‘I don’t know why someone had to die for us to get proper PPE’: Troubling allegations emerge at care homes hit by COVID-19

Confusion. Exhaustion. Fear. Tragedy.This is the picture of the “unlawfully inadequate” response to the COVID-19 pandemic at three for-profit long-term care homes — alleged in intimate detail through hundreds of pages of submissions, international communications, and written declarations from front-line workers. The documentation filed this week by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to the Ontario labour relations board seeks immediate relief to “protect the lives of both employees and residents,” including an order to place the care homes under the direct control of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.The application contains allegations of numerous occupational health and safety concerns, including lack of transparency about COVID-19 infections, severe understaffing, and critical shortages of personal protective equipment at Altamont Care Community, Anson Place and Eatonville Care Centre, where some of the province’s most severe outbreaks have unfolded.One written declaration from a worker at Altamont, where 28 residents have died , said employees were not fitted with N95 masks until the day after staff member Christine Mandegarian died from COVID-19. “The day after Christine died, April 16, 2020, was the first time front-line workers were given N95 masks,” says the written declaration from personal support worker Karen Ellington, who has also since fallen ill with the virus.“We were told ‘don’t throw it away, we don’t know when you’re getting another one.’ ”Responsive Group Inc., the company that operates Anson Place and Eatonville, said it was committed to providing a safe environment for its staff and said it has been successful in obtaining additional PPE supplies to combat shortages and meet strict public health requirements.“It was difficult to hear that some our staff feel we have not done everything possible to protect them throughout this crisis,” the emailed statement said. “We need to do better.”In a statement to the Star, Sienna Senior Living said it was aware of the labour board application and “will be filing our detailed response to the application in the coming days.” “The Company has acted in compliance with health guidelines and applicable legislation, including those relating to the use of personal protective equipment, and intends to vigorously defend itself against the application,” its statement said. “Sienna remains singularly focused on protecting the health and safety of team members and residents in our facilities, and on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, which is disproportionately affecting vulnerable seniors.” SEIU represents some 60,000 front-line health workers, and wants the provincial labour board to order “immediate emergency orders” to protect its members and the residents in their care. The interventions sought by the union include orders directing employers to provide sufficient protective gear for workers, increase staffing, and provide transparent information on outbreaks.“We are witnessing what happens when hollow words are met with failed action. That is why we are seeking an emergency hearing before the Board for immediate relief to our front-line members,” said the union’s president Sharleen Stewart in a statement.“We will not stop until every worker is protected and every senior receives the care they deserve.”Ontario employers have a legal obligation under occupational health and safety laws to take every precaution reasonable to protect workers from illness and injury, including from infectious disease. SEIU’s labour board submission says the three privately-operated care homes named in its application failed to meet that responsibility. “The employer is, quite frankly, failing the members, the residents, their families, and the public at large by its unlawfully inadequate response to this crisis,” the union’s application about each of the care homes says.At Eatonville, where as of late Tuesday 36 residents have died — the highest number in Ontario — the application says “staff on some floors are provided with PPE, and on other floors they are not.” Email correspondence from the union to management of the facility says workers should be given hazard pay, and raises repeated concerns about personal protective gear and poor information flow about staff and residents falling ill.In the correspondence, management for the nursing home said the facility had shared the ministry’s directives with workers and thrown a pizza party in early April to thank staff. “A pizza lunch is appreciated but members would prefer to be informed,” says an email from union representative Maria Da Silva.“Frontline workers do not have N95s but supervisors are wearing them,” adds another email from Da Silva dated April 15. “Surgical masks are not being given or are being worn and not being replaced.”Public health guidance from the province says all workers in long-term care settings providing direct care or visiting clients must wear face masks. SEIU has advocated for fro

‘I don’t know why someone had to die for us to get proper PPE’: Troubling allegations emerge at care homes hit by COVID-19

Confusion. Exhaustion. Fear. Tragedy.

This is the picture of the “unlawfully inadequate” response to the COVID-19 pandemic at three for-profit long-term care homes — alleged in intimate detail through hundreds of pages of submissions, international communications, and written declarations from front-line workers.

The documentation filed this week by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to the Ontario labour relations board seeks immediate relief to “protect the lives of both employees and residents,” including an order to place the care homes under the direct control of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

The application contains allegations of numerous occupational health and safety concerns, including lack of transparency about COVID-19 infections, severe understaffing, and critical shortages of personal protective equipment at Altamont Care Community, Anson Place and Eatonville Care Centre, where some of the province’s most severe outbreaks have unfolded.

One written declaration from a worker at Altamont, where 28 residents have died , said employees were not fitted with N95 masks until the day after staff member Christine Mandegarian died from COVID-19.

“The day after Christine died, April 16, 2020, was the first time front-line workers were given N95 masks,” says the written declaration from personal support worker Karen Ellington, who has also since fallen ill with the virus.

“We were told ‘don’t throw it away, we don’t know when you’re getting another one.’ ”

Responsive Group Inc., the company that operates Anson Place and Eatonville, said it was committed to providing a safe environment for its staff and said it has been successful in obtaining additional PPE supplies to combat shortages and meet strict public health requirements.

“It was difficult to hear that some our staff feel we have not done everything possible to protect them throughout this crisis,” the emailed statement said. “We need to do better.”

In a statement to the Star, Sienna Senior Living said it was aware of the labour board application and “will be filing our detailed response to the application in the coming days.”

“The Company has acted in compliance with health guidelines and applicable legislation, including those relating to the use of personal protective equipment, and intends to vigorously defend itself against the application,” its statement said.

“Sienna remains singularly focused on protecting the health and safety of team members and residents in our facilities, and on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, which is disproportionately affecting vulnerable seniors.”

SEIU represents some 60,000 front-line health workers, and wants the provincial labour board to order “immediate emergency orders” to protect its members and the residents in their care. The interventions sought by the union include orders directing employers to provide sufficient protective gear for workers, increase staffing, and provide transparent information on outbreaks.

“We are witnessing what happens when hollow words are met with failed action. That is why we are seeking an emergency hearing before the Board for immediate relief to our front-line members,” said the union’s president Sharleen Stewart in a statement.

“We will not stop until every worker is protected and every senior receives the care they deserve.”

Ontario employers have a legal obligation under occupational health and safety laws to take every precaution reasonable to protect workers from illness and injury, including from infectious disease. SEIU’s labour board submission says the three privately-operated care homes named in its application failed to meet that responsibility.

“The employer is, quite frankly, failing the members, the residents, their families, and the public at large by its unlawfully inadequate response to this crisis,” the union’s application about each of the care homes says.

At Eatonville, where as of late Tuesday 36 residents have died — the highest number in Ontario — the application says “staff on some floors are provided with PPE, and on other floors they are not.” Email correspondence from the union to management of the facility says workers should be given hazard pay, and raises repeated concerns about personal protective gear and poor information flow about staff and residents falling ill.

In the correspondence, management for the nursing home said the facility had shared the ministry’s directives with workers and thrown a pizza party in early April to thank staff.

“A pizza lunch is appreciated but members would prefer to be informed,” says an email from union representative Maria Da Silva.

“Frontline workers do not have N95s but supervisors are wearing them,” adds another email from Da Silva dated April 15. “Surgical masks are not being given or are being worn and not being replaced.”

Public health guidance from the province says all workers in long-term care settings providing direct care or visiting clients must wear face masks. SEIU has advocated for front-line workers to also have access to N95 respirators.

A written declaration from the union’s chief steward at the facility said workers were provided with almost no information about infections — and were critically understaffed.

“It is impossible to ‘flatten the curve’ at Eatonville when some staff and 50 per cent of the resident population is infected but we are not told who,” the declaration says.

Similar circumstances were described by workers at Anson Place and Altamont nursing homes.

A written declaration from Amanda Weaver said she is one of 35 staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19 at Anson, adding that the facility is now often operating with half the normal complement of PSWs and nurses.

“In my opinion, the most serious issue facing Anson Place at present is the deficiency in staff,” her declaration says.

Weaver said she participated in two phone calls with Ministry of Labour inspectors following staff complaints about health and safety issues and their employers “lack of transparency with respect to notifying staff about infections.”

Weaver said she was not aware of any safety orders being issued to Anson Place by the ministry.

“I am worried the situation has become worse since I went off work,” she said.

At Altamont, email communication between worker reps and management show mounting frustration over what the labour board application calls the “delayed and haphazard” application of masking directives.

“As of Friday, Sienna has implemented a surgical mask requirement at all locations,” says an April 6 email from the company’s head of labour relations Jeffrey Wood.

“The only caveat would be if the Community does not have the adequate stock.”

By that time, “Altamont had already been in a declared outbreak for 10 days,” the SEIU application says.

The tragedy came to a head in mid-April when a PSW at the facility became the first health-care worker in the province to die from the virus.

“The employer does not tell us about the staff members who tested positive for reasons of confidentiality. We have to guess based on who is absent. We cannot really know if we have come into contact with an infected colleague,” says the written declaration from Ellington.

“On April 16, 2020 I found out my co-worker and fellow PSW Christine Mandegarian had died from COVID-19 infection,” it says.

“She had worked the night shift for years, and when staff came in for the day shift to take over her assignments she would always go above and beyond to help us and residents,” the declaration added.

“She was a delight to work with.”

Source : Toronto Star More   

What's Your Reaction?

like
0
dislike
0
love
0
funny
0
angry
0
sad
0
wow
0

Next Article

Ford government fixes legal problem that made it impossible to fight tickets during the pandemic

The Progressive Conservative government has corrected a legal snafu that stripped Ontarians of the right to fight tickets during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Star has learned.Under fire for hastily implemented legislation that made it impossible to contest a provincial offence, Attorney General Doug Downey is “suspending any limitation periods in statutes and regulations” during the state of emergency.“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the state of emergency, court operations and public counters are limited during this time,” Jenessa Crognali, Downey’s press secretary, said Wednesday night.“Defendants who are charged with an offence during this period and wish to exercise their options on the back of a ticket will have an opportunity to do so once the state of emergency is lifted and statutory timelines resume,” she said.The move, which is retroactive to March 16, came as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) expressed concern about the government rushing to judgment when scofflaws face pandemic-related fines ranging from $750 to $100,000 plus a year in jail.“In the rush to pass and enforce emergency orders and bylaws, the province and municipalities have failed to ensure that procedures are in place for individuals charged under these orders,” the CCLA’s Cara Faith Zwibel wrote in a letter to Downey and other ministers earlier Wednesday.“Instead of establishing a COVID offence process first, after which enforcement took place, municipalities and provincial officials did the opposite,” wrote Zwibel, noting courthouses and municipal offices are closed.“With the administration of justice all but frozen by COVID, charging and ticketing people means they have no due process, no fundamental justice. This requires urgent correction, none of which will rectify those charges rendered unconstitutional by the province’s failure to get the horse before the cart.”Under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, which was activated by Premier Doug Ford on March 17, police and bylaw officers have sweeping powers to issue tickets for a wide variety of new offences.It is currently illegal to gather in groups of more than five people unless they all reside under the same roof. All indoor and outdoor recreational facilities are closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.Last week, Toronto criminal lawyer Dylan Finlay was slapped with a $750 ticket from a bylaw officer for stopping to do some chin-ups while jogging in Centennial Park. With a 20 per cent victim surcharge that fine balloons to $880.Others have been penalized for roller blading with their children in a deserted parking lot.Zwibel said the government had to act to ensure anyone charged under the Provincial Offences Act gets a fair hearing.“Currently… an individual is deemed not to wish to dispute the charge if at least 15 days have elapsed after they were served with the offence notice and they have not given notice of an intention to appear, requested a meeting with the prosecutor or pled guilty,” she wrote.“However, in many cases the means by which an individual must give notice of their intention to appear is by delivering the notice to a court office. Currently, almost all of these offices are closed, and your government continues to urge people to self-isolate at home.”Equally problematic was that the tickets “do not contain any information about how to contest a ticket in light of current circumstances.”“This is resulting in confusion and frustration for those who do wish to appear to contest their tickets and has prejudiced those who have paid their tickets fearing the consequences of delay.” The current state of emergency, in place since March 17, is slated to expire May 12, though the premier said that could be extended.Crognali said if anyone previously charged with a provincial offence “has questions about the adjournment of their case or would like to exercise their option to request a new court date, they should contact the municipal court office responsible for their matter.”“The defendant should not go to the courthouse.”Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

Ford government fixes legal problem that made it impossible to fight tickets during the pandemic

The Progressive Conservative government has corrected a legal snafu that stripped Ontarians of the right to fight tickets during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Star has learned.

Under fire for hastily implemented legislation that made it impossible to contest a provincial offence, Attorney General Doug Downey is “suspending any limitation periods in statutes and regulations” during the state of emergency.

“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the state of emergency, court operations and public counters are limited during this time,” Jenessa Crognali, Downey’s press secretary, said Wednesday night.

“Defendants who are charged with an offence during this period and wish to exercise their options on the back of a ticket will have an opportunity to do so once the state of emergency is lifted and statutory timelines resume,” she said.

The move, which is retroactive to March 16, came as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) expressed concern about the government rushing to judgment when scofflaws face pandemic-related fines ranging from $750 to $100,000 plus a year in jail.

“In the rush to pass and enforce emergency orders and bylaws, the province and municipalities have failed to ensure that procedures are in place for individuals charged under these orders,” the CCLA’s Cara Faith Zwibel wrote in a letter to Downey and other ministers earlier Wednesday.

“Instead of establishing a COVID offence process first, after which enforcement took place, municipalities and provincial officials did the opposite,” wrote Zwibel, noting courthouses and municipal offices are closed.

“With the administration of justice all but frozen by COVID, charging and ticketing people means they have no due process, no fundamental justice. This requires urgent correction, none of which will rectify those charges rendered unconstitutional by the province’s failure to get the horse before the cart.”

Under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, which was activated by Premier Doug Ford on March 17, police and bylaw officers have sweeping powers to issue tickets for a wide variety of new offences.

It is currently illegal to gather in groups of more than five people unless they all reside under the same roof. All indoor and outdoor recreational facilities are closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Last week, Toronto criminal lawyer Dylan Finlay was slapped with a $750 ticket from a bylaw officer for stopping to do some chin-ups while jogging in Centennial Park. With a 20 per cent victim surcharge that fine balloons to $880.

Others have been penalized for roller blading with their children in a deserted parking lot.

Zwibel said the government had to act to ensure anyone charged under the Provincial Offences Act gets a fair hearing.

“Currently… an individual is deemed not to wish to dispute the charge if at least 15 days have elapsed after they were served with the offence notice and they have not given notice of an intention to appear, requested a meeting with the prosecutor or pled guilty,” she wrote.

“However, in many cases the means by which an individual must give notice of their intention to appear is by delivering the notice to a court office. Currently, almost all of these offices are closed, and your government continues to urge people to self-isolate at home.”

Equally problematic was that the tickets “do not contain any information about how to contest a ticket in light of current circumstances.”

“This is resulting in confusion and frustration for those who do wish to appear to contest their tickets and has prejudiced those who have paid their tickets fearing the consequences of delay.”

The current state of emergency, in place since March 17, is slated to expire May 12, though the premier said that could be extended.

Crognali said if anyone previously charged with a provincial offence “has questions about the adjournment of their case or would like to exercise their option to request a new court date, they should contact the municipal court office responsible for their matter.”

“The defendant should not go to the courthouse.”

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

Source : Toronto Star More   

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.