A Thunder Bay woman is speaking out about a disturbing incident that happened in a local nursing home two years ago.

In September 2011, Eileen Laplante's mother, Bertha Lawrence, was 100 years old and living at Lakehead Manor.

That month, a Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care inspector called Laplante with a question that remains seared in her memory.

"[She asked], was I aware that my mother had an open wound on her leg that had maggots in it?" Laplante recalled. "I was horrified."

Eileen Laplante

Eileen Laplante hopes that sharing her late mother's experience in long-term care will help prevent other residents from suffering neglect. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

According to a Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care inspection report, Lakehead Manor not only didn't inform Laplante that the gruesome discovery had been made on August 15; there was also no documentation of how long the wound had been there.  

The ministry report said "Bertha Lawrence's right leg wound was documented as 'grey oozing drainage noted, dressing covered with non-adherent dressing ... Rancid odour. On closer inspection, writer noticed maggots under dressing.'"

The report also said a review of treatment records showed that required dressing changes were not completed on 17 separate occasions between August 20 and September 7, 2011. 

"I'd never in my life heard anything that horrifying," Laplante told CBC News. "That there could be that kind of neglect."

The inspector cited Lakehead Manor for neglect under the Ontario's Long-Term Care Homes Act, and issued a compliance order to ensure proper skin and wound care.

'No question we should have done better'

In an email response to CBC's inquiries on Thursday, a health ministry spokesperson confirmed that the home passed a follow-up inspection in November 2011.   

Laplante said she visited her mother regularly, but never saw the wound because Lawrence was clothed. 

When she learned what had happened, she told a Lakehead Manor administrator that she wanted her mother moved to another home. 

That never happened and Lawrence died soon after. Laplante believes her mother never realized the wound was there, or that maggots had set in.   

But she is still haunted by guilt. 

"I feel like I didn't do as much as I should have," Laplante said. "And I was there.  I was there every day."

Lakehead Manor

In 2011, a Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care inspector cited Lakehead Manor for neglect after a wound infested with maggots was found on 100-year-old Bertha Lawrence's leg. (Revera Living website)

Lakehead Manor is operated by Revera Long-Term Care. 

In an email to CBC News on Thursday, Revera spokesperson Sandra Vlaar Ingram said the incident was "completely unacceptable, and the Ministry's report clearly demonstrates that Lakehead did not meet our quality standards in this case. There is no question we should have done better, and we sincerely apologize to the family."

Vlaar Ingram noted that since 2011, the company has replaced the leadership at Lakehead Manor and increased the skin and wound care expertise in the facility.

Laplante said she decided to go public with her late mother's story when she heard CBC's recent series on long-term care in Thunder Bay. 

"Whoever is running these facilities has to be told that they have to do it properly," she said. "They can't be allowed to treat our elderly people like this. It's just wrong."

Full statement from Revera Long-Term Care and Lakehead Manor:

"Wound care is an integral part of quality, person-centred care in long term care and we take it very seriously. We can't comment on the details of a specific individual's care, because privacy laws prohibit us from discussing personal health information.  This situation from 2011 was completely unacceptable, and the Ministry's report clearly demonstrates that Lakehead did not meet our quality standards in this case. There is no question we should have done better, and we sincerely apologize to the family.
 
Since 2011, we have worked diligently to improve at Lakehead, including: new site leadership; building staff competency through training and continued integration of Revera's Skin and Wound Care program; and increased clinical supervision and monitoring through regional clinicians and Nurse Practitioners with advanced wound care expertise. We work hard to continually learn and improve how we serve seniors, and strive to meet our regulatory requirements in this and all areas of care.  We are committed to providing a safe and supportive environment in which all of our clients are treated with dignity and respect."