Call for transparency at Almonte nursing home hit by COVID outbreak
Local health district, private owners of long-term care home won’t provide number of deaths or positive cases
The daughter of a resident in a nursing home in the community of Almonte in Mississippi Mills, Ont., is calling on both the home's owners and the local health district to be more transparent with families amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jan Carter Lea's 82-year-old mother, Gail Attfield, has been a resident at the Almonte Country Haven long-term care home for about a year.
"The care is wonderful and we're profoundly grateful," said Carter. "We're really really concerned with the transparency."
On March 26, the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit declared a COVID-19 outbreak at the 82-bed nursing home after three of its residents and one staff member tested positive for the coronavirus.
Despite isolating all 82 residents in their room, a male resident died of COVID-19, a fact reported on March 31 by both the health unit and the private owners of the nursing home, Peterborough, Ont.-based OMNI Health Care.
Lea said since then, "we've had zero information" and her mother, who suffers from dementia, isn't able to help.
"It's hard to not know anything. Is it advancing? Is it stopped? When we know the numbers we can prepare ourselves."
Both the local health unit and OMNI declined to provide an update on the number of COVID-19 related deaths and positive cases at the Almonte Country Haven. Patrick McCarthy, president and chief executive officer of OMNI, emailed the CBC.
"We continue to direct inquiries regarding cases to Public Health, but note that specific information is considered private to the individuals and their families."
The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit also provided a written statement saying "The information about cases and deaths belongs to the home. They report it to public health for surveillance purposes only."
Both responses did not sit well with Lea. "Families have the right to know," said Lea. "We don't want to know names out of respect for privacy for the families going through this terrible time."
The only numbers Lea and the families of residents of the Almonte Country Haven have been able to get from the health unit are general numbers that combine all long-term care homes in the district, and they show an alarming trend.
From March 31 to April 6, the number of long-term care homes in the health district experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak has grown to six, while the number of residents at those homes who've tested positive has increased from three to 36.
Lea said it comes down to having some information in a situation in which she feels helpless. "It would be nice to know that day when the numbers start to shift," Lea said.