The son of a long-term care home resident in Pickering, Ont., is speaking out, claiming had he not moved his mother out of Orchard Villa, she may not have survived her COVID-19 ordeal.
Now, after moving her to the Ajax/Pickering Hospital, Simon Nisbet is able to speak to her on the phone. Hearing his mother’s voice and sense of humour once again, he says, is music to his ears.
“Hello,” his mother said while speaking to Simon on the phone. It was the first time he says his mother, 90-year-old Doreen, was cognitive since contracting the virus at the home.
“It’s fantastic,” said Simon after speaking with her for a few moments. “I haven’t heard her laugh in months. She’s talking about feeling better. She’s eating better.”
His mother was at Orchard Villa a few weeks ago while sick with the novel coronavirus, but according to Simon, her health was slowly deteriorating.
READ MORE: Coronavirus: Families allege neglect at Pickering, Ont. care home where 70 died, call for police investigation
“My wife accompanied me one day and was shocked when she saw her. That’s when I made the decision that she needed to get out of there.”
“I was able to call and say my mom is being transferred under the guidance of Lakeridge Health,” he said.
Once at the hospital, Nisbet says doctors told them she was suffering from major health complications.
“It was a relief at first, but that quickly changed when she got there and I became aware of how badly dehydrated she had become,” he said.
Nisbet says his mother’s kidneys have permanent damage, due to what he believes was improper care at the home.
“What she is battling in the hospital is a direct result of negligence that happened in the building,” says Nisbet.
“It was not the (COVID-19), it was the response to it.”
READ MORE: Coronavirus: Ontario Long Term Care Association calls on province to commit to public inquiry
In a statement to Global News, Jason Gay, executive director of Southbridge Care Homes, says, “COVID-19 has created an unprecedented challenge in our home and we understand this is an intensely difficult time for families.”
Gay didn’t address the allegations directly, but said they are working hard to take care of their patients.
“While we do not speak to circumstances around specific residents, our duty of care to our residents is the most important responsibility we have as care providers,” says Gay.
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At least 70 people have died from the novel coronavirus at the Orchard Villa Long-term care home, which at one point saw more than 200 cases of COVID-19.
Seniors advocate Trish Spindel co-founded the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly. She says the way nursing homes function now has to change.
“We’re institutionalizing way too many people in these big facilities,” says Spindel.
“That makes it very difficult to control the spread of infection and to get staffing up to where it should be.”
READ MORE: Ontario to hold independent commission into long-term care home system
Management with Orchard Villa has maintained patient care has been their priority from the start. Lakeridge Health and the Canadian Armed Forces stepped in to help with the outbreak, and a commission has been requested by the province.
Ontario’s long-term care minister, Merrilee Fullerton, says in a statement that the commission will start in September, and in the meantime the government will be finalizing terms of reference, leadership and timelines.
She says “an independent non-partisan commission is the best way to conduct a thorough and expedited review.”
Since the pandemic began, more than 1,400 people have died in long-term care homes, including five staff members.
Nisbet, whose mother is doing much better since being transferred to the hospital, has recently tested negative for the virus.
Although it’s great news for him, he says his greatest worry is what could happen next.
“Once they have determined this outbreak is over, she will need to return there,” he said.
“That frightens me. It’s terrifying.”
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