(The Canadian Press)

36 soldiers test positive for COVID-19 after working in Ontario, Quebec care homes

Nearly 1,700 military members are working in long-term care homes overwhelmed by COVID-19

A new report from the military helping battle COVID-19 in five long-term care facilities in Ontario has revealed extreme neglect and exposed the extent of the ugly conditions facing residents, prompting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to offer help for what he called an infuriating situation.

The report found people left in filth for weeks, others left on the floor where they had fallen, cockroach infestations, people choking while being improperly fed, patients with brutal pressure sores, and seniors pleading for help for hours to no avail.

“There are things in there that are extremely troubling,” Trudeau said of the report, as he offered federal help.

Premier Doug Ford raised the prospect of criminal charges as he grasped for words to describe what he had read.

“It’s appalling. It’s disgusting,” an emotional Ford said. “The dignity of these patients in long-term care, not being cleaned? These are standard operating procedures.”

At the request of Quebec and Ontario, the Canadian Armed Forces have been helping out at nursing homes, which overall have accounted for most of Canada’s 6,638 deaths from coronavirus disease. More than 80 per cent of fatalities in Quebec have been in such facilities.

Ford, who said he was concerned at least some other homes in the province and elsewhere in Canada were in similar crisis, made the military document public.

“You need to know exactly what I know,” Ford said.

The five Ontario facilities cited in the report are Orchard Villa in Pickering (69 deaths), Grace Manor in Brampton (11 deaths), and three Toronto homes: Altamont Care Community, with 52 deaths, Eatonville Care Centre, with 42, and Hawthorne Place, with 39. At least one faces a proposed class-action lawsuit.

Ford, who has asked the Canadian Forces to extend its homes mission for another 30 days, thanked the military for exposing the issues. He called it the worst report he had ever read, and promised action to fix what he called a broken system.

“It was gut-wrenching. I was up all night thinking of this,” Ford said. “There’ll be accountability, there’ll be justice.”

The premier said one death had been referred to the chief coroner, who would share findings with police for a possible criminal investigation. Inspectors would also be looking into “critical incidents.”

Quebec’s ombudswoman said she would investigate why so many seniors had died from COVID-19 in facilities for older seniors.

The COVID deployment has also exposed military members to the virus.

As of Tuesday, the Armed Forces reported that 39 members working in long-term care homes in Ontario and Quebec had become sick — a 30 per cent jump in less than a week. Of those, 24 infected were in Quebec and 15 in Ontario.

Some good news did emerge from Ontario, which reported its lowest number of new cases — 287 — in more than two weeks. That’s down sharply from the more than 400 a day reported over the previous five days. However, 21 more people died from the disease.

The ongoing battle to keep the novel coronavirus in check comes as a blanket of hot, humid air settled over much of south Central Canada, while anti-pandemic measures have closed many places where people might usually seek relief.

Heat waves can be dangerous for those with health conditions. In Quebec, for example, only about one-third of long-term care rooms have access to air conditioning. Elsewhere, with malls, swimming pools and most cooling centres closed, authorities have been trying to come up with ways to mitigate the concern.

The City of Toronto, for example, has opened six designated sites from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at otherwise idled community centres, a stark contrast to the hundreds of sites that would normally be available to cool off. The centres have a total combined capacity of about 580 people — or one person for every four square metres.

Environment Canada did say conditions would moderate in the next few days.

The comments from Trudeau and Ford came after a new poll found a substantial mistrust of governments when it comes to the pandemic. Half of Canadians said governments were hiding information about COVID-19, while some said they believed conspiracy theories about the origins of the virus, according to the survey from Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies.

-With files from Canadian Press reporters across the country.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jordan Naterer, 25, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. He planned a hike in the Manning Park area, and has not been seen since. Photo Facebook.
Parents not giving up, after official search for Manning Park hiker suspended again

‘We are determined, but eventually the money is going to run out.’

Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness watches the results on election night. The ex-Liberal’s tumultuous campaign and the narrow margin for victory ahead of the mail-in ballot count leaves the future of the riding’s seat in limbo for at least the next week. (Facebook/Laurie Throness)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Future for incumbent Throness uncertain as riding awaits results

Chilliwack-Kent candidate hopeful, resigned waiting on final count

File Photo
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Agassiz Seniors Community

First declared outbreak in Agassiz-Harrison since pandemic began

The family and friends of Abbotsford resident Kaitlyn Cassels have launched a GoFundMe for her after she suffered serious injuries following a bad fall on Thursday night. (Submitted)
GoFundMe created for Abbotsford woman after horrible fall

19-year-old Kaitlyn Cassels suffers many injuries after falling 27 feet off Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge

A pair of crashes on Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Chilliwack have snarled traffic in both directions.
Pair of crashes snarl traffic between Abbotsford and Chilliwack

Traffic delays eastbound, large westbound backup

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Graphic on promo material for Best Buy Canada’s Tech Wonderland event.
Drive-through ‘Tech Wonderland’ coming to PNE site a few weeks before Christmas

Best Buy Canada-backed ‘holiday’ event to raise money for charity

Aaliyah Rosa. File photo
Crown says murder of seven-year-old in Langley was planned, deliberate

The trial of KerryAnn Lewis began Monday in New Westminster

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (B.C. government photo)
Unnamed school in Fraser Health region closed due to COVID-19

Closure announced by Dr. Bonnie Henry during daily briefing

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

Most Read