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Ontario-based long-term care company suddenly deletes its Twitter account

A person wears a mask while walking past Revera Retirement Living residence in Kingston, Ont., on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

The Twitter account for the multinational long-term care corporation Revera Living has vanished.

Jo-Anne Beggs was among the first to wonder what happened and to ask why.

“On January 5, I tried to post a tweet to Revera and couldn’t. The screen came up ‘try again.’ Others responded and we realized the account was gone,” said Beggs, a registered social worker whose father is in long-term care.

The account for the Mississauga, Ont.-based long-term care operator — owned by the federal Public Sector Pension Investment Board — quietly and suddenly disappeared from the social media space just as Omicron cases were rising in number and the Ontario government re-established a wide range of restrictions, including prohibiting most general visits to residents in LTC facilities.

Read more: Coronavirus — Ontario’s worst hit nursing homes and who owns them

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“Why would they do this?” Beggs asked about the decision to shut off contact through Twitter.

“Revera is the holder of the homes our loved ones live in, pay steeply for, and are suffering in,” Beggs said in an email to Global News, questioning the corporation’s decision to cut off public accountability through Twitter.

Her 94-year-old father resides in a Revera home in the Toronto area. Her mother died at the same home in October 2020.

Especially since the outset of the pandemic, many families of long-term care residents have used Twitter to raise safety concerns about their loved ones. Long-term care facilities were hit hardest with outbreaks and deaths during COVID-19.

As of Jan. 21, a total of 3,958 residents and staff members have died in Ontario long-term care homes.

There were 28,984 reported cases of COVID-19 in those facilities, according to the government of Ontario, as of the same date.

Read more: Scarborough long-term care home reports dozens of COVID-19 cases, 29 deaths in latest outbreak

Beggs and others implored Global News to find out why Revera Living had disappeared from a forum widely considered vital to families.

In her case, Beggs says she used Twitter to have direct communications with Revera.

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“We families need to be able in an open forum, communicating with them and with other Revera families to question … and share information amongst us,” Beggs told Global News.

Unlike many other social media platforms, Twitter is a preferred choice for most journalists, who scour it for newsworthy possible stories and interview subjects, especially so during the pandemic.

Global News attempted to find out why Revera Living was no longer accessible on Twitter. Two email messages sent to the company’s head of communications over a two-day period went unanswered.

Finally, a third email, sent one week after the first one, generated a response. (The reporter’s inquiry had also been copied to the president and CEO of Revera Living, Thomas Wellner, who did not reply.)

“We decided to focus our social media resources on the channels that are most popular with our residents, their families and our staff,” wrote Larry Roberts, Revera’s director of communications.

“We’re active on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube,” Roberts continued, adding that families “know how to reach someone at the home if they have questions or need more information.”

Read more: Families sue Revera, health authority after COVID-19 deaths at Winnipeg care home

But the move, coinciding with the resurgence of COVID-19 cases at long-term care homes, was seen by at least one patient advocate as inappropriate.

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“It’s very disappointing that one particular social media channel that was utilized by long-term care supporters and media alike to gain information would be deleted,” wrote Vivian Stamatopoulos, a long-term care advocate and co-founder of Canadians for Long Term Care.

“I do hope Revera re-institutes their Twitter account” and is accessible to all social media users equally, Stamatopoulos told Global News.

According to the Revera Living corporate profile on its website, the company manages or owns 682 long-term care homes — which it calls communities — in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

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