Manitoba·CBC Investigates

Manitoba's opposition parties call for end of secrecy surrounding nursing home reports

Manitoba’s opposition parties say the secrecy that surrounds reporting on nursing homes needs to end. NDP Leader Wab Kinew and Jon Gerrard, a medical doctor and Manitoba Liberal MLA, both criticized the provincial government for failing to disclose inspection reports and provide additional information on critical incidents or nursing home licenses.

MLAs speak out after CBC Investigation reveals health violations at nursing homes

Jon Gerrard, an MLA for the Manitoba Liberals and NDP Leader Wab Kinew say the provincial government needs to be more transparent when it comes to reporting on personal care home. (Tyson Koschik/CBC and Walther Bernal/CBC))

Manitoba's opposition parties say the secrecy that surrounds reporting on nursing homes needs to end.

New Democrat Leader Wab Kinew and Jon Gerrard, a Manitoba Liberal MLA, both criticized the provincial government for failing to disclose inspection reports and provide additional information on critical incidents or nursing home licenses.

"It's completely inadequate," said Gerrard, when asked about transparency at nursing homes in the province. 

"These are reports which are part of the public record. There are reports of what's happening in personal care homes. Unless these are publicly available, there can't be real accountability."

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The MLAs are reacting to a CBC investigation which found serious health violations documented in surprise inspections of personal care homes. 

This included a 47-page report on Golden Links Lodge from 2016 where inspectors found conditions including residents going up to 14 hours without access to food or drink, rooms going uncleaned for weeks and dead skin clusters on a bathing tub. 

The report was never publicly released.

Unanswered questions breed suspicion: Kinew

CBC obtained the 40 surprise inspection reports conducted from 2015 to 2019 through Freedom of Information Laws. However, there are almost 80 inspections done each year at nursing homes across Manitoba that have never been disclosed.

These reports are disclosed on government websites in Ontario, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

At least three nursing homes — St. Norbert, Park Manor and West Park Manor — were able to refuse access to their surprise inspections, citing privacy laws.

"Any time there's questions left unanswered, any time the government doesn't answer questions. It leads to suspicion and that undermines the trust that the public has in long-term care," said Kinew. 

Health Minister Cameron Friesen says his government is working on a plan for public disclosure when it comes to nursing home outcomes — but he did not provide a timeline.

"Our government is currently working on a plan to provide publicly, regularly updated reports outlining inspections results in LTC (long-term care) homes," he said in a prepared statement.

WATCH | CBC reported in 2013 on personal care home inspections being kept private:

The Manitoba government does not make public the results of its personal care home inspections, the CBC News I-Team has found. 1:20

Friesen said inspections of PCHs have increased in the last three years to an average of 90 a year from 80 under the former NDP government.

Kinew says the COVID-19 pandemic, which has contributed to the death of over 6,000 residents in long-term care in Canada, makes disclosure even more important.

"During this COVID-19 pandemic we've seen what can happen. It can be really nasty what can happen when seniors are not cared for in an adequate way," Kinew said.

CBC has also learned through a Freedom of Information request that over the past five years, an average of 10 residents have died in Winnipeg nursing homes each year from an "unintended or undesired" outcome. 

Known as an "occurrence," it is the duty of the nursing home to report these deaths to Manitoba Health. They can be caused by a fall or a number of other reasons.

Six deaths at nursing homes in 2019 deemed 'unintended'

In 2019, six nursing home resident's "occurrence" deaths were reported by Winnipeg nursing homes — but no details were given as to what caused the death. That same year, there were almost 80 incidents reported in which serious harm was caused to a resident.

Some details come out if these deaths or injuries are deemed a critical incident — but that takes years to be publicly disclosed and the personal care home is not named due to privacy concerns for the patient.

Gerrard said information on specific homes needs to be available so that family members and residents can know what is happening at the home, but also to make sure that what the inspections report match up to what they are seeing.

"There is sadly not as much trust in government as there once was. And that's because governments have too often not told us the full story," Gerrard said.

The 2016 inspection into Golden Links Lodge revealed a litany of concerns. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

"It's really only when you have the inspections, you have word from family and friends which can be incorporated in some way ... that we have a better picture of what's happening."

PCH's licensing process kept under wraps

There are nearly 100 nursing homes in Manitoba, with 38 in Winnipeg. Some are owned by non-profit organizations, some are owned by bigger for-profit companies. 

Manitoba Health is responsible for licensing the nursing homes, which are renewed every year based number of critical incidents, number of reports to the Protection for Persons in Care Office (PPCO) and others factors such as the inspections reports.

In the past five years, two Winnipeg nursing homes have had conditions placed on their license and two other homes have had their licenses reviewed.

However, the specific homes are not named and a spokesperson for Manitoba Health refused to disclose why the conditions were placed in the first place.

Kinew says disclosing the specific home isn't about "naming and shaming" but accountability. 

"It's so that if you're trusting the care of your elderly relatives, parent, spouse, to one of these facilities that you know that they're going to get the best quality care and the dignity that they deserve," he said. 

About the Author

Kristin Annable is a member of CBC's investigative unit based in Winnipeg. She can be reached at kristin.annable@cbc.ca

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