Ottawa

Daughter on edge during COVID outbreak at mother's long-term care facility

The number of COVID outbreaks in Ottawa has quadrupled since the start of July to 63, with 34 of those in long-term care and retirement homes.

Known COVID outbreaks in Ottawa have more than quadrupled in July

Daughter worries for mother’s well-being amid COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care

4 months ago
Duration 1:06
Judy Beattie, whose 87-year-old mother lives at Carleton Lodge, says she arrived for a visit last month to find her mother covered in dried feces. She says she’s worried COVID-19 outbreaks will lead to staff shortages and have an impact on patient care.

Judy Beattie can't stop thinking about last month. She visited her 87-year old mom, who has Alzheimer's and dementia, at a long-term care home in Ottawa and found her covered in dried feces. 

"Nobody was present," she recalled to CBC. "Obviously, mom is not being checked for many, many hours based on the dried feces. I said this is unacceptable, absolutely unacceptable." 

Beattie said she filed a complaint to Carleton Lodge, a city-owned facility. But now she fears it could happen again with that care home in another COVID-19 outbreak since June 22.

Twenty residents and nine staff at Carleton Lodge have tested positive. One resident with COVID has died in this outbreak, according to Ottawa Public Health.

Beattie worries the outbreak could trigger further staffing shortages that might impact her mom's care. 

"I was just appalled at the lack of care and the lack of staffing," she said. "There isn't enough staff and it's our residents that are at risk.

"Our long-term care home residents seem to be forgotten."

34 outbreaks in long-term care and retirement homes

In an emailed statement to CBC News, Jacqueline Roy, Ottawa's administrator for long-term care, said the home is able to "maintain staffing levels and has additional measures in place to ensure the appropriate number of staff are able to provide care and services to residents, if the number of positive staff increases." 

Roy also said staff working in city-run long-term care homes are required to have two COVID-19 vaccine doses and over 90 per cent of those staff have received their third dose.

Staff continue to be strongly encouraged to receive boosters they are eligible for, she said.

The sign for the Carleton Lodge long-term care home is seen in Ottawa on Jan. 13, 2022. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Carleton Lodge has 270 staff members and is home to 161 residents.

There are currently 63 active COVID outbreaks in Ottawa with 34 of those in long-term care and retirement homes. 

The total has more than quadrupled from the 15 outbreaks listed by OPH at the start of July and only includes health-care settings because of the lack of PCR tests in other places.

Staffing crisis prior to the pandemic 

"We have a health human resources crisis in pretty much all settings: hospitals, community care, long-term care," said Sam Peck, executive director at Family Councils Ontario, a charitable non-profit funded by the Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Care.

"So what that means is there are [fewer] people to care for residents," she said. "And that could be activities of daily living. So toileting, cleaning … It could be assistance at meal times, which also has a real impact on resident health and well-being." 

A woman does a video call.
Sam Peck with Family Councils Ontario says the staffing shortages at long-term care homes pre-date the pandemic. (CBC)

Peck said the staffing shortages predate the pandemic, citing underpaid staff and fewer physicians wanting to practise geriatrics.

"There's a lot of burnout because of the physically demanding work, never mind the emotional impact of caring for someone day in and day out." 

She said a solution to the staffing crisis could be proper funding for full-time workers. 

"So that people don't have to work on multiple sites, because that was also an issue in the beginning of the pandemic, where those who might be working at multiple locations to make ends meet could no longer do that. And that exacerbated the staffing shortages," she said. 

"Good pay, good benefits. Looking at all of that to contribute to a more humane approach to care." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachelle Elsiufi is a journalist with CBC Ottawa. She previously worked as a reporter with Citynews in Edmonton. You can reach her at rachelle.elsiufi@cbc.ca

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