As It Happens

Ottawa man captures 'gut-wrenching' footage of care worker punching his grandfather in the head

Daniel Nassrallah tells As It Happens what he discovered after he set up a video camera in his grandfather's room at a care facility.
Footage from the Garry J. Armstrong seniors' centre led to an assault charge against a personal support worker. (CBC)
Listen7:32

WARNING: The video below contains violence and may disturb some readers.

story transcript

The video footage shows an elderly man with Alzheimer's lying in his bed at a care facility. A personal support worker is assisting him. Then the patient appears to become agitated. The worker forms a fist and punches him in the head multiple times.

The only reason it was caught on tape is because the family of 89-year-old Georges Karam installed the surveillance camera.

Assault at the Garry J. Armstrong Long-term Care Facility in Ottawa. 0:31
The worker in the video, Jie Xiao, was arrested and charged after the incident in March. Last week, he pleaded guilty to assault. His sentencing will take place at a later date. 

The incident occurred at Garry J. Armstrong — a city-run long-term care facility in Ottawa. Janice Burelle, the city's general manager of community and social services, addressed the incident in a letter to the mayor and council members. The full letter can be read at the end of this post.

Burelle writes, "I deeply regret that one of our residents was subjected to this incident. Rest assured, the safety and well-being of all of our residents is our number one priority."

Daniel Nassrallah is Karam's grandson. He spoke with As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch about what it was like to watch the footage of his grandfather. Here's an excerpt of that interview:

When I actually saw the video ... I went to stand up and I literally collapsed.- Daniel Nassrallah

Daniel Nassrallah: Gut-wrenching. When I actually saw the video on the evening of March 8, 2017, I went to stand up and I literally collapsed. My legs gave way.  And I could tell you, as his grandson and in my capacity as a lawyer, you're never prepared for something like that.

Laura Lynch: Now, the worker's arrest was only possible because you had the video evidence. Why had the camera been installed in your grandfather's room in the first place? You put it there, didn't you?

DN: I did. And the family did. I mean, it was in consultation.

In the fall of 2016 and early 2017, my grandfather kept suffering from bruises, cuts and lesions — mostly to his face and facial region. Sometimes the home would have answers saying he fell out of bed, [but] my grandfather is immobile, so we didn't necessarily believe [that]. In other cases, they didn't have any explanation at all.

We decided to install the camera — just to keep people honest and accountable.

LL: Now you install the camera, and the staff know it's there, right?

DN: Yeah. So when we installed the camera, the staff knew, management knew. We actually had management's approval. 

The camera itself is extremely visible. Literally, as soon as you walk in the doorway, it's the size of a baseball. It's attached to the wall. It looks like a camera. It's not hidden in any way, shape or form. There are wires stretching from the camera to the ground.

LL: Just last month a former Woodstock nurse, Elizabeth Wettlaufer, was sentenced to life in prison for killing eight of her patients in long-term care homes. Now we're hearing this story of what happened to your grandfather. How much of this is a problem with oversight at all kinds of long-term care homes?

DN: That's exactly what it is. It's a matter of oversight and enforcement. At the end of the day, it's not just a matter of having the city in this particular case. ... This is a city-run home, I just want to clarify, but it's equivalent to a private facility. We pay an exorbitant amount of money for them to watch and care for my grandfather.

When it comes down to the issue of oversight, these PSWs, RNs and RPNs are given too much freedom.

If you read the public reports from the ministry of health and long-term care, you do discover that in their incident reports, you do see a lot of things such as medication or medicine cabinets left unattended. Or certain staff members neglecting certain residents. 

Then, you look at the ramifications. Normally, it's written reprimands to the home and the home just has to come up with a plan of remedy. It's essentially a slap on the wrist.

So, if you're not going to have the oversight from a corporate level and you're not going to have the mechanisms for proper enforcement and punishment from a ministerial level, then you have a broken system.

LL: Given all that has happened to your grandfather, how is he doing now?

DN: My grandfather isn't doing very well. He's actually in the hospital today. Last night, he had a vomiting episode where he continually vomited due to a hernia.

From an emotional perspective, I can tell you my grandfather is not well. He's not trusting of any PSWs after the incident — RNs or RPNs. He's very anxious. He, on numerous occasions, mentioned to me and other members of the family, pleaded with us in Arabic, you know the English translation would be: "I beg you. I beg at your feet. Don't leave me. Something is not right here. Something is wrong."

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. To hear more from Daniel Nassrallah, listen to the audio above.  

Letter to Ottawa mayor and council Mobile users: View the document
Letter to Ottawa mayor and council (PDF KB)
Letter to Ottawa mayor and council (Text KB)
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