Eighty-one deaths later, the rampaging outbreak at Tendercare Living Centre has been declared over. Finally

Eighty-one deaths later, the rampaging outbreak at Tendercare Living Centre has been declared over. Finally

Eighty-one deaths later, the rampaging outbreak at Tendercare Living Centre was declared over on Monday.

Protests by family members outside the facility didn’t do a damn thing to push the provincial government into summoning emergency assistance from the Canadian military, as many had pleaded.

Because, for reasons unfathomable, Premier Doug Ford is disinclined to accept the help that’s available, maybe because he wants to avoid another scathing report detailing the horrific conditions and lapses in care, as occurred in May.

While North York General Hospital took over management of Tendercare on Dec. 25, in a “voluntary” agreement with the home that was declared in outbreak Dec. 9, it’s been a long and brutal slog.

As of Feb. 1, 105 resident cases were resolved, 67 employees had returned to work and the staffing was described as “stable.”

But resolved doesn’t address the scores of pandemic casualties at for-profit Tendercare, despite the herculean efforts of incoming medical professionals at a home where a Ministry of Long-Term Care inspection report on Dec. 17, well into the outbreak, detailed multiple incidents of non-compliance with the Infection Prevention and Control program, including some pretty basic stuff such as changing gowns when going from one room to another.

I don’t want to point the finger at underpaid, over-worked staff, particularly frontline personal support workers who are also being felled by the coronavirus; it is management’s responsibility to ensure all staff understand pandemic protocols, have the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and are efficiently supervised.

And that’s certainly not a problem specific to Tendercare, as more than 200 long term care residences in active outbreak as of this moment.

Although Tendercare has emerged from its outbreak, and, fingers crossed, the worst is behind the facility — presumably there is more attentiveness to protocols (North York General committed to a 90-day “partnership”) — vulnerability to contagion remains in LTCs across the province, because we apparently learned precious little in the pandemic’s first wave and were disastrously unprepared for the second wave everyone knew was looming, quite possibly a third wave to come.

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A personal support worker at another long-term care home, three years in the field, tells the Star by email: “What I see, every single day, I go home and cry myself to sleep. I am so glad my mom is still able to be at home. And I do play the lotto … praying I win so I could buy a big house to house some of the elderly that get treat so sh—-y. The reason I go to work is for the residents. I try to push back, but I really need my job.’’

The Star is not identifying this individual or the facility where she works.

It is located outside Toronto. (It is not Tendercare Living Centre.)

The woman itemizes a slew of issues plaguing her own long-term care (LTC) home.

  • Staff claiming a resident has slept through meal delivery or refused to eat. Then the untouched tray is removed. “When they don’t eat right away, they take the meals away. Many are not able to speak for themselves.” Another way of blaming the uncooperative resident.
  • Because residents may be difficult to move into the shower, they get only a bed bath. “Nothing” is how this personal support worker (PSW) characterizes the hygienic usefulness of a sponge bath.
  • Residents going for ages without having their clothing changed and lying for hours in soiled diapers.
  • Not receiving the proper medications or drugs allegedly withheld.

She is annoyed by even the small discourtesies, such as not closing a room door, to shut out noise and maintain some semblance of privacy.

“I won’t even talk about being short-handed every weekend. And it’s always the same people calling in (to book off). Nothing is being done about them.”

At her home, there are three personal support workers for each unit on the day-shift and two on the night-shift. There are 36 residents per unit. Just one PSW on the midnight shift and two nurses for the entire building.

“I have told residents’ families that if we go into another lockdown, put monitors in the room.”

Management might not allow that, of course.

They don’t want prying eyes.

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Maybe by the sixth wave of this deadly pandemic, we’ll finally get a handle on long-term care homes.

It’s only old people with one foot in the grave anyway, right?

Ontario did not reach its goal of vaccinating all LTC residents by Feb. 5 and is now aiming for Feb. 10, but that will depend on actually receiving the drug, as shipments from both Pfizer and Moderna are delayed.

While infection case numbers are falling at long-term care homes, reflecting the general province-wide trend, the virus mutates, its more recent versions even more rapacious, an ever-looming threat.

Roberta Place in Barrie, devasted since outbreak was declared on January 8, is an explosive cautionary tale: 66 deaths, more than half of the facility’s 127 residents who became infected. Further, 104 staff infected, although management says only one active resident case remains and there are 26 active staff cases.

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Roberta Place management was handed over to Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital on Jan. 16, with the Canadian Red Cross also deployed. A ministry of long-term care inspection report on Jan. 18 admonished management for failure “to ensure that the home was a safe and secure environment for its residents, with respect to staff- and resident-cohorting” as required.

The litany of non-compliance included: rooms shared by confirmed positive and non-confirmed positive occupants; residents presenting with new symptoms not isolated; multiple residents observed “out of isolation, touching high-touch surfaces and coming in close contact with other residents.” One nurse claimed they tried to keep residents isolated, but “some residents refused to stay in their rooms.”

Sure, blame those troublesome old folks!

The local public health unit has confirmed the variant B.1.1.7, believed to be up to 70 per cent more contagious, played a role in rapid progress of infection at Roberta Place.

Know why they’re down to just one active resident case?

Because they died.

Some two dozen families have reportedly expressed interest in joining a class action $50-million law suit filed against Roberta Place last week on behalf of one specific resident, alleging gross negligence.

And gross negligence is the legal bar that must be cleared after the Ontario government in November passed the Supporting Ontario’s Recovery Act, which essentially shields long term care homes and other sectors in the healthcare field.

Made it a lot tougher for families to sue.

Premier Ford got on that sucker lickety-split.

Rosie DiManno is a Toronto-based columnist covering sports and current affairs for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno

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