'It creates anxiety': Northern Ontario long-term care residents looking for new home

Residents of the Lady Isabelle Nursing Home in the small northern Ontario community of Trout Creek, are looking for a new place to live after the province's Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care revoked the facility's licence to operate.

Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care trying to keep 66 beds — lost from Lady Isabelle — in northeast region

The Lady Isabelle Nursing Home in Trout Creek has had its licence revoked by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. (Mathieu Grégoire/ Radio-Canada)

John Locke is puzzled. He cannot understand why the Lady Isabelle Nursing Home, where he lives in the small northern Ontario community of Trout Creek, a 30 minute drive south of North Bay, is being shut down. 

"They're doing the best they can," Locke said about the staff. "They can't do anything else."

Ontario's Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care cites ongoing issues related to care and management for revoking the facility's licence, according to media relations co-ordinator David Jensen.

Complaints and compliance orders started to be made to the home in 2011. 
John Locke, president of the residents' council at Lady Isabelle, does not think the nursing home deserved to be shut down. (Mathieu Grégoire/Radio-Canada)

In some cases, inspectors found that someone's teeth were not getting brushed, monthly medication audits were not done and there was a failure to ensure residents were protected from abuse.

The repeated problems, especially in the areas of resident safety, caused the ministry to cease admissions to the home in April 2016.

But compliance issues continued at Lady Isabelle in areas, such as managing residents with responsive behaviours, safe storage of medication, staffing, and infection prevention and control.

'All baloney,' resident says

In September 2016, the home was required to retain a management company to look after the facility, and to pay for that company.

The ministry then found the home had an inability to manage finances, including staff payroll and the management company looking after the facility.

Additionally, the home did not have a viable succession plan in place to ensure continued operation by a competent and knowledgeable licensee, according to Jensen.

Still, Locke, president of the residents' council at Lady Isabelle, defends the facility and calls the reasons for its closure "all baloney."

Raymond Wilding also supports the home where he visits his wife four times a week.
Raymond Wilding visits his wife Thelma at the Lady Isabelle Nursing Home in Trout Creek, Ont. (Mathieu Grégoire/Radio-Canada)

"I only know what I see," Wilding said. "What I see is they look after them really well here."

But another resident named Lawrence Carignan said he has noticed issues with the facility, particularly when it came to the level of staff available to help him.

"When I get ready for bed it's 9 o'clock, 9:30," Carignan said. "The other people, they start putting them to bed 6:30, 7 o'clock and I have to wait."

A fresh start?

The ministry has taken over control of Lady Isabelle, which is remaining open until all residents find a new place to live.

But Carignan is nervous about the move. 

"It creates anxiety," Carignan said. "I have a hard time sleeping at night."

Residents are being given priority for new placements of their choice, according to Jensen.
Lawrence Carignan is anxious about moving away from the Lady Isabelle Nursing Home. (Mathieu Grégoire/Radio-Canada)

As for Lady Isabelle's building itself, plans are unclear. Long-time Lady Isabelle volunteer Barb Opatovsky wants to see it remain in use. 

"Now that the licence is revoked, I think we can start fresh," Opatovsky said.

"The ministry can utilize the building ... add onto it. Get some good leadership, some good people in there. Top down."

'A huge blow to people who have worked there'

Staff treated patients like family at Lady Isabelle, according to Opatovsky.

Peggy Smith also said she only had positive experiences with the home. She used to work at the facility on and off in the '80s, and her dad was a recent resident.

The home's closure affects everyone in her community, she said. 

"For the seniors of the area, it's one less opportunity for them to be placed in close proximity to their homes, their community," Smith said.

"It's also a huge blow to people who have worked there within the community."

The ministry is exploring all options to keep long-term care capacity of 66 beds within the region so that residents can continue to receive care as close to home as possible, according to Jensen. 

3 other long-term care faciliies under cease of admissions orders

The provincial government is expected to take further action on this matter by introducing new legislation in the fall that is meant to strengthen the quality and safety inspection program of the long-term care sector.

It will include enforcement tools to ensure that all home operators are addressing care concerns promptly.

Lady Isabelle is one of four long-term care facilities no longer accepting new residents.

Caressant Care in Woodstock, Bella Senior Care Residence in Niagara Falls and Cedarwood Lodge in Sault Ste. Marie are all struggling with regulations.

Cedarwood Lodge was given a cease of admissions order in November 2016 due to staffing issues, like not having a registered nurse on duty around the clock, and failing to protect residents from abuse and neglect.

The lodge tells CBC News that it is working on making improvements.


Olivia Stefanovich

Senior reporter

Olivia Stefanovich is a senior reporter for CBC's Parliamentary Bureau based in Ottawa. She previously worked in Toronto, Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter at @CBCOlivia. Story tips welcome:

With files from Radio-Canada's Mathieu Grégoire and the CBC's Meagan Fitzpatrick.