Disturbing report on Ontario nursing homes sparks calls for inquiry into situation at Northwood
Northwood's Halifax campus is seen on Gottingen Street on April 6, 2020. (Carl Pomeroy/CTV Atlantic)
HALIFAX -- There are growing calls for a public inquiry into the heartbreaking situation at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax.
To date, 52 residents at the facility have passed away from the COVID-19 virus.
This week a disturbing report from the Canadian military, which was called in to help out at some of the hardest-hit nursing homes in Ontario and Quebec, raised concerns about infection control, as well as neglect and abuse allegations, at five nursing homes in Ontario.
"CARP was horrified by the report but unfortunately not surprised,” said Bill VanGorder, with CARP, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.
"Fortunately, we don't believe that there are incidents this dramatic in Atlantic Canada at the moment but there could be if changes aren't made."
The Ontario government is launching an investigation into the allegations raised by the military.
Advocates like VanGorder say they have long been calling for changes to long-term care, including staffing ratios and more regular inspections.
"We only have seven or eight inspectors in Nova Scotia and they aren't able to get to all the places when they should, when no one knows they're coming so they can really check on what's happening,” said VanGorder.
Opposition MLAs are once again calling for government to call an inquiry into the situation at Northwood.
"I think the inquiry is a necessary thing. People have lots of questions. Finally, we're having a discussion about our seniors about the living conditions. That's a discussion that's overdue,” said Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston.
"In the case of Northwood, we know there's some similarities, we know that people who had tested positive were still housed with people that had tested negative. We know that we had staff shortages there, particularly during the COVID outbreak."
“The news out of Ontario about the state of long-term care facilities in that province is truly unsettling,” said Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill.
“We have known for a long time that here in Nova Scotia, we too have unsettling realities in our nursing homes. The issue of bedsores was exposed and brought about the Expert Panel in Long-term Care. More recently, the impact of shared rooms and shared bathrooms on infection control during the pandemic has moved to the forefront. A public inquiry will ensure that the risks and issues facing residents and staff can be openly investigated and transparently addressed.”
The president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union is also looking for answers.
"We really need to look at the issues that really helped spread COVID-19 and it's all about preventing it in the future. What has happened, happened and we're not looking for any charges, we're not looking to point fingers, what we're looking to do is make it better for our seniors moving forward,” said Jason MacLean.
With the economy starting to reopen, MacLean wants an inquiry now before a second wave of the COVID-19 virus hits.
"We're not in panic mode anymore. What we are in is reflection mode and making it better and part of that reflection is to do an inquiry and report back so we can put things in place so it doesn't happen again,” he said.
Despite the growing calls for an inquiry, Premier Stephen McNeil has not called for one.
"Asymptomatic people were bringing it in unknowingly when the virus came into the facility. It began to spread through the facility. We'll have a review of that with all of our partners, continue to look at lessons learned,” he said.