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Coronavirus: Ontario long-term care operator executive allegedly recorded demeaning families after town hall

Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario long-term care operator executive allegedly recorded making inappropriate comments
WATCH ABOVE: The executive vice-president of operations for Sienna Senior Living has been terminated after allegedly making inappropriate comments after a town hall meeting with family members of relatives living at a long-term care home. Erica Vella has details.

A long-term care operator in Ontario says a vice president has left the company after a family member claims the representative was recorded referring to families as “blood-sucking, class-action lawsuit people.”

Anthony Manieri issued a statement through SEIU Healthcare on Thursday, the union that represents more than 60,000 health-care workers across Ontario. He said the comments came after a telephone town hall Wednesday evening with families of residents at Sienna Senior Living’s Woodbridge Vista Community Care in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the statement, he said his 55-year-old sister Lucia lives at the facility and has multiple sclerosis and contracted COVID-19.

Manieri said representatives from Sienna “danced” around questions by families about operations at the facilities. He said Joanne Dykeman, a vice president of operations who has spoken on behalf of the facility in previous reports, “didn’t fully end” the conference call.

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READ MORE: Ontario takes over management of long-term care home in Vaughan

“(She) referred to us as those ‘blood-sucking, class-action lawsuit people’ followed by personally ridiculing family members who asked questions,” he alleged.

The union said in the statement the comments were recorded. Global News has not been able to independently verify the recording.

The revelation came on the same day that the Ontario government announced the William Osler Health System was appointed by the Ministry of Long-term Care as the interim manager of the facility.

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“Despite receiving hospital support, Woodbridge Vista Care Community has been unable to contain the spread of COVID-19,” a government statement on Thursday said.

READ MORE: Vaughan long-term care home sends 18 to hospital during coronavirus outbreak

“These steps will enable a rigorous management structure to help contain the spread of the disease and assist in returning their home to normal operations.”

As of Thursday, the ministry reported 65 residents tested positive for coronavirus and 17 died of COVID-19. There were also 20 staff members who tested positive.

Meanwhile, union representatives also said company officials “delivered prepared talking points in a transparent attempt to rebuild its corporate image,” alleging the company was “failing to keep workers and families safe during COVID-19.”

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“Yesterday Sienna issued a meaningless press release that includes no financial resources to improve dangerously low staffing levels for better resident care,” SEIU Healthcare President Sharleen Stewart said in the statement.

READ MORE: 6 dead at Woodbridge seniors’ home

“Yet Sienna continued to pay out over $15 million in dividends to shareholders during the first four months of the pandemic.”

Lois Cormack, president and CEO of Sienna Senior Living, along with the company’s board of directors chair Dino Chiesa, issued a statement on Thursday in response to the claims. They said Dykeman “is no longer” with the company.

“While she is deeply regretful of the comments she made yesterday evening, she also understands that they do not meet either her expectations nor those of our organization,” they wrote, adding “zero-tolerance policy [is] well understood.”

“Our residents and their loved ones are deserving of our respect at all times and as a company we will ensure this respect guides our every action.”

READ MORE: 3rd death, 31 total cases of COVID-19 reported at Bradford Valley care home

“We have already been in contact with the families of Woodbridge Vista and are deeply apologetic for any pain these comments caused.”

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They went on to say Dykeman’s remarks “are not consistent with the real and substantive changes that we announced yesterday,” referencing a multi-point plan “to protect our residents.”

“A key component of our renewed efforts is an emphasis on improving communications with our team members and the families of our residents. This includes reiterating the importance of treating all parties with dignity and respect,” the Sienna statement said.

“Under our action plan, our staff will be undergoing sensitivity training that emphasizes our zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate behaviour.”

Global News contacted Dykeman, but a response wasn’t received by the time of publication.