Grieving granddaughter exposes history of McKenzie Towne continuing care home

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Grieving granddaughter exposes history of McKenzie Towne continuing care home
WATCH: The McKenzie Towne Continuing Care home has seen an outbreak of COVID-19 leading to 21 deaths at the home. Now one family member is coming forward exposing part of the home’s troubling past. Jill Croteau reports – Apr 14, 2020

Breanne Sinclair said the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre has a troubled past. With the recent COVID-19 outbreak at the facility, Sinclair spoke to Global News about concerns regarding what she feels are chronic issues at the long-term care centre.

Wyonne Somers at McKenzie Towne continuing care home. Courtesy: Breanne Sinclair

Sinclair’s grandmother died in 2013. Wyonne Somers, a resident of the home, died from sepsis. She was 75 years old. Breanne said her nana had Alzheimer’s and diabetes. She said she was neglected by staff, sores were not properly cared for and the infection led to blood poisoning. She said she was in excruciating pain right to the very end.

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Wyonne Somers and granddaughter Breanne.
Wyonne Somers and granddaughter Breanne. Courtesy: Breanne Sinclair

“It’s horrific. There’s no getting those images out of our mind as a family to see my grandmother in that state,” said Sinclair.

“She was always the life of our family and she really was such a light to all of us — and to have her go in that way and remember her in that way, knowing those were her last minutes of her life,” said Sinclair.

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Sinclair is empathetic towards the 21 families enduring the heartbreaking losses that are happening with the seniors in the McKenzie Towne facility.

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“Everything is resurfacing and it opens an old wound that wasn’t entirely closed,” Sinclair said. “It brings everything back up to the surface.”

Wyonne died the same month as Violet MacDonald, whose family said at the time that the 73-year-old resident of McKenzie Towne died after infected wounds led to severe blood poisoning.

Violet MacDonald.
Violet MacDonald. Global News File

The management company, Revera, brought in an international expert to review their practices. 

But their deaths also triggered an investigation by Alberta Health Services in early 2014. The audit found gaps in resident documentation and inadequate wound care practices in some cases. At the time, Revera officials said they implemented several changes, including implementing a new tracking program and protocols for wound care. At the province’s request, it also brought in an AHS staff member to be temporarily based at the facility to provide oversight. AHS confirmed all concerns were addressed.

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Results of the review were released in January 2014.

“It seemed like a step in the right direction, like perhaps the way my grandmother died wouldn’t be all in vain, and other seniors wouldn’t have to go through what my family went through,” Sinclair said. “That was what we hoped for.”

But with the deaths of 21 seniors from COVID-19 in the long-term care home, Sinclair said that hope has run out.

“This continues to happen and it’s important to continue fighting, I just think it’s important,” Sinclair said. “I think it’s what my nana would have wanted.”

Revera spokesperson Larry Roberts released a statement to Global News on Tuesday.

“Revera has always worked closely with Alberta Health Services to implement their directives and recommendations and we appreciate their ongoing support,” the statement read. “Currently, we are focusing our energy and resources on containing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting and caring for our residents and supporting our staff at McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre.”

Following inquiries from Global Newsy, Alberta Health released the findings from recent inspections. Spokesperson Tom McMillan said McKenzie Towne, like all facilities providing long-term care and/or licensed supportive living accommodations, is inspected regularly to the Accommodation Standards. The department provided detailed findings:

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  • Alberta Health conducted a Continuing Care Health Service Standards audit at the site on July 24, 2014 and was closed with 100 per cent compliance to standards achieved by December 10, 2014. This included compliance related to care planning, medication management, nutrition and hydration, oral care, continence management, and bathing.
  • Alberta Health Services also conducted a Continuing Care Health Service Standards audit at the site on January 15, 2019. It was closed with 100 per cent compliance to standards achieved by May 9, 2019.
  • The site performed above average, meeting 91.6 per cent of all criteria at the time of the audit. Areas of focus on compliance were related to care planning, staff education, risk assessment, oral care, bathing, restraints, and secure spaces.
  • Since 2013, AHS has conducted audits at the site twice. The January 2019 audit that was conducted is the best reflection of the site’s performance before the COVID outbreak. AHS has no indication there were any concerns at the site at that time.
  • The site had one complaint in November 2019 regarding delay in response to call bells and meal time service. This was addressed with the site and measures were taken to remediate this.

McMillan said the department closely monitors its pandemic planning and outbreak management. 

“Since the COVID outbreak, AHS has assessed the care that is being provided at McKenzie Towne. AHS noticed care plans needed updating and there were staff shortages due to self-isolating. AHS has since followed up and seen improved staffing levels and all care plans are up to date,” said McMillan.

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He added Alberta’s Protection for Persons in Care Act (PPC) is a law that requires the reporting and promotes the prevention of abuse of adult Albertans. 

“There are currently three reports of abuse at this facility that have been investigated and are awaiting a decision from the director of PPC,” McMillan said.

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