Poor infection control practices, low staffing levels and inconsistent use of personal protective equipment harmed residents at a Whitby, Ont., long-term care home grappling with a COVID-19 outbreak that has sickened 162 people, a recent inspection report found.
The situation at the Sunnycrest Nursing Home, detailed in the report issued at the end of November, resulted in the provincial government ordering a local hospital to support the home days later.
“The home has failed to demonstrate that it was providing a safe and secure environment for its residents during the course of its outbreak,” the report said.
“There were a significant number of residents and staff infected with the outbreak.”
Eleven people connected to the home’s outbreak have died so far, according to the region’s public health authority.
The long-term care home did not report a single case during the first wave of the virus.
Diane Pereira’s father Neville is one of the residents who recently passed away during the outbreak. She is shocked they weren’t prepared for the second wave.
“They did so well during the first wave. They didn’t see it coming. How could you not see it coming?” said Diane.
The provincial inspection conducted on Nov. 28 found that the facility was operating with less than 50 per cent of regular staff, and care was delayed as a result.
Staff also told the inspector that there was not enough time to maintain the facility’s stock of personal protective equipment that was locked in the management’s office.
The report also said there was no designated screener wearing full personal-protective equipment at the front of the building to check people entering and exiting the home. And a number of resident rooms in a designated outbreak unit did not have personal protective equipment caddies located outside, the report added.
“There was actual harm to residents as the home did not demonstrate consistent infection prevention and control practices, shortage of staff leading to wound dressings not being completed, high risk medications being late for up to two hours, staff reporting lack of access to PPE,” the report said.
Diane was her father’s essential caregiver and was able to be with him as he lay dying, meaning she witnessed firsthand many of the findings in the report.
“The hallways were a mess. There was garbage everywhere,” said Diane. She described the home as a ghost town and said residents suffered due to a lack of staff operating the home.
Diane added in her father’s final days when she was at the home, she never saw his roommate moved or dressed.
“I saw him in bed over 36 hours, not getting him up to put him in his wheelchair.”
The inspection report ordered Sunnycrest to fix nine issues, including ensuring personal protective equipment is readily available to staff and ensuring that high-risk residents get their medication on time.
The province’s Ministry of Long-Term Care approved a voluntary management agreement last week, after the inspection report was issued, that allows the Lakeridge Health hospital to support the nursing home.
A spokeswoman for the ministry of long-term care said Wednesday that Sunnycrest is also getting help from the Canadian Red Cross through the support of the federal government.
Krystle Caputo said that the Red Cross is offering infection prevention and control, occupational health and environmental support, and that the charity’s residential support aides will be in the home this week to help with daily activities such as the delivery of meals, housekeeping and light cleaning duties.
Sunnycrest did not immediately respond to request for comment.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the inspection report reveals the “horror” inside the facility and called on the Progressive Conservative government to recall the legislature, which rose Tuesday for its winter break, to take action.
She said the province needs to urgently hire thousands of personal support workers and put infection control experts in every facility.
“In Sunnycrest, and in long term care homes all over the province, people cannot afford for (Premier) Doug Ford to just do photo ops and wait for a vaccine,” she said. “The legislature should immediately get to work putting more protections and supports for people in place.”
Green party leader Mike Schreiner said that Ford failed to invest in better care and more staff in long-term care homes over the summer ahead of the pandemic’s second wave.
“Stories of neglect, rampant infection rates and the increasing number of deaths break my heart,” said Schreiner.
Durham Region’s public health unit said that there have been 162 total cases of the novel coronavirus linked to Sunnycrest since Nov. 23.
The region’s most recent data shows that of those cases, 97 people are in isolation, 43 have been resolved, 11 have been hospitalized, and 11 are dead.
Across the province, 618 long-term care residents currently have COVID-19 and 11 new deaths were reported Wednesday.
The province said 115 of its 626 long-term care homes are experiencing an outbreak.
With files from News Staff