British Columbia

Vancouver woman calls for better COVID-19 protocols in long-term care as deaths mount

Gladys Opeda says her grandmother died alone at Vancouver's Little Mountain Place, one of three long-term care facilities experiencing widespread COVID-19 outbreaks in B.C. She's calling for more resources for seniors and staff.

Gladys Opeda says her grandmother died alone at a facility with one of B.C.'s largest outbreaks

Little Mountain Place in South Vancouve has one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in a long-term care home in B.C. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A Vancouver woman is calling for enhanced COVID-19 response protocols in B.C's hardest hit long-term care facilities, after her grandmother passed away Sunday from the disease, alone in her room at Little Mountain Place.

Gladys Opeda, 32, said she was shocked to learn of the death of her 85-year-old grandmother Corazon Pascua, one of 17 people killed by COVID-19 at the facility in South Vancouver.

A statement from the B.C. Ministry of Health confirms Little Mountain Place has seen 119 cases of COVID-19 as of Dec. 15, making it one of the largest care home outbreaks in the province. 

The other two are Capilano Centre in West Vancouver with 120 cases and 22 deaths, and Tabor Home in Abbotsford with 156 cases and 25 deaths.

'No proper care plan'

Opeda said she learned from her brother that her grandmother hadn't been eating for four days before she died.

"Did [the staff] not do anything? What was the care plan for her? Why was she not hooked up to an IV to get hydrated?" asked Opeda. 

She said she last saw her grandmother six months ago through the window into her room because in-person visits are not permitted during the pandemic. 

A nurse contacted her family last week to inform them that Pascua's COVID-19 test had come back negative, but contacted them again two days later to tell them she had now a positive test. She died "a couple days" after her diagnosis.

Health-care workers remove the body of an unidentified resident from Little Mountain Place in South Vancouver on Thursday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"How are they testing these residents?" Opeda asked. "Are they testing them every day? This test isn't free. They're pretty expensive."

After playing "phone tag" with the facility's director, Opeda said she still hasn't received a straight answer on the conditions surrounding her grandmother's death. 

Coastal Health says response plan is thorough

A statement from Vancouver Coastal Health says when a COVID-19 outbreak is declared in a long-term care facility, its priority is to execute a thorough response plan, which includes identifying and isolating cases, testing and monitoring the staff and residents, implementing proper control measures, and communicating with the families of those infected.

The statement declined to provide any details on the number of outbreaks at any of VCH's long-term care facilities, in order to "avoid causing unnecessary concern."

"The circumstances surrounding each outbreak — including the number of active cases — can evolve rapidly, and it causes unnecessary stress to the families of residents and patients to have information publicly misreported," it says. 

Outbreak numbers are 'distressing,' says seniors advocate

B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel MacKenzie said the Ministry of Health's numbers are "very very distressing," adding that the best way to bring the numbers down is to "get the staff and residents vaccinated as quickly as possible."

With COVID-19 vaccines beginning to roll-out across the country, McKenzie said she hopes to see significantly fewer outbreaks by mid-January. In the meantime, care facilities should reassess their testing strategies.

Opeda said the high outbreak numbers prove that "the situation is not controlled," and that "more needs to be done" to ensure seniors are properly cared for.

"If the staff are being overwhelmed, is the government implementing any proper support for them?" she asked.

Opeda said her grandmother "was not a COVID statistic" and will be remembered for how well she took care of anyone in need, especially her family.

"My grandmother lived a long life, she took care of everyone, she mattered, [...] and this just wasn't the way that she should have passed...She died alone in her room, and it was just not fair."

CBC asked Little Mountain for comment, but has not heard back.


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With files from Jon Hernandez and Adam van der Zwan