Ottawa

Families, health coalition demand action on long-term care 

Families, staff, unions and the Ontario Health Coalition will hold a provincewide day of action Thursday to send a message to the provincial government.

'The crisis has only gotten worse in the course of the pandemic,' says day of action organizer

A message thanking health-care workers is seen beside a statue of Mary outside the Madonna Care Community in Ottawa, a long-term care facility experiencing yet another outbreak of COVID-19. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Betty Yakimenko says her mom, Elsie Stadler, must be made of Teflon, because the Madonna Care Community resident has been tested eight times for COVID-19, and each time the result has come back negative. 

Now, Stadler is preparing for test number nine, and Yakimenko hopes her mother can cheat the virus, which has been ravaging the Orléans nursing home, once again.

For the fourth time since the pandemic first struck, an outbreak was declared at Madonna Care Community this week after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Since April 6, more than 150 residents and workers there have tested positive, and 47 residents and two staff members have died.

"I'd like to know that proper protocols are being followed, in particular, PPE gear is being worn properly," said Yakimenko who's head of Madonna Care Community's family council. "They have improved some stuff from previously, but I can't get in there to see, so I don't know."

It's now among a dozen long-term care homes in Ottawa where outbreaks have been declared. In the past month, 20 long-term care residents in Ottawa have died, 19 at West End Villa. 

Betty Yakimenko leads Madonna Care Community's family council. Her mother, who has so far tested negative for COVID-19, is a resident of the Orléans long-term care home. (Judy Trinh/CBC)

Day of action

On Thursday, Yakimenko plans to stand up with other families, staff, unions and the Ontario Health Coalition in a provincewide "day of action" aimed at sending a message to Queen's Park. 

The group is calling for immediate action by the Ford government to recruit and train staff, and to improve working conditions. They're also calling for a minimum daily standard of four hours of hands-on care for every resident.

Last week, the province announced it's spending more than half a billion dollars to help the homes hire workers, purchase equipment and prevent infections.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters her ministry is trying to first limit community transmission. She also noted that hospitals in Ottawa continue to support affected long-term care homes, but she downplayed the current spread.

'So far it's only a very small number of long-term care homes that have been affected,' Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Wednesday. (CBC)

Minister's response 

"The spread in long-term care homes is very small. In situations where there is an outbreak, which is just one person that has COVID, that could be a staff member, it can be a resident. In some cases it's purely staff members, which is unfortunate," said Elliott. "So far it's only a very small number of long-term care homes that have been affected."

Both virtual and in-person protests are planned in more than 20 locations across Ontario on Thursday. 

Kevin Skerrett, with the Ottawa branch of the Ontario Health Coalition, said the protest underlines the anger at a situation that hasn't improved since the spring. 

"The crisis has only gotten worse in the course of the pandemic. Now we're in the second wave, [but] the serious uptick in infection rates and the long-term care facilities in Ontario are not being looked after and coordinated in the same way as other provinces," said Skerrett.

About the Author

Julie Ireton

Senior Reporter

Julie Ireton is a senior reporter who works on investigations and enterprise news features at CBC Ottawa. She's also the host of the new CBC investigative podcast, The Band Played On. You can reach her at julie.ireton@cbc.ca

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