Ontario Premier Doug Ford vowed to fix the province’s “broken” long-term care system and said an investigation has begun into the military’s findings. “The reports they provided us were heartbreaking. They were horrific,” a visibly emotional Ford told reporters on Tuesday. “It’s shocking that this can happen here in Canada. It’s gut-wrenching. And reading those reports was the hardest thing I’ve done as premier.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was made aware of the report’s existence on Friday and read it on Monday. “It is deeply disturbing. There are things in there that are extremely troubling,” he said during his daily briefing. “We need to do a better job of taking care of our elders in long-term care facilities.”
Trudeau said the federal government is “there to help” provinces as they address deficiencies in long-term care, which is a provincial responsibility. To date during the pandemic, Ottawa has deployed nearly 300 military personnel to Ontario care homes, and more than 1,500 to homes in Quebec. Public health officials have said roughly 80 percent of Canada’s Covid-19-related deaths are linked to long-term care homes. On Tuesday, Trudeau said Quebec and Ontario have each asked for the military assistance in care homes to be extended.
The military report includes observations of understaffing, poor sanitation, neglect of residents and employee burnout at five care homes in the Toronto area: Eatonville Care Centre, Hawthorne Place Care Centre, Orchard Villa, Altamont Care Community and Holland Christian — Grace Manor. Cockroach infestations were observed in two of the centers. There are multiple reports of residents with untreated bed sores due to prolonged bed rest.
In one facility, patients were observed crying for help with staff not responding for more than two hours. The report also notes serious hygiene problems, including patients being left in soiled diapers or on bare mattresses due to a lack of clean linen. At the Altamont Care Community, many residents had been bed-bound for several weeks when military personnel arrived, and there was “no evidence of residents being moved to wheelchair for parts of day, repositioned in bed, or washed properly.” Personnel at that facility also reported that residents were underfed — due to staff shortages, most residents were not getting three meals a day.
The report also documents abusive behavior toward residents, including “degrading or inappropriate comments directed at residents.” There are reports of “forceful feeding” and hydration of residents causing “audible choking.” In one instance at the Orchard Villa, residents were sometimes being fed while lying down, which seems to have contributed to one patient’s death by choking. Ford said the investigation of the care homes will include a coroner’s investigation and that results will be provided to police.