An Oshawa, Ont., family is going public with concerns about the treatment of residents and staffing levels at Niagara Falls long-term care home experiencing a major COVID-19 outbreak.
“It was distressing to see,” explained Jennifer Penney who is currently in isolation.
Penney’s mother Yvette Brauch died on Boxing Day. She had COVID-19 and family got to Oakwood Park Lodge in enough time to say goodbye to the 81-year old, who family members say was a kind, selfless woman who enjoyed cake decorating and sewing.
“I couldn’t even talk to her to say one last goodbye,” added Penney’s son Gibson.
Recounting the experience through the front door of their Oshawa home, the Penneys said they couldn’t believe what they saw behind the walls of this long-term care home, which is struggling to contain an outbreak that has caused the deaths of 21 residents and infected 115 others, along with 111 staff members.
“When we left there was a resident in the hallway in a wheelchair asking us to bring her water and it was like a ghost town. There was no staff in sight,” added Penny, who says she struggled with whether to help the resident or not.
“To have someone pleading for such a basic thing, you know, we could obviously tell there was not enough staff to care for who was there.”
The pair say they also witnessed a resident sleeping in the lobby.
On Dec. 22, Niagara Health began providing temporary management support to Oakwood Park Lodge and the hospital response team, which is highly trained in outbreak management, has conducted a thorough on-site assessment of the home which identified a number of priority areas.
Those areas include clinical care, stabilization of leadership and staffing, management of personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies, enhanced infection prevention and control protocols, expanded testing for the virus and increased cleaning.
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“We understand that this is a difficult time for residents and family members. We also understand that you will have questions about our work to manage the outbreak and about how we will keep residents safe. In-person visiting restrictions remain in place at the home,” writes Lynn Guerriero, president of Niagara Health, in a joint statement.
The home is owned and operated by Conmed Health Care Group which also owns Millennium Trail Manor, where 15 seniors have died with the virus.
During a briefing at Queen’s Park Wednesday, the province’s associate medical officer of health explained that military and Red Cross support are on the table.
“These are all considerations; I can’t tell you the exact breaking point,” explained Dr. Barbara Yaffee.
The local MPP tells Global News the Red Cross was in the LTC home recently and conducted a site evaluation.
“We had eight months to get ready for this, we didn’t prepare. Now people are dying, they’re getting sick … to your point, they’re not getting their food, sometimes they’re not getting their pills, sometimes they’re not even getting basic things like water. We have to do more,” added Niagara MPP Wayne Gates.
Gates says he’s been fielding calls throughout the holidays from concerned citizens and families.
“If we would have invested in PSWs they (residents) would still be here, they’d be able to celebrate Christmas with their families.”
The Penney family only decided to go public with their story in an effort to shed light on the plight faced by not just residents, but staff working in long-term care.
“Where was this help?” asks Penney.
A spokesperson with the Ministry of Long-Term Care has reiterated that the province is recruiting staff to help assist the sector.