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'What’s he afraid of?' Calls for inquiry in deadly COVID-19 outbreak at Northwood grow
A paramedic walks around an ambulance at Northwood Manor in Halifax on Friday, May 1, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)
HALIFAX -- For weeks, Kate Kelly has been looking for answers, trying to figure out how Halifax’s Northwood long-term care facility has become the epicentre of a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.
But, so far, all she has is questions.
"Why doesn't he want an inquiry? What's he hiding? What's he afraid of? What is Premier McNeil afraid of?” asked Kelly, whose 70-year-old brother lives at Northwood.
"Why didn't Premier McNeil bring the military in when he had the opportunity? Northwood is right across the street from Stadacona. Literally, across the street. Stadacona has a hospital, they have personnel, why did he not do that?”
Kelly says those on the front lines at Northwood are doing the best they can. However, she believes the entire situation has been mismanaged.
"If 52 people had died in a hospital, other than in this time of COVID, if 52 kids died in a school, if 52 students died in a university, there would be an outcry, there would be an investigation and it would be the police doing the investigation,” she said.
Despite pressure from the public and from opposition leaders, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil has not called for an inquiry, but does say he will look into long-term care homes.
McNeil also says he is confident in the care seniors are getting.
"I think one of the things that Nova Scotians can feel confident in, is even with the large number of infected and those who passed away at Northwood, grieving families have continued to talk about the loving care that their loved one received at Northwood,” he said.
Not as confident, is Bill VanGorder.
He works with CARP, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, and is an advocate for senior citizens.
"I think we are suffering from more ageism these days and there is an attitude that says, 'well, seniors’ are going to die anyway.' This is terribly unfortunate, terribly wrong,” said VanGorder.
He believes there needs to be more inspector and unannounced inspections at nursing homes, to see the conditions that seniors are living in.
"I'm confident that things are not as bad here as we've heard from Quebec and Ontario, but we have no way of knowing and we continue to get reports from families and front-line workers that things are not as good as they should be,” said VanGorder.
According to Professor Emeritus Wayne MacKay, the Nova Scotia Public Inquires Act is broad, and health matters and long-term care facilities both fall under provincial jurisdiction.
He too, would like to see an inquiry into the situation at Northwood.
"Not just from the tragic fact that there's been 52 deaths but from the fact that throughout Canada, the issue of long-term care facilities and the treatment of the treatment of the elderly is a huge issue and an issue that obviously affects all provinces,” said MacKay.
MacKay says an inquiry would be money well spent, especially before a second wave of COVID-19 hits.
"It's particularly important that we change, so we're ready to meet these challenges in the future so that senior citizens don't have to die and pay the price because we weren't properly prepared,” added MacKay.
Northwood is currently the only licensed long-term care home in Nova Scotia with active cases of COVID-19.
There are currently 12 residents and four staff infected with the virus.