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Healthcare union calls on Ford government to take over Woodbridge Vista

Last Updated May 31, 2020 at 8:35 pm EDT

Exterior view of Woodbridge Vista Community Care long-term care facility. (GOOGLE MAPS)

The union representing thousands of frontline healthcare workers in the province is calling on the Ford government to take over another long-term care facility.

York Region says 18 residents at Woodbridge Vista Care Community were sent to hospital Saturday night.

The executive vice-president of facility operator Sienna Senior Living says they consulted with families before making the decision after the situation became untenable.

“Long-term care can manage to a certain extent, but when you get many people sick with COVID-19 symptoms you want to do everything possible,” said Joanne Dykeman.

“I really felt we needed the move to make sure those residents who were quite sick got into another care setting.”

Later on Saturday, York Region Public Health said it had issued an order to the facility telling it to comply with regulations set by regional and provincial health bodies during the pandemic.

The region said it was the first time it had issued such an order to a care home and said it didn’t take the decision lightly.

In an open letter sent to premier Doug Ford, Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton, SEIU Healthcare says it has “serious concerns” surrounding the situation at the facility.

“Our members have informed the union that 83 residents are COVID-19 positive, including 17 who died, as well as 26 infected staff. Further, staffing levels are dangerously low and temporary/agency workers are not able to fill the gap,” said SEIU president Sharleen Stewart. “As a result, staff have lost confidence in management’s ability to oversee the crisis.”

Stewart says the government needs to assume administrative and operational control of the facility, just as it has with seven other long-term care homes in the province.

“Action is required for the health and safety of everyone at this nursing home.”

Updated numbers from the York Region Public Health website shows 85 residents at the 224-bed facility have tested positive along with 28 healthcare workers.

Dykeman said she stands by her staff, refuting the union’s claim that staffing levels and the availability of personal protective equipment were a problem at the facility.

“I don’t think there is a better manager,” she said. “I’ve got the right team members to do that work and I think we need to continue to manage a really tough pandemic that’s never happened in a 100 years.”

Vaughan mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua said they are continuing to work closely with all levels of government and the community to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“We are grateful for the commitment of the front-line workers who took immediate action to help ensure residents are safe and continue to receive vital healthcare services,” he tweeted on Sunday.

Last Wednesday, the premier announced the province was taking over management of five long-term care homes in the GTA – Eatonville Care Centre in Etobicoke, Hawthorne Place Care Centre in North York, Altamont Care in Scarborough, Orchard Villa in Pickering and Camilla Care Home in Mississauga. The move followed a disturbing report

Downsview Long Term Care Centre and River Glen Haven Nursing Home in Sutton are also under government control.

The move followed a disturbing report from the military which details infestations, aggressive feeding that caused choking, bleeding infections, and residents crying out for help for hours.

The government has launched a full investigation into the allegations and Ford threatened to “pull licenses and shut down facilities if necessary.”

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report