Ottawa woman hits snag trying to remove mother from nursing home

An Ottawa woman says she's facing roadblocks as she tries to remove her mother from her nursing home for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marta Chartier told 88-year-old mother would be placed back on wait list

Marta Chartier says her mother could be at risk of contracting COVID-19 if anyone in her nursing home comes down with the respiratory illness but if she leaves, she could lose her spot which took years to secure. (Supplied by Marta Chartier)

An Ottawa woman says she's facing roadblocks as she tries to remove her mother from her nursing home for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Outbreaks of COVID-19 have been declared in at least 41 long-term care and retirement homes across Ontario, resulting in the deaths of more than 40 people

In Ottawa, two people have died at the Promenade retirement home in Orléans.

"I'm worried every single day that when I see them call I'm going to be told 'We're sorry but somebody here has it,'" said Marta Chartier, whose 88-year-old mother Lois has dementia and lives at the Extendicare Medex home on Baseline Road. 

While her home doesn't have any reported cases of COVID-19 in either residents or staff, Chartier believes it's only a matter of time.

"It just takes one person who doesn't know that they're infected to come back in and spread it around the home," Chartier said.

Chartier said she wants to move her mother in with her father who lives in an apartment across the street from the home. He's currently self-isolating, and Chartier drops off food at his door. 

She said she offered to pay the monthly $1,800 fee for her mother's room while she's away, but was told the moment her mother moved out, she'd be considered discharged and would have to go back on the waiting list.

'It took her years to get into that home'

According to Chartier, that's not fair.

"I think that in this time that we're in right now, that there should be [exceptions] made to rules and regulations. And if we want to take my mother out until this is over, we should be able to take her out," she said.

"I don't see why she has to go back on a waiting list when it took her years to get into that home."

The nursing home's head office told CBC News that "policies on discharging and re-admission of residents during the current COVID-19 outbreak" come from the local health network, based on directives from Ontario's Ministry of Long-Term Care.

"We at Extendicare are implementing these directives to protect the health and safety of our residents and staff," their statement said.

'Irresponsible' to hold a room

The province has made changes to allow residents to leave a long-term care home if they wish when there is a COVID-19  outbreak there and to "expedite their return" when they need to go back, the ministry told CBC Ottawa.

When there is no outbreak, those that leave will also be prioritized but their room won't be held.

"It would be irresponsible to let long-term care capacity sit vacant at a time when it is in such great need," it said in an email.

"At this unprecedented time, it is absolutely necessary that we move hospitalized seniors who are on the wait list for long-term care into more appropriate care settings as soon as possible."

Consider it if you can

The Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) said it's fielding questions from other Canadians facing similar dilemmas.

"Because of the nature of long-term care homes, [COVID-19] can spread fairly quickly," Marissa Lennox, CARP's chief policy officer, told CBC Ottawa. "So they are naturally worried about the health and safety of their loved one."

Lennox said her organization isn't urging all people to take family members out of long-term care homes, but if they have concerns about their safety and can properly care for them at home, they should consider it.

"If you want to do it, we would encourage it. If I had a loved one in long-term care, frankly, and I felt I could meet their care needs at home, I would do it," she said.

Marta Chartier wants to take her mother out of her nursing home out of fears that a COVID-19 outbreak would risk her mother's life. But when approached the care home about this, she was given news that both frustrated and confounded her. 12:43

With files from Ryan Jones

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