-term care system.

The number of long-term care homes experiencing an outbreak had grown to 190 when that announcement was made last week, but it has since dropped to 150.

The Ontario Long-Term Care Association, opposition parties and the health-care union SEIU have all called for a full public inquiry into the sector. But Ford has said that would take too long.

Provincewide, Ontario reported 287 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, and 21 more deaths.

It’s the first time in more than two weeks that the number of new cases has been lower than 300. The previous five days had each seen more than 400 new cases.

There have now been 26,191 total cases in Ontario, a 1.1 per cent increase over the previous day, which is the lowest growth rate since early March.

Testing levels remain relatively low, with 9,875 tests completed during the previous day, despite a provincial capacity of nearly 25,000.

The numbers of people in hospital with COVID-19, in intensive care, and on ventilators all decreased.

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