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.
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.
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.
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.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 26, 2020.
Allison Jones, The Canadian Press