The emails provide new details on how the Tendercare Living Center – a long-term care home in Scarborough – failed to adopt a contingency plan to use the building’s fourth floor to isolate infected residents.
The COVID-19 epidemic began on December 4, 2020 in Tendercare and is believed to become the deadliest in the province.
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According to the emails, officials at the Scarborough Health Network (SHN) and TPH were told by Tendercare on December 11 that the home’s initial plan to separate infected residents by moving them to a vacant wing on the fourth floor would not be ready for a »various reasons, such as no ringing and no curtains.
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“TPH and SHN’s suggestions for resolving these issues were baby monitors for non-calling ringtones and room dividers for lack of curtains,” a City of Toronto media relations advisor said in a statement. draft response to Global News questions dated April 20. , 2021.
“These suggestions were not accepted by the establishment. “
Draft responses were never sent to Global News and were obtained under freedom of information legislation.
Extendicare said it did not have the “staff resources” to open the fourth floor.
“It was not a singular isolated epidemic. Rather, it was one of many epidemics at the height of the province’s second wave, when the health care system was completely overwhelmed. “
Dr Nathan Stall, a geriatrician at Sinai Health in Toronto, said some hospitals are using baby monitors as a way for staff to communicate with patients and reduce staff exposure.
“These are two fairly feasible and practical workarounds to the shortcomings of this fourth floor that [Tendcare is] claiming prevented it from being used, ”Stall said.
“It seems like a potential missed opportunity to me to be able to isolate infected residents or regroup uninfected residents on the fourth floor to try to protect them. “
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Extendicare, who runs the home, did not respond to questions regarding Toronto Public Health’s claim that it refused advice from health officials regarding baby monitors and dividers to help open the wing of the house. ‘isolation.
The company, one of the largest long-term care providers in Canada, said Scarborough Health Network and TPH did not have the “resources” or “extra staff” to help support the home as it l he epidemic spread rapidly in December.
“The staff at the home has been seriously reduced due to the disease. As such, we didn’t have the resources to speak out, ”Extendicare said in a statement.
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The Scarborough Health Network did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
“We had to proactively approach not one, but two hospitals for assistance on the ground, ultimately receiving assistance from [North York General Hospital] to stabilize the house, ”Extendicare spokeswoman Laura Gallant said in a statement. “NYGH provided additional staff and helped manage outbreak operations, with initial support starting around mid-December. “
On Christmas Day, three weeks after the outbreak began and with 164 cases of COVID-19, North York General Hospital took full control of the house after a request was approved by the province.
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A Global News investigation in May revealed allegations that the chaos and lack of preparedness inside the home contributed to the deadly COVID-19 outbreak, even though management had told agencies in writing. public health, several months earlier, that it was ready for the second wave.
Documents and interviews with families, doctors and people who work inside Tendercare showed that although the outbreak presented a plan to Public Health Ontario almost nine months before the December outbreak, the chambers isolation devices from the home have never been used.
“I don’t know why it wasn’t prepared,” a personal support worker told Global News.
“They were just talking, but there was nothing to do. “
A doctor who volunteered to enter the house said it was “shocking” to see the condition of the house – months after the start of a pandemic – and said it did not appear have a “comprehensive management plan from a medical point of view”.
Extendicare said he “categorically” disagreed with the doctor’s assessment.
The newly obtained emails also reveal growing friction between public health officials and Tendercare and a lack of clarity on who was leading the response to the growing outbreak, which appeared to lead to delays in implementation. infection prevention measures.
“Despite repeated recommendations to the facility to use the 4th floor for the cohort, the effective cohort did not begin until December 17, 2020, when the new Tendercare leadership was put in place,” reads Toronto Public Health email.
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And while Extendicare has repeatedly claimed that the consolidation efforts were “guided” by TPH, emails from TPH suggest the house was reluctant to accept infection prevention advice.
“We continued to recommend grouping on the 4th floor, however, the property would not meet this recommendation,” said a spokesperson for TPH. “As a result, TPH came up with an alternative cohort culture strategy that included the use of the 2nd and 3rd floors where the residents already lived. “
Toronto Public Health finally issued a rare public health order on December 18, instructing the household how to handle the outbreak, which included separating residents positive and negative for COVID-19 and training staff on prevention and control. infection control.
The health agency also rebuffed the long-term care home’s claim that the health unit had failed to provide “staff” to help fight the outbreak.
“The mandate of local public health units does not provide human resources or personnel to long-term care homes such as Tendercare,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “TPH does not employ specialized personnel such as Personal Support Workers (PSW) who would be qualified to work in long-term care homes. “
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The Tendercare tragedy has become a grim example of the situation in Ontario’s long-term care sector, where more residents died in Wave 2 than in Wave 1 – a scathing indictment on how the Ford government has failed to respond to calls for help related to staffing, infection control and overcrowding of residents.
Ontario’s new Long-Term Care Minister Rod Phillips, who replaced struggling MPP Merrilee Fullerton, apologized last month for a provincial response to the pandemic that has seen nearly 4,000 residents and 11 staff members die from COVID-19.
Philips said a new Ontario long-term care law, to be introduced this fall, will create a framework with implications for operators who fail to meet their obligations.
“Successive governments, including this one, have failed residents, they have failed families, and they have failed our staff. On behalf of previous governments and the current government, I apologize. “
The province’s damning COVID-19 Long-Term Care Commission report, released in late April, found Ontario was not prepared to respond to a pandemic and had no plan to protect residents in care long lasting after years of neglect by the past and present Governments.
Philips said it will hold long-term care homes “accountable” and ensure more proactive home inspections can be included in the legislation.
When asked if the legislation would include fines for operators who repeatedly break the law, which was recommended in a recent Auditor General’s report, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Long-Term Care spoke up. declared without commitment, affirming that the options of application were still being studied, in particular “financial sanctions”.
* With files from Emanuela Campanella and Jigar Patel