French supports call for inquiry into seniors’ homes

By Courtney Bachar/Active Senior’s Digest

Oshawa MPP Jennifer French is calling on the province for a public inquiry into two of Durham’s long-term care and retirement homes that saw significant COVID-19 outbreaks.

In a recent letter to Premier Doug Ford, French asked for the province to support Durham Regional Council’s recent call for an investigation into Sunnycrest Nursing Home in Whitby and ThorntonView Long Term Care Home in Oshawa.

An outbreak was declared at Sunnycrest Nursing Home on Nov. 23, 2020. In total, there were 195 COVID-19 cases in which 30 residents died.

The outbreak at ThorntonView Long Term Care Home began on Nov. 28, 2020 and saw a total 152 cases in which 18 residents died.

“The reality faced by loved ones in long term care, their caregivers and their families has been particularly distressing and often tragic,” she writes, adding she was proud to be able to work alongside surviving family members who have been grieving while advocating for change in the wake of the horrible loss of Orchard Villa Retirement Community in Pickering.

Orchard Villa was the first long term care home in Durham to see a significant outbreak in the first wave of the pandemic in spring of 2020. The outbreak began on March 31, 2020 and lasted until June 11, 2020. In total, there were 306 cases and 71 deaths.

“Unfortunately, as Ontarians have seen across their home communities, situations like Orchard Villa are unfolding every day,” she continues. “Families are being devastated every day. Vulnerable loved ones are suffering every day.”

French says it is “beyond disappointing” that an inquiry was not called during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It has been very upsetting to see that lessons were not learned, supports were not put into place and our most vulnerable have not been protected.”

Speaking with The Oshawa Express, French says families of loved ones are desperate for answers.

“Families and communities are distraught that things were not put in place, supports were not put in place, staffing levels were not improved – all the recommendations from the first wave that could have been implemented as we headed into this unfortunate next chapter,” she says. “People are dying, people are suffering, and families are beside themselves.”

French says the province relied too much on the vaccine as the “strategy” when it came to protecting seniors.

While she says it’s important to ensure the vaccine continues to be distributed and administered, she notes that can’t be the only plan.

“The calls for more staffing, the calls for investment in training, in disease protocols… we haven’t been doing that.”

She notes families are “terrified,” especially with the more quickly-spreading variants that are starting to circulate.

“We don’t know what we’re headed into, but we do need to be prepared. We need to be ready,” says French. “You don’t want to lose anyone you love, but if you have to lose them, you don’t want to lose them in a way that people are dying in this pandemic. It is not a nice way to die – isolated, alone and in pain and with all the other pieces of desperation, or starvation, or dehydration. It is unthinkable what we are subjecting our loved ones to.”