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Whitby nursing home sees huge spike in COVID-19 cases

A Whitby nursing home is facing a large spike in cases of COVID-19.
A Whitby nursing home is facing a large spike in cases of COVID-19.

At least three people have died following an outbreak of COVID-19 at a Whitby nursing home.

The facility has seen a massive spike in cases over the past week, seeing more than 70 residents infected with the virus.

News of the outbreak came as a shock to Laura Smith, whose grandmother lives in the home.

“It was really, really concerning and upsetting to hear this because she’s helpless. We can’t do anything for her.”

On Sunday, she found out that her 81-year-old grandmother was sharing a room with a resident who has tested positive for COVID-19. They tried to get her moved — but it was too late.

“The following morning, we got news that my grandma was COVID positive,” Smith says. “So, obviously, she definitely wasn’t getting moved after that.”

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It’s one of the first large outbreaks to hit a Durham Region care home since the second wave.

On Tuesday, Durham Health also reported another outbreak of 40 cases at Thorntonview Long-Term Care Home in Oshawa. Advocates are raising concern, saying more should have been done to prevent this.

Read more: Coronavirus: 2 new deaths, 38 new cases in London-Middlesex

“Why does it have to get to this level where up to 80 people are infected at one facility?” asks Dr. Vivian Stamatopoulos, a specialist in family caregiving with Ontario Tech University.

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The professor is an advocate for people whose loved ones are in the long-term care system. She suggests the province could have stepped in earlier to help stop the second wave from impacting care homes.

“What is going on here?” Stamatopoulos asks. “Why hasn’t the government actually interfered to put a voluntary, if not mandatory, management order over this home?” she says.

Global News reached out to Sunnycrest Nursing Homes for comment, but didn’t get a response.

On Tuesday, Ontario Public Health reported that more than 70 residents, and 11 staff, have been infected with the virus at the Whitby facility. That’s a huge spike from just 16 cases reported a week ago.

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Read more: A look at what has gone wrong in Ontario long-term care amid the coronavirus pandemic

 

Ontario’s Ministry of Long-Term Care says it is working with Sunnycrest and Durham Health as they try to get a handle on the outbreak. In a statement, ministry spokesman Mark Nesbitt says the safety of staff and residents is the ministry’s number one priority.

“The ministry is in constant contact with care homes, including Sunnycrest, regarding the rapidly changing situation and risk to residents,” Nesbitt says.

“We continue to work directly alongside our partners at the local public health units to monitor the situation in each long-term care home closely.”

It’s not clear when or if a secondary management team may come in to oversee the situation. Earlier this year, the province brought in Lakeridge Health and the Canadian Military to help with five long-term care homes in the province, including Orchard Villa in Pickering.

Nearly 80 people died at Orchard Villa after contracting the virus at the home.

The ministry says decisions on whether to bring in outside support are made on a case-by-case basis.

As for Smith, she says it’s hard to know that her grandmother is experiencing something so frightening without her family by her side.

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“It’s just alarming,” Smith says. “These are our elderly and we need to take care of them. Clearly, something has dropped.”