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Daughter of Wettlaufer victim angered over lack of action in long-term care homes

James Silcox, 84, lived at Caressant Care in Woodstock, Ont. and died on Aug. 17, 2007.
James Silcox, 84, lived at Caressant Care in Woodstock, Ont. and died on Aug. 17, 2007. Daniel Silcox

For Andrea Silcox, it’s “sickening” hearing about the mistreatment of elderly people in long-term care homes (LTCH) during COVID-19 after what happened to her father.

“Every time I hear the premier talk, I am like, are you serious? You actually have the audacity to tell us you care,” Silcox.

On Tuesday, documents obtained by Global News showed that military personnel sent to nursing homes in Ontario raised concerns about the facility’s mistreatment of residents and lack of care.

Following the discovery, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his government had launched a full investigation into the report’s allegations.

READ MORE: Military teams raise concerns about conditions at Ontario care homes

“It took this to happen and not the murder of eight people. You did not care about that, but you do now?” Silcox said.

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Silcox’s father, James, was one of the eight victims of serial-killer Elizabeth Wettlaufer, a nurse who was convicted of killing eight residents in long-term care facilities.

James, a Second World War veteran and father of six, died at the age of 84 in August 2007 at the Caressant Care Home in Woodstock after Wettlaufer injected him with insulin.

Elizabeth Wettlaufer is escorted into the courthouse in Woodstock, Ont. on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017.
Elizabeth Wettlaufer is escorted into the courthouse in Woodstock, Ont. on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley

Following Wettlaufer’s confession in July 2019, a public inquiry into her killings delivered its final report, highlighting issues around lack of funding and staffing.

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The 1,500-page report called for more funding and for increasing the number of registered staff in long-term care homes, strengthening medication management and improving incident analysis strategies for possible insulin overdoses.

READ MORE: Systemic failures in long-term care allowed serial killer ex-nurse Wettlaufer to commit crimes

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“Thousands of dollars into that bloody inquiry instead of doing something about it, they have not done anything with the advice of the inquiry and recommendations,” Silcox.

“I will not shy away from the horrors we found everyone deserved to see what was happening because its the only way we will be able to bring these issues to light, that there can be accountability, that there can be justice,” Ford said on Wednesday when talking about the military’s report.

In addition to two privately owned facilities the province had already taken over, Ford said they would be taking over management on five new homes they are concerned about.

For Silcox, who works in an LTCH as a housekeeper, her job is a daily reminder about the loss of her father and the problems that still exist.

“That makes sick to even think of that because our elderly deserve the best,” she said.

Every morning, Silcox said there are only two people responsible for dressing and cleaning 25 people in the morning, which can be even more difficult if a resident is not cooperating.

“The people here are working really long hours now and trying really hard to make sure COVID-19 does not come into our facility, and it’s tough, it’s really tough, but I work with a great, dedicated bunch of people.”

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READ MORE: How Canada’s nursing homes can be fixed to avoid repeat of COVID-19 outbreak

Recalling the day before her father’s passing, Silcox said her sister found him in bed with a broken hip and that it was the family who had him taken to the hospital.

“The last time I saw my father was in the hospital, and he begged me not to leave him and to stay by his side.”

Less than two days later, Silcox said he had passed away, “the next time I saw my father he was laying in a casket.”

Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario’s senior homes suffering from staffing crisis, minister says
Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario’s senior homes suffering from staffing crisis, minister says

As of Thursday, over 62 per cent of all deaths in Ontario were residents in long-term care homes with 1,765 residents and 1,216 staff testing positive throughout the province.

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The Ministry of Long Term Care reports that as of Thursday, there are 135 outbreaks in Ontario LTCHs.

Wettlaufer is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty in 2017 to killing eight patients with insulin overdoses and attempting to kill four others.

Seven of the patients she killed were residents of Caressant Care in Woodstock, Ont.

Wettlaufer was fired from Caressant Care in 2014 after multiple medication errors and was then hired by the Meadow Park care home in London, Ont., where she killed a 75-year-old resident.

— With files from Andrew Graham, Mercedes Stephenson, Stewart Bell and Andrew Russell