Whitby, Ont. long-term care home to close in April

Sunnycrest Nursing Home in Whitby is closing its doors in April. The home was one of the hardest hits by COVID-19 outbreaks in 2020.
Sunnycrest Nursing Home in Whitby is closing its doors in April. The home was one of the hardest hits by COVID-19 outbreaks in 2020.

A long-term care home in Whitby, Ont., hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic is closing its doors.

Sunnycrest Nursing Home in Whitby was hit with back-to-back COVID-19 outbreaks early on during the pandemic.

Lakeridge Health assumed temporary management of the facility back in December 2020, following the outbreaks.

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

The license for the home is set to expire on April 13, which will leave staff members out of a job and the hospital working to rehome the seniors.

“It’s definitely time to close,’ says Theresa Smith whose 83-year-old mother is currently living at the home. She was one of 114 residents to contract COVID-19.

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Thirty-four of those 114 COVID-positive residents died.

According to Smith, the living conditions at the nursing home are still alarming.

“Last week or the week before, I couldn’t get ahold of her. I phone her every single day – I couldn’t get ahold of her. I thought ‘hmm that’s interesting, well maybe she’s down in the activity room because (activities have) started again.’ Then I found out no – she hasn’t been in her room because it’s too cold, they have heating issues,” explained Smith.

Click to play video: 'Whitby, Ont. nursing home outbreak leaves families concerned'
Whitby, Ont. nursing home outbreak leaves families concerned

With the news of Sunnycrest closing, long-term care advocate Dr. Vivian Stamatopoulos says both the province and those running for-profit care homes need to be held accountable for all of the lives lost due to COVID-19.

“It has been the most frustrating experience of my life to stand by these families, and residents and workers and see how badly they’ve been treated, largely left on their own during COVID,” Stamatopoulous told Global News.

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Though Lakeridge Health did not provide comment, Global News acquired a document sent out to families – it said they have several plans in place to support residents and staff.

However, Smith says she hasn’t had clear communication on how to go about rehoming her mother.

“She has signed the paperwork, but it’s just an application. We don’t know really what’s going to happen.”

Smith points out that Lakeridge Health was always meant to temporarily manage the care home to help get the COVID-19 outbreaks under control, but Stamatopoulous believes there’s another reason for the home’s closure.

“The only two times really in the last two decades where long-term care homes have lost their licenses is because the homes themselves have said ‘we don’t want this anymore, take it away,” she explained.

Read more: One-third of Ontario’s long-term care homes experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks

A Toronto-area law firm that launched a $30-million class-action lawsuit on behalf of the families who’ve lost loved ones to COVID-19 while living at Sunnycrest says the closure will not stop the suit from going forward.

“A lawsuit is one way to get answers and to hold the people that were responsible for this accountable. Most of the families just want to make sure that this never happens to anyone else again in the future,” said Gary Will, a founding lawyer with the firm.


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