Inspection of Rosslyn Retirement Residence kitchen finds mould and mouse droppings

The privately-owned home near Gage Park has been empty since May 15 after a COVID-19 outbreak that's infected 64 residents and 22 staff members. Ten people who lived at the home have died of the virus, according to public health.

10 residents from the home have now died of COVID-19

The Rosslyn Retirement Residence at 1322 King Street East in Hamilton. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

The kitchen at a Hamilton retirement home evacuated because of a COVID-19 outbreak has been ordered closed following an inspection Friday that uncovered black mould and utensils covered in mouse droppings.

The Rosslyn Retirement Residence has been empty since May 15 after a COVID-19 outbreak rapidly spread through the facility, infecting 64 residents and 22 staff members.

Ten people who lived at the home have died of the virus, according to public health. That makes it Hamilton's deadliest outbreak to date.

The home has reportedly been taking steps to try to reopen, but significant questions remain about when residents might be able to return, after a routine environmental health inspection on May 29 led to the home being issued an order under the section of the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA).

The report shows the home near Gage Park, which is associated with the Martino family, was not in compliance with seven out of 10 areas covered during the inspection.

It points to "fuzzy dust" coating the ceiling of the home's walk-in cooler, along with black mould that was seen on the walls, electrical wires, metal temperature sensor.

"Fuzzy dust" also covered the ventilation hood in the kitchen.

"The greasy ventilation hood is not only insanitary condition but also could be fire hazard," the report states.

The inspector found mouse droppings littered around the kitchen, including in a plastic container that was supposed to be storing clean cooking utensils, under the dishwasher station and on the shelves and floor of the food storage room.

Another issue identified during the inspection was the dishwasher itself. Public health says dishwashers must hit at least 120 F to adequately clean and sanitize dishes, but in four separate tests the dishwasher at the Rosslyn only reached 105 F - 110F.

Public health officials cited "significant staffing challenges" as one reason residents at Rosslyn were transferred to hospital. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

The home's owner and the kitchen supervisor were ordered verbally not to use the kitchen, according to the report.

"The kitchen will be re-open for operation when all corrective actions taken," it adds.

The Rosslyn has been ordered to correct each of the issues identified during the inspection, which includes cleaning some areas with soap, water and a chlorine solution with bleach.

The home has not responded to repeated phone calls and emails asking for comment on the COVID-19 outbreak or cleanliness there.

Third order from public health

The environmental inspection marks third time the home has been ordered to make changes to bring it up to the necessary standard during the pandemic. It's also not the only outstanding order issued to the facility.

Before the Rosslyn was shut down it was ordered by both health officials and the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA) to improve infection controls. Both have since said residents cannot return until the home complies with those orders.

Public health previously said a deep cleaning had taken place and been deemed "acceptable" but that was focused on common areas.

On Monday spokesperson Kelly Anderson said public health's order hadn't been complied with and added a re-inspection of the home and its infection controls did not take place as the owner hadn't requested it.

Compliance with the public health orders is just "one factor" in determining when the home could reopen, she added, saying the RHRA may have "outstanding concerns" too.

A paramedic pushes a stretcher into the Rosslyn Retirement Residence in Hamilton, Ont. on May 15. Health-care staff spent the next eight hours transferring residents from the home to hospital. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

The RHRA, meanwhile, pointed to a previous statement that said its orders, which cited issues with "infection prevention and control and failure to protect residents from neglect," had not yet been met.

The regulator is continuing to review the steps the home has taken, along with public health, Hamilton hospitals and the regulated health profession the Rosslyn was ordered to hire to "stabilize the home," that statement added.

"As these requirements are still outstanding, we can't confirm when residents will be able to return to the home."

The Rosslyn was evacuated, with its remaining 52 residents being transferred to hospital, on May 15 as the number of cases continued to climb.

The outbreak at the home was declared over Friday because the provincial definition says an outbreak ends when there are now new cases or evidence of COVID-19 transmission at a facility within 14 days.

As the Rosslyn has been cleared and all but two residents have tested positive for the virus, that shouldn't come as a surprise, since there is no one there to be infected.

On Sunday a spokesperson for St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton reported the hospital was still caring for 30 residents, while a representative for Hamilton Health Sciences said 24 residents were still hospitalized there.

History of mouse and bed bug issues

Friday's environmental inspection is not the first time cleanliness issues have been identified at the Rosslyn.

City inspections of the home between 2018 and 2020 found evidence of bed bugs, minor cleaning issues and mice, previous reports show.

The documents point to some efforts to treat the bed bug problem, with references to designated staff members to monitor the infestation, but the issue appears in four separate reports from 2018.

The most recent inspection before the COVID-19 outbreak happened on March 4 and also pointed to cleaning issues and more signs of mice.