Feces piling up in the open, cockroach infestations, and people who have tested positive for COVID-19 freely wandering around are just some of the “devastating conditions” the military observed in some of Ontario’s long-term care homes.
In April, Ontario called in the Canadian Armed Forces to support the province's five seniors’ facilities grappling with the worst COVID-19 outbreaks.
In a scathing report released Tuesday, the CAF flagged several concerning observations of unhygienic and negligent behaviour.
In Pickering’s Orchard Villa, there were cockroaches, patients were “left in beds soiled in diapers,”and staff put “food and important belongings outside of residents’ reach.”
At Eatonville Care Centre in Etobicoke, COVID-19 patients were allowed to wander, exposing others to the virus.
The report also highlighted a general fear among staff to use equipment because they were worried about financial constraints. The CAF also witnessed aggressive behaviour among staff later deemed “abusive.”
Four of the five long-term care homes are privately owned, with the report highlighting chronic understaffing as well as caregiver burnout.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling the report "extremely troubling."
Of the 4,167 COVID-19-related deaths reported in the first week of May, more than 80 percent were in long-term care homes.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said COVID-19 has “exposed deep, deep cracks” in long-term care homes, adding that the system “has been neglected for years and been put to the brink.”
“It’s appalling, I think it’s disgusting,” Ford said. “Even just to clean these places...it’s so disturbing. (The report) was hard to get through.”
Ford is now calling on CAF to extend its mission for another 30 days.
In a press conference, the province’s minister of long term care, Merrilee Fullerton, announced an independent commission into the long-term care system.
At the same time on Twitter, the leader of Ontario’s NDP, Andrea Horwath, asked for Fullerton to resign.
When asked why it took military intervention to expose long-term care conditions even though families, nurses, and other care staff have reported malpractice in the past, Fullteron did not answer directly. But she said she’s been aware of how broken the long-term system has been and COVID-19 “tipped the homes struggling with staging already right over the edge.”
Large groups of “immigrant women and people of colour who have been seeing ‘troubling things’ for a whole lot longer” were calling out long-term care facilities way before the military stepped in, said Armine Yalnizyan, an Atkinson Fellow on the future of workers.
Ford said the province’s chief coroner is investigating one death that took place at the long-term care facilities, so that police can look into possible criminal charges.
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