Manitoba·CBC Investigates

COVID-19 outbreak over, but cockroach problem at Winnipeg's Parkview Place continues

Cockroaches can be seen scurrying up a cupboard, inside a sink and across a desk in video obtained by CBC News showing an ongoing infestation at Parkview Place Long Term Care Home, despite a December deadline to fix the problem.

'Cockroaches in a long-term care home is unconscionable,' says national seniors' advocate

A cockroach spotted crawling across a work station at Parkview Place personal care home is shown in a recent photo. CBC has agreed not to identify the person who provided the photo. (Submitted to CBC)

Cockroaches can be seen scurrying across a counter top in a recent video obtained by CBC News showing an ongoing infestation at Parkview Place Long Term Care Home, despite a December deadline to fix the problem.

The downtown Winnipeg care home, which was the site of one of the province's deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks, was ordered to resolve the cockroach issue and other deficiencies by December 2020, following a routine Manitoba Health inspection in March

Video and a photograph, which CBC verified were taken in recent weeks, show cockroaches are still present on at least two floors of the 12-storey building. CBC has agreed not to identify the source of the video and photo.

"It's just disgusting," said Bonnie Ross, whose mother-in-law lived in the building. "It's shameful that that place is still able to operate when these conditions are long-standing. I complained every time I saw something going on."

Ross's 76-year-old mother-in-law, Janet, was one of 29 residents who died of COVID-19 during a months-long outbreak at Parkview Place.

Ross said she saw cockroaches many times over the five years she visited Janet at the home and volunteered there, including Nov. 24, the night Janet died.

When Ross visited her mother-in-law's fourth-floor room that night to say goodbye and collect her belongings, a cockroach crawled out of a basket on a nightstand.

"I immediately threw my hands up and we decided that that was it, we were going to leave," Ross said. "I have seen cockroaches crawling in my mother-in-law's washroom; I have seen one crawling in the dining hall, in the recreation area, pretty much everywhere."

Clock radio full of cockroaches

However, nothing prepared Ross for what she found when she arrived home from her last visit. 

Ross had taken her mother-in-law's jewelry, trinkets and a clock radio and left them outside in a bag for a few days before going through it.

WATCH | Cellphone video of cockroaches in care home:

Recent video of cockroach problem inside Parkview Place

3 years ago
Duration 0:25
CBC obtained video, verified to be taken in recent weeks, of the ongoing cockroach infestation at Parkview Place personal care home

"A few days later ... I emptied it into a big box so I could see if anything crawled out," Ross said, adding nothing did.

However, when she opened the battery compartment of the clock radio, she said it was full of dead cockroaches.

She estimates there were easily "about a hundred."

"When I dumped it out ... you could just hear them falling into the garbage receptacle."

Ross said her mother-in-law, a residential school survivor, "had a pretty tough life, so for her to live like that at the end of her life was pretty sad."

Ross said given the choice, she would have had her mother-in-law live with her. 

"But that wasn't an option, and that's not an option for everybody."

Other issues flagged in March report

Parkview Place has exterminators on contract for regular maintenance inspections and to respond to complaints, said a spokesperson for Revera, the for-profit company that runs the home.

Exterminators were in the building in the fall, but efforts were limited due to the COVID-19 outbreak, said Larry Roberts.

They were allowed in as essential service providers, Roberts said, but "as they were not allowed to go into rooms with COVID-positive residents, Parkview Place staff assisted to place traps accordingly."

One of the pests photographed recently inside Parkview Place. (Submitted to CBC)

Other deficiencies found in the March 2020 inspection, which looked at 12 set standards, have not been remedied to date either.

The home passed every standard in the March report, but reviewers noted infection control issues under the safety and security standards section.

They found:

  • Numerous washrooms in need of attention due to flooring issues, undersized toilets and a strong smell of urine.
  • Cockroach issues dating back to 2018, based on a review of exterminator reports.
  • Repairs previously recommended to prevent insects from getting into the kitchen were not completed.
  • High surfaces in the kitchen, including the top of a range hood over stoves, with very heavy grease-laden dust.
  • Numerous cracks, gaps and missing baseboards that provided a collection point for dirt.
  • Damaged drywall.
  • A need for "greater attention to high-level cleaning."

Another report, previously disclosed to CBC News by Revera, found similar problems uncovered in a surprise inspection of Parkview Place performed by provincial licensing officials in 2017.

Revera hired a contractor to complete the outstanding repairs, but the work was paused because contractors couldn't come into the building during the COVID-19 outbreak, which began in mid-September 2020, Roberts said.

The outbreak was declared over on Jan. 12.

Revera has been working with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority "on an ongoing basis to respond to the outbreak and to address any issues that were raised during the inspection," Roberts said in an email.

"We look forward to the contractors returning as soon as possible to Parkview Place to complete these minor repairs."

No deadline to fix the problem: WRHA 

Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, which provides funding and oversight to the home, confirmed it was made aware of cockroaches in Parkview Place in March 2020, and an infestation was flagged again in October during a surprise inspection of the home.

"The review team noted the cockroach issue in their report, so yes, it is fair to say it's an issue of concern for WRHA that we would like to see resolved," a health authority spokesperson said in an email.

The pest problem 'remains an ongoing issue' at Parkview Place, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

The spokesperson said the WRHA recommended Parkview management take immediate action "to engage with their existing pest control provider to increase pest control treatments, and to identify and address potential causes of the problem."

There is no deadline to resolve the problem, the spokesperson said.

"It is our understanding that it remains an ongoing issue at the facility but that eradication and control efforts also continue."

'Failure of massive proportions': advocate

Cockroaches being found in a long-term care home is "unconscionable," said a seniors' advocate.

"Cockroach infestations for what is now the better part of a year is almost unfathomable," said Laura Tamblyn Watts, a lawyer and CEO of the national seniors' advocacy group CanAge.

"If you are housing and providing care for our most fragile, vulnerable citizens and you have a persistent cockroach infestation, you have a failure of massive proportions to provide adequate and humane care."

The nine-month timeline to resolve deficiencies was already "too generous," she said, and the onus lies with the Manitoba government.

Regardless of whether the home is private, for-profit or non-profit, the province is responsible for licensing, funding and inspecting all personal care homes.

Laura Tamblyn Watts, an advocate for older Canadians, calls the cockroach infestation 'unfathomable.' (Tina MacKenzie/CBC)

Provincial governments need to impose stiff, daily non-compliance fines on operators and increase the resources available to personal care homes in order to maintain buildings and quality care, Tamblyn Watts said.

"The good thing is that the recipe for personal care homes and seniors' care improvements is very clear. Please put seniors' care at the top of your list. If not, nothing will get better."

'Fines are not anticipated at this time'

In an email, a spokesperson for Manitoba Health said the cockroach issue is related to "larger infrastructure problems" that Parkview hasn't been able to address because it can't get contractors in during COVID-19 restrictions.

"Under current legislation, further enforcement can be taken using a Notice to Abate by public health inspectors, with the main goal to eradicate the pests. Failure to comply may result in the issuance of a fine," the statement read.

A spokesperson for Manitoba's health minister said "fines are not anticipated at this time," and the timeline to complete work is provided to the facility by public health inspectors and "it is expected that multiple visits will be required to rectify the situation."

With respect to increasing funding, the spokesperson said: "Our government has invested over $280 million in personal care homes and we will continue to make more investments going forward."

Bonnie Ross said she would like to see the province stop approving any more seniors to live at Parkview Place until repairs and the cockroach infestation are resolved.

"Something has to be done," she said. "I'm just glad my mother-in-law is not in there anymore."

WATCH | Families react to cockroach infestation at Parkview Place Long Term Care Home:

'Cockroaches in a long-term care home is unconscionable'

3 years ago
Duration 2:56
Cockroaches can be seen scurrying across a counter top in a recent video obtained by CBC News showing an ongoing infestation at Parkview Place Long Term Care Home, despite a December deadline to fix the problem.