'This is the biggest waste of time': Families of Maples residents still angry after Revera town hall

Families of residents at a Winnipeg personal care home where eight residents died over the weekend are calling for military intervention after learning the facility is still running short-staffed, relying on security guards to serve food and isn’t keeping track of how much residents eat and drink.

Some call for military support amid COVID outbreak that company says has claimed 22 lives

A total of eight residents died over the weekend at Maples Long Term Care Home in Winnipeg. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Families of residents at a Winnipeg personal care home where eight residents died over the weekend are calling for military intervention after learning the facility is still running short-staffed, relying on security guards to serve food and isn't keeping track of how much residents eat and drink.

Revera, the for-profit company that owns Maples Long Term Care Home, held a virtual and dial-in meeting for families of residents on Tuesday night.

Kevin Baillie's grandfather is dying of COVID-19 at the Grace Hospital after being infected in the Maples outbreak. He said he felt something "in the pit of (his) stomach" when Matt Braun, Revera's executive director, admitted Tuesday that staff are no longer documenting how much residents eat and drink as they shift their focus to making sure residents are fed at all.

"That's one of the issues that we couldn't get a straight answer on, was whether or not my grandpa was eating," said Baillie, whose grandfather Glen Baillie, 88, is diabetic and was admitted to hospital from the home last Thursday. He's receiving comfort, end-of-life care now.

"We were being told one thing, and that thing was OK everything is good. Half an hour later, we got a call from his nurse and find out it wasn't OK, and we needed to call an ambulance because he hasn't eaten in two days."

After Tuesday's town hall, where he said many questions were either deflected or not answered, Baillie said the military needs to step in to provide support immediately.

"I have no trust in Revera. All of my grandfather's nurses and health care aides are truly doing their best with what they've been given. But I have no trust of the management or anything higher than management."

On Friday night, staff at Maples made several 911 calls just after 7 p.m. Throughout the night, paramedics treated several dehydrated residents on site, transported three to hospital and found two dead when they got there. On Saturday, officials revealed eight residents had died in a matter of two days.
Kevin's grandfather Glen Baillie is dying at the Grace Hospital after getting sick with COVID-19 at the Maples personal care home outbreak. (Submitted by Kevin Baillie)

There were only seven of 19 scheduled health care aides and five of seven scheduled nurses working that night, according to Revera. At Tuesday's meeting, families said Revera reported 45 staff members were still off sick with COVID-19, and there were 10 active cases among residents.

Families also said the company revealed a total of 22 residents had died since the start of the pandemic, making it the second-deadliest outbreak at a personal care home in Manitoba. Parkview Place, also owned by Revera, has had 23 deaths.

'Raising the red flag'

Joanne Kubas, whose 77-year-old mother-in-law, Rose, lives at Maples, said Revera officials admitted Tuesday they were short-staffed but said recruiting health care aides has been challenging.

"I think it's ridiculous," she said. "I think they should be raising the red flag to the government, saying, 'We can't find anybody that wants to work here so can you please send in the military and get some staff so that they're not jeopardizing the health of the people in there?'"

Kubas said Braun told families on the call that the only direction Revera has received from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority about outside support has been the Red Cross, which will be sending 20 members to the home on Friday.

After seeing how things unfolded on the weekend, Kubas said she's questioning the standard of care her mother-in-law is receiving.

"If there's not people that are trained to feed these people and you've got people that have dementia and they don't have the health care aides to do that then how could they possibly have nutrition?" she asked, adding there's an extra risk from people isolating unattended in their rooms.

Sheryl Lourenco, whose mother Rose lives at the Maples personal care home, says she feels no more comfort after Tuesday's town hall than she did Saturday night when watching the police in hazmat suits leave the facility. (CBC/Justin Fraser)

Staffing levels misreported

The town hall was scheduled last week, prior to Friday's crisis, according to Sheryl Lourenco, Rose Kubas's daughter, who also listened in. She said Revera officials, including Braun, vice-president of operations Jason Chester, chief medical officer Rhonda Collins and senior vice-president Wendy Gilmour spoke for the majority of the allotted hour about operations, staffing recruitment and transmission of COVID-19.

She said Chester apologized again to families for misreporting staffing levels over the weekend. 

Alvin Cadonic, whose aunt and uncle live at the facility, demanded to know in the meeting why Revera had not appeared to touch base with staff before reporting inaccurate figures and then took days to issue a correction.

"If they did not have those accurate numbers on Saturday, then someone should be held accountable for gross incompetence," he said.

Revera issued an apology on Monday, reporting that staffing plan sheets were used to gather the number of hours worked, which included overtime hours from the day shift, rather than actual health care aides on shift that night. 

"Although the disclosure of inaccurate information was not deliberate, it was significant and we truly regret that it has strained the positive relationship that Revera has had with the (Winnipeg Regional Health Authority)," the statement said.

Cadonic also said he was among many at the meeting who demanded that Revera commit to having someone answer the phones when families call to check on their loved ones, but said he wasn't confident it would happen.

'This is the biggest waste of time'

Lourenco said while officials took some questions for about 45 minutes, "about 90 per cent" were left unanswered, prompting an outcry and outrage over the line from families as Revera ended the call.

"This is the biggest waste of time … this is a disgrace … Revera will not get away with this. They've got blood on their hands," she recalled hearing at the end of the call.

"They felt there was a lot of lies and they were disgusted. A lot of them contemplated pulling their families out of the family home. They don't feel that we got the answers," added Kubas.