Army Report Reveals Horrifying Scenes of Patient Neglect at Five Ontario Long-Term Care Homes
Staff escort a member of the Canadian Armed Forces into Orchard Villa Care home, in Pickering, Ont., in April. Photo: The Canadian Press/Chris Young
An emotional Doug Ford today called a Canadian Armed Forces report on the atrocious conditions transpiring in a number of Ontario’s long-term care homes “heartbreaking and horrific.”
Speaking at a press conference in Toronto, the premier was referring to a report released today that was based on the observations that military personnel made after arriving in mid-April to help out in five long-term care homes that had been overwhelmed by the pandemic and reached a “crisis situation.”
The members of the Armed Forces who arrived on the scene were so disturbed by what they saw that they felt compelled to compile a report on the horrible conditions present.
A partial list of the troubling findings in the military report include:
- Severely understaffed homes with poorly trained workers.
- Few or no disinfecting procedures at facilities.
- Cockroach and insect infestations.
- Rotting food smell permeating the hallways.
- Personal Protective Equipment kept locked away.
- Staff discouraged from using PPE.
- Poor use of PPE by all staff, including doctors and nurses.
- COVID-19-infected patients allowed to wander throughout the home.
- Residents unbathed for weeks.
- Residents left sleeping on bare mattresses.
- Residents left in soiled beds leading to skin breakdown.
- Residents who had fallen out of bed left on the floor.
- Residents crying for help but receiving no aid.
- Residents left without meals.
- Force-feeding of patients that led to choking.
- Re-use of syringes and catheters.
- Crucial medication errors, including the use of outdated medication.
- Serious medical incidents (such as a broken hip) not documented or reported.
- Liquid oxygen tanks not being refilled.
- Limited wound care or wound care supplies.
“I think it’s appalling and disgusting what happened,” said Ford about the army report. “It’s gut-wrenching. Reading those reports was the hardest thing I’ve done as premier.”
“But what I’m feeling is little in comparison to what the residents and their families have had to endure,” he continued. “There’s nothing worse than feeling helpless when protecting a loved one. Please pray for these residents and pray for their families.”
“This report, both egregious and indefensible, affirms a lot of what we already knew,” says Marissa Lennox, Chief Policy Officer at CARP. “There’s no question that building deficiencies, chronic staffing shortages and pest control issues are all things that we’ve heard before. What was unexpected was the overwhelming disregard for basic principles of health care and the culture of fear of being reprimanded for using the necessary supplies to provide proper care to residents. Urgent intervention is required.”
Acknowledging that the report had to be made public because the public needs to know the truth, the premier said, “COVID-19 has exposed the deep, deep cracks in the long-term care system. When I read the report, I sat back and said: “How can this happen in Ontario?'”
“There will be justice and accountability,” promised Ford, who said one of the deaths that occurred in these homes has already been referred to the coroner for investigation. He also noted that the province would be referring specific cases to the police for possible criminal charges. And he promised to make the results of these investigations public.
The premier also noted he will be calling on the prime minister and federal government “to help fix this problem,” which he said is probably not limited to the five homes named in the report. “We have to do a deep, deep dive into all the homes. I don’t care what it takes.”
“We must change the system. This strategy must serve as a wake-up call for our entire country. It’s up to us to fix the system. It’s up to us to face the hard truths that have been ignored for decades,” said Ford, adding that it will take “time, massive resources and billions of dollars.”
Earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the Armed Forces report “extremely troubling.” he said, “On reading the deeply disturbing report, I had obviously a range of emotions – of anger, of sadness, of frustration, of grief.”
“The system we inherited was totally broken,” Ford said. “But we’re going to fix it,” he said, adding that “I’ll spare no expense until we fix the system. I’m going to be laser-focused on this.”
There have been more than 200 COVID-19 outbreaks in Ontario long-term care homes. As of Tuesday, the province was reporting 2,133 total deaths related to the disease, 1,538 of which had occurred to residents in the long-term care system. Ford said he has called on the Armed Forces to extend its mission for another 30 days. —Peter Muggeridge