Reports of abuse at a Winnipeg care home are a “sickening” abuse of trust, says a Canadian geriatrics expert.
Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Sinai Health and the University Health Network in Toronto, told Global News that the allegations against two employees at the Oakview Place personal care home on Ness Avenue are an example of a failure to protect some of Manitoba’s most vulnerable.
“It’s sickening to think that, after everything our residents have been through across the province, now we’re hearing about basic protocols to protect some of the most vulnerable citizens not actively being followed,” he said.
“It’s just not acceptable, and the fact that this had to be brought up by two different whistleblowers is concerning because a lot of this was allowed to go on for months.
“My initial reaction is it’s devastating — devastating to hear that we would allow this to happen.”
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and city police said Tuesday that they’re investigating allegations that more than a dozen residents were abused at Oakview Place, dating back to February of this year.
Specific details about the nature of the alleged abuse have not been released.
Sinha said a significant percentage, two-thirds, of long-term care home residents are living with dementia, potentially making them targets of abuse.
“Sometimes abusers feel like, ‘Oh, they wouldn’t even know and they wouldn’t be able to report,’ which is what makes them vulnerable,” he said.
“But you have to remember that even though you might have been diagnosed with dementia, you might, if you’re experiencing harm, absolutely sense that harm. But you might not be able to let other people know.
“I don’t want anybody to think that, ‘Oh, it’s okay, because these people may not have realized what was happening to them or they may not have remembered the harm that was caused.’ Often these individuals who are experiencing abuse will have not enjoyed it, will have experienced a very negative thing. And we can’t discount that at all.”
Although the two employees of Extendicare, the company that operates the home, have been put on leave, and police and the health authority continue to investigate the allegations, Manitoba’s opposition leader is calling for more significant action against the Extendicare corporation.
Wab Kinew told Global News on Wednesday that he’d like to see the government immediately review the licence of Extendicare, and is calling for a seniors’ advocate in Manitoba.
“We do have various centres and places where people can file reports. But it’s clear that what’s in place right now needs to be enhanced, needs to be bolstered, needs to be supplemented, needs to be added to,” Kinew said.
“Let’s have a seniors’ advocate who can not only hear the complaints but can also go to bat for the seniors.”
Kinew said the province should be investing in staffing and resources in the system, so there’s greater oversight and supervision, and that accountability is important.
“I think as part of reforming long-term care, we need to send a clear message that there will be accountability for these for-profit providers when they fail, when they violate the trust of seniors and their families.
“We need to send a strong message that we care for our seniors and that we’re not going to tolerate mistreatment.”