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Whitby nursing home now reports almost 160 coronavirus cases, including 40 staff

Click to play video 'Durham care homes dealing with massive spike in COVID-19 cases' Durham care homes dealing with massive spike in COVID-19 cases
A Whitby nursing home is now reporting nearly 160 cases of COVID-19. The numbers include more than 40 staff as well. Frazer Snowdon reports. – Dec 7, 2020

A Whitby nursing home that recently saw Lakeridge Health step in to assume management of the facility continues to see a surge in cases and now almost 160 people have tested positive for coronavirus.

The increase in cases at Sunnycrest Nursing Home rose sharply over the past two weeks. In just a short time, the home climbed from just a few cases to 159. Nine people died and 10 were hospitalized. The facility also reported approximately 40 staff members are included in the total number of cases.

Since that time, the Ontario government entered a voluntary agreement with Lakeridge Health. The organization oversees a number of hospitals in the region and it will now manage the home for the next 90 days.

Paula Santos, whose sister is one of just a few residents that has tested negative for the virus, said the current situation is daunting.

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Read more: Whitby nursing home sees huge spike in COVID-19 cases

“In my opinion, it’s still out of control,” she told Global News.

But Santos said her sister Tina is still experiencing major problems stemming from staffing issues.

“More needs to be done, they are still short-staffed,” said Santos while speaking about her sister’s experience.

“The food is late and cold. medicine is late and mixed up — there’s just no excuse.”

Read more: Fear, stress factors in staffing shortages at Ontario’s long-term care homes amid COVID-19 crisis

Santos said Tina, who is 55 years old, needs care after suffering a stroke. She said knowing her sister is in the home during a huge outbreak is devastating, claiming the situation has left them completely in the dark.

“My sister tells me she feels isolated. She’s scared. No one tells her anything,” said Santos.

“This past entire week I have been able to get through one time … I have a right to know what is happening.”

An Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Care spokesperson told Global News in a statement there are a number of things being done to help control the rapidly changing situation, including the involvement of Lakeridge Health

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Read more: How to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infections at Ontario’s long-term care homes

“The safety of residents and staff in long-term care is our number one priority. We want to assure families that we take their concerns seriously. As part of their outbreak management plans, homes must have a communication plan to keep families informed,” the spokesperson said.

But several family members who have loved ones in the home echoed the concerns raised by Santos about not being informed. They said they haven’t seen any changes as of yet.

“We have seen one Lakeridge Health staff there,” said Laura Smith, whose grandmother lives in the home.

“We’re pretty appalled. It’s disgusting. I don’t understand why they’re trying to put a front forward saying that everything is under control.”

Smith said with the increasing numbers, it’s nearly impossible for her grandmother to get a response sometimes.

Read more: Get rapid tests into care homes now, says B.C. seniors’ advocate

“My grandmother couldn’t reach her call bell and she was using her hairbrush, banging on the rails and nobody came to help her,” she said.

After a number of calls and emails, Sunnycrest Nursing Home didn’t respond to questions from Global News about the matter.

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A Lakeridge Health spokesperson told Global News there are several experts now working with staff to bring control to the building, including physicians, nurses, personal support workers, infection prevention and control (IPAC) professionals, and those who specialize in occupational health and safety.

“Lakeridge Health’s top priority is to stabilize the care for residents, provide support and training for staff, ensure adherence to proper IPAC protocols, and keep families informed about their loved ones,” the spokesperson said.

Click to play video 'More than 150 residents, staff test positive after COVID-19 outbreak at Toronto nursing home' More than 150 residents, staff test positive after COVID-19 outbreak at Toronto nursing home
More than 150 residents, staff test positive after COVID-19 outbreak at Toronto nursing home – Dec 7, 2020

Across Durham Region, there are two major outbreaks. The second one is happening at Oshawa’s Thorntonview Long-Term Care Home.

According to the Durham Region COVID-19 tracker, nearly 100 cases and four deaths were reported at that facility.

A spokesperson for Thorntonview Long-Term Care Home said staff are working with the municipality and have put in place a number of measures are in place to help control the spread of the virus, including a constant check of staff going in and out of the building and a range of other steps.

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Both outbreaks have driven the region’s cases to record numbers over the past few days. As of Monday, there were 786 active COVID-19 cases. Durham Region is in the red zone but it’s not clear if the climbing numbers could mean further restrictions.