'It's about time': Hospital's takeover of 2 care homes praised, but questions linger

The decision to give The Ottawa Hospital oversight of two Ottawa long-term care homes is being praised by some connected to the homes — but there are also questions about why it didn't happen sooner.

West End Villa, Laurier Manor in midst of serious COVID-19 outbreaks

Ottawa's Laurier Manor had 19 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Saturday, but there were more than 100 cases there in the spring — and 25 deaths. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The decision to give The Ottawa Hospital oversight of two Ottawa long-term care homes is being praised by some connected to the homes — but there are also questions about why it didn't happen sooner.

On Friday, Ontario's Ministry of Long-Term care announced that voluntary agreements had been signed with home operator Extendicare to help with the COVID-19 outbreaks at the West End Villa and Laurier Manor.

As of Saturday, there had been 85 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at West End Villa since Aug. 30, with 11 deaths.

Laurier Manor only has had 19 confirmed cases, but the home was hit hard in the spring, with more than 100 cases and 25 deaths.

"It's about time that there was some kind of action," said Melissa Acheson, whose long-time partner, Shawn Hill, has been living at West End Villa after suffering a traumatic brain injury in 2018.

Hill was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Sept. 14, Acheson said, and so far only has mild symptoms.

Patients confined to rooms

In an email, a ministry spokesperson told CBC that The Ottawa Hospital would "manage resident care in both homes" in response to the outbreaks for at least 90 days — and possibly longer.

Acheson said Hill had been confined to his room for the past 27 days, without a proper shower — and that has her worried his condition could deteriorate.

"It's just awful to think about being alone and confined to your room for that long for anybody. Like, just terrible," she said.

"When he is able to be around people, they can kind of bring him back into the present and remind him of where he is and how he got there and what's happening."

Shawn Hill, Melissa Acheson and their son Levi sit in the lobby of the Extendicare West End Villa in Ottawa on Nov. 28, 2019. Acheson said Saturday she worries Hill's condition is worsening with the lockdown. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Union on board 

Acheson said she hopes the current situation sparks changes to long-term care in Ontario, with more, better-paid workers brought in so that staff don't have to move from home to home.

That's something the union that represents workers at the two homes has been fighting for.

"We welcome the action from the province to come in and  take over management of the resident care. We think it's necessary," said Candace Rennick, secretary-treasurer for the Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

Last week, union representatives with CUPE Ontario, SEIU Healthcare and Unifor jointly said Ontario's long-term care homes need adequate funding, increases in staffing to ensure there are "realistic" ratios of workers to residents, and sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment.

Rennick — who told that press conference that care homes aren't prepared for a second wave — said Saturday that the decision to call in The Ottawa Hospital to help out the two Ottawa homes was "overdue."

"People are feeling overwhelmed, completely burned out, tired, afraid," she said. "And, you know, especially in the case of the West End Villa, people are incredibly frustrated and worried about the lack of access to proper protective equipment."

Extendicare has said they "deeply appreciate" the hospital's support, and that similar arrangements were extremely helpful when their facilities experienced outbreaks during the pandemic's first wave.


Natalia is a multi-platform journalist in Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.

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