Canadian soldiers helping fight novel coronavirus outbreaks in several long-term care homes say many front-line workers are doing the best they can.
The troops, Global News has learned, have raised concerns about poor conditions in homes they say management failed to address, in some cases even after the military brought it to their attention in meetings.
Some military personnel feel frontline workers are being unfairly blamed for management’s shortcomings.
Some of these concerns are in documents released earlier this week but have been glossed over, sources say.
Sources in two provinces say several troops have told the chain of command they believe many front-line workers in long-term care homes have risked their lives and spent months away from their families in order to combat COVID-19 in their workplace.
Troops were shocked to see their observations were publicly released — a move that raised worries about the relations they have established with staff working inside these homes.
Troops deployed to five of the worst-hit long-term care homes in Ontario have documented mistreatment of residents, a level of care described as “horrible,” and “blatant disregard” for infection control measures, according to documents Global News reported on earlier this week.
The soldiers reported witnessing shocking conditions including cockroaches, flies and rotten food, as well as residents left in soiled diapers or crying out for help for lengthy periods, the documents alleged.
They said one facility even had residents who had not been bathed for weeks.
Global News was unable to independently verify these allegations.
The military’s observations were released shortly thereafter in the form of a report, prompting Ontario Premier Doug Ford to launch a full investigation into the allegations.
The province also referred one death mentioned in the report to the coroner’s office for further investigation.
“It is the most heart-wrenching report that I have ever read in my entire life,” he said on Tuesday.
The Canadian military also released a report on 25 long-term care homes in Quebec, outlining major challenges they face including not enough staff, and management of personal protective equipment.
The reports prompted calls for a set of national standards for long-term care homes, which are currently under provincial jurisdiction.
The Canadian Medical Association called on the federal government to coordinate with provinces, increase funding, and national standards.
Five Liberal MPs are also calling for enforceable federal long-term care standards.
“The significant number of deaths in long-term care homes related to COVID-19 is not unique to our constituencies,” the MPs wrote earlier this week.
“It is a tragedy taking place across Canada as approximately 80 per cent of all COVID-19-related deaths across our country have occurred in long-term care homes.”
— With files by Global News staff