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Family takes on Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Care at Human Rights Tribunal

Click to play video 'Concerns about conditions in Canada’s long-term care homes' Concerns about conditions in Canada’s long-term care homes
WATCH: Concerns about conditions in Canada's long-term care homes.

An Ontario man frustrated by what he calls inaction from the provincial government, as well as the management at the Ontario nursing home where his mother-in-law once lived, has taken his case to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO).

John Vice alleges the Ministry of Long-Term Care discriminated against his mother-in-law based on age and disability, in part by not enforcing the law in relation to her care at a Paris, Ont., home.

“I’m very optimistic that the Human Rights Tribunal is going to realize the injustices that the elderly and the disabled are suffering and seek to do what is right,” Vice told Global News.

When his mother-in-law lived at Park Lane Terrace, Vice says he had issues with her care on a near-monthly basis, once allegedly finding her soaked in her own urine.

READ MORE: ‘It just gets worse’ — Resident, families, former staff voice care concerns at Ontario nursing home

His mother-in-law has since moved to a different home.

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“She is doing much better. When she had moved to Park Lane Terrace, she had gotten skin tears and bruises that there was no explanation for,” Vice said. “When she was transferred to this better nursing home, the skin tears and bruises mysteriously disappeared.”

Over the course of reporting this story, Global News spoke with a dozen Park Lane Terrace family members and former staff, who pointed to management issues and understaffing as the root of the facility’s problems.

Their care concerns are backed up in a series of scathing ministry inspection reports. New reports released in the past couple of months outline repeated problems, such as medication errors and missed meals due to understaffing. One resident wasn’t provided a “safe and secure environment,” the reports stated, while another wasn’t protected from neglect.

Click to play video 'Evidence of cover-up in long-term care homes mistreating seniors unveiled by journalist' Evidence of cover-up in long-term care homes mistreating seniors unveiled by journalist
Evidence of cover-up in long-term care homes mistreating seniors unveiled by journalist

There are also a host of new problems with the home itself outlined in the new reports, including fire, mould, sewage system failures and a leaking roof that for months was only patched with a tarp.

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In addition to the issues detailed in ministry reports, Park Lane Terrace family members and the facility’s management confirm they are currently dealing with a bed bug infestation at the home. Management officials tell Global News they are working with a pest control company.

Some Park Lane Terrace family members question the ministry’s response to these issues.

“It just doesn’t seem to bring any results,” said Mary Huurman, whose brother Peter Albers lives at Park Lane.

“Society is an uproar when the teachers have a one-day strike. Where’s the public uproar about what’s happening in long-term care? I’m really dismayed about that.”

Albers says that while his own care has improved, things at Park Lane Terrace, in general, have not.

When Global News first met Albers in April, he said he had gone for 30 days without a bath. He said that was one factor that led him to consider medically assisted death, but Albers says he doesn’t feel that way anymore.

“The problems are the same: the staffing and the management,” Albers tells Global News.

Click to play video '‘Take action now’: John Vice to Ontario Minister of Long-Term Care on mistreatment of seniors' ‘Take action now’: John Vice to Ontario Minister of Long-Term Care on mistreatment of seniors
‘Take action now’: John Vice to Ontario Minister of Long-Term Care on mistreatment of seniors

The management behind Park Lane Terrace, APANS Health Services, has consistently declined interviews with Global News and would not comment on specific allegations related to individual care.

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In an emailed statement, APANS Health Services CEO Mary Raithby said she didn’t know about the tribunal case but that, in general, staff are “working diligently” on the problems identified through ministry reports.

“We have increased our hours and number of staff in the home. We continue to struggle to recruit staff members based on the national shortage of RNs [registered nurses] and the identified provincial crisis of PSW [personal support worker] shortages,” Raithby wrote.

In April, Raithby also told Global News that Park Lane was hiring more staff, but family members say nothing has changed.

“[Park Lane] certainly has some of the most severe issues that I’ve seen in a long time,” said Jane Meadus of the Advocacy Centre for Elderly.
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Based on the severity and scope of issues identified in ministry reports, Meadus says she’s “very surprised” the ministry hasn’t stopped new admissions to the home.

“That would be one of the mechanisms that they could use,” Meadus said, adding that she’s particularly concerned about the issues around the facility’s leaking roof and sewage backup.

“The home hadn’t even planned to replace the roof that was leaking until the spring. They were just going to put tarps up, and the ministry didn’t even make orders in either of the cases of the sewage backup or the roof. And I found that really quite disturbing.”

The ministry says it cannot comment on the case as it’s before the tribunal.

“The Ministry of Long-Term Care is committed to protecting residents and enhancing the quality of life in long-term care homes, and the safety of residents living in long-term care homes is our top priority,” spokesperson Mark Nesbitt said in an emailed statement.

READ MORE: Advocates cry foul after Ontario officials alter nursing home inspection report without explanation

Meadus says she’s never heard of a case like this going to the HRTO before, and the results could be precedent-setting.

The HRTO has accepted Vice’s application, and the Ministry of Long-Term Care has until Feb. 4 to provide a response and documentation.

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“Until we receive the response, we cannot determine the next steps in the process or the timeframe,” said tribunal spokesperson Karen Kotzen in an email.