Durham Regional Police officers have charged the former head of a Courtice, Ont., retirement home with two counts of unlawful confinement after door handles were removed from a portion of the rooms for residents in the assisted living section of the facility.
The investigation was launched in mid-February after reports surfaced that staff members at White Cliffe Terrace Retirement Residence on Highway 2 removed the door handles.
David Bird, the president and chief executive officer of Diversicare Canada, said in a February statement he was “deeply disturbed” to hear the door handles were removed from assisted living household units at the home, calling it a violation of the company’s protocols and practices.
“As soon as we became aware of the incident, all residents’ door handles were immediately reinstalled. The general manager was immediately placed on leave as soon as we learned of the incident,” he previously said.
“We are thankful no residents were harmed due to these actions and I am thankful that this serious incident was brought to our attention.
“As part of our investigation, we are trying to establish how long the doors were without handles. There is absolutely no excuse to remove door handles – ever. We never lock-in or prevent the free movement of our residents.”
Bird went on to say in situations when a resident “may have experienced cognitive impairment and not fully understand the measures we have in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” there are “strict protocols in place and other interventions such as wander strips, stop signs, localized safety alarms, and increased staffing levels if we are concerned that a resident might wander and present a danger to themselves or others.”
The initial details of the incident were contained in a Citytv report on Feb. 12 based on an anonymous staff whistleblower who came forward. That individual alleged a manager at the White Cliffe Terrace “ordered maintenance staff to remove door handles on some fourth-floor assisted living suites last week, claiming it was “done to prevent COVID-19 positive residents from moving freely” around the facility.
The removal of the handles was reportedly discovered by a senior employee after several days. The whistleblower told the news outlet that those residents impacted by the action had access to food and were checked on by staff “who tried to work around the lack of door handles.
Global News wasn’t able to independently corroborate the employee’s allegations.
Meanwhile, in Wednesday’s update, investigators said Tawab Karimi was charged with unlawful confinement and was released on a promise to appear in court. The allegations haven’t been proven in court.
Anyone with new information relating to the probe by investigators was asked to call Det. Const. Hillard at 1-888-579-1520 ext. 1657.