Read what frontline nurses have sworn in affidavits about conditions in Ontario's deadliest for-profit long-term care homes
With stunning reports that four-in-five COVID-19 deaths in Canada have been linked to long-term care homes, a pair of recent legal actions is shining a brighter light on deadly conditions inside Ontario’s for-profit long-term care homes.
Last week, SEIU Healthcare and the Ontario Nurses Association secured orders against a number of private long-term care homes hard-hit by the pandemic where health workers say management did not adequately respond.
In its decision, the Ontario Labour Relations Board sided with SEIU Healthcare and ordered several long-term care providers to bring in stricter controls on workplace health and safety, including increasing availability of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and ensuring adequate staffing capacity.
“The OLRB order reinforced the union claims that not enough was being done by either the provincial government or long-term care corporations to keep workers and nursing home residents safe and secure during the COVID-19 crisis,” read a statement from SEIU Healthcare.
“It’s a stain on our province that it required filing these applications to have the provincial government and for-profit long-term care corporations do the right thing,” added SEIU Healthcare President Sharleen Stewart.
Meanwhile, ONA secured a court injunction on behalf of registered nurses at four for-profit long-term care homes in Etobicoke, North York, London and Hagersville, ordering them to comply with provincial infection control and health standards.
Although the judge’s decision notes nurses have “not been cross-examined on it,” the injunction order references disturbing allegations included in sworn affidavits from frontline nurses inside some of Ontario’s worst hit long-term care homes.
“One need only read the affidavits of the individual nurses in this application record to understand that they spend their working days, in particular during the current emergency situation, sacrificing their personal interests to those of the people under their care,” the judge’s decision reads.
Here are a few of the disturbing allegations cited in the court’s decision:
1. Long-term care home staff are allegedly hiding dead bodies
“On April 14, 2020, Eatonville Care had 25 publicly confirmed deaths and 49 confirmed cases of COVID-19. It is unclear how accurate that information was at the time. Joe Buote, a labour relations officer with the Ontario Nurses’ Association (“ONA”), has deposed that the Applicants believe that the number of deaths as of that date was actually in the range of 43 rather than 25. He also states that the Coroner’s Office will no longer enter the building to access dead bodies; his evidence is that staff members are required to bring dead bodies outside to officials from the Coroner’s Office and are instructed to avoid media and families when doing so. This has had some impact on publicizing accurate data from Eatonville.”
2. Healthy residents allegedly shared rooms with residents that tested positive for COVID-19
“According to Susan Clarke, another nurse employed on the long-term care floor of Anson Place, ward rooms are shared by four residents, and the beds, which are not the required 2 metres apart, are separated merely by a curtain. Ms. Oliviera notes that residents diagnosed with COVID-19 have not been moved from these shared rooms, and so remain in close proximity to, and are treated by the same nursing staff, as those who are not infected.’
3. Nurses operating in spaces with “high risk of contagion” were allegedly “denied” access to “adequate protective gear”
“On March 29, 2020, a resident of Henley Place tested positive for COVID-19. Ms. Mathers has deposed that upon being advised of the outbreak, the ONA requested that the Associate Director of Care for the facility provide N95 respirators to staff interacting with patients diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19. This request was denied, and the facility’s nurses were advised that they would be limited to the use of surgical masks even when providing care to known COVID-19 patients.
Jamie Young, a nurse employed at Henley Place, has stated in his affidavit that the Associate Director advised ‘that the Facility was ‘completely stocked’ with N95 respirators, gowns, gloves, and surgical masks’.”
“As a result, nurses work in intimate proximity to patients – including performing aerosol-generating procedures in which there is a high risk of contagion – without adequate protective gear. Ms. Peckham’s affidavit contains specific examples of patients who have undergone emergency COVID-19 procedures by nursing staff who could not access, or not access in a timely fashion, the N95 respirator masks required for the task.”
4. Nurses were allegedly asked not to wear masks so as not to frighten residents
“Mr. Belford deposes that since the end of February 2020, staff at Hawthorne Place have been requesting PPE, which has been largely denied. Indeed, the Executive Director has apparently made it clear that staff were not even to wear their own surgical masks that they brought from home, for fear of frightening the residents.”
5. Symptomatic residents awaiting COVID-19 test results were not separated from healthy residents
“Mr. Belford deposes that during this time, a number of Hawthorne Place residents have been readmitted from hospital, with test results outstanding, but have not been isolated while they await the results. At the same time, staff who have been exposed to these patients have been instructed to report for work as usual rather than to self-isolate. Mr. Bedford relates that, on an ongoing basis, residents who have become symptomatic have not been isolated from others while test results are pending, and that no effective cohorting has been done at Hawthorne Place in order to separate the sick from the well.”
Here is the full copy of the court’s injunction order:onaveatonvilleandhenleyjudgment20200423