Police investigating allegations of abuse at long-term care home in Mississauga

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Peel Regional Police have launched an investigation into allegations of abuse at Camilla Care Community, a long-term care home in Mississauga that was recently taken over by the province of Ontario

Sienna Senior Living Inc., which manages Camilla Care and a number of other long-term care homes, recently announced that a whistleblower informed the company of "very serious and disturbing allegations of actions" within the Mississauga facility.

While Candian Armed Forces members were never dispatched to Camilla Care (meaning the facility is not included in the military's alarming report), the home came under the control of the province (it's now being operated by Trillium Health Partners at the Ontario government's behest) due to its extensive COVID-19 outbreak. According to Peel Public Health, 183 residents have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and 66 residents have died. Forty-four staff members have also tested positive over the course of the pandemic. 

Peel Public Health's website indicates that 112 residents recovered from the virus. 

The facility's outbreak was declared over on June 7. 

Sienna announced that it was taking steps to investigate the whistleblower's allegations days after a protest near the facility. The live-streamed protest, which was posted to Facebook, generated a number of comments and one comment, in particular, alleged that some employees were observed neglecting and even abusing residents.

The allegations in the anonymous comment have since been documented in a Globe and Mail article. 

According to the comment, purportedly penned by a health care worker employed by Trillium Health Partners, some Camilla Care employees were allegedly seen hitting, insulting and force-feeding residents. 

"I understand that this is a difficult time for health care facilities but the things that have been witnessed are inexcusable," the comment reads.

"Through my time at Camilla Care, I have worked when we are fully staffed and when we are extremely understaffed, and it goes to show that obviously the quantity of staff matter, but the quantity doesn’t matter if there's no quality. When I first witnessed odd work ethics, I pushed it aside and told myself it was caregiver fatigue, it did not take long for me to realize that majority of behaviours entailed elder abuse." 

The commenter claimed they saw forced feeding, patients being fed while lying down or sleeping, the feeding of a deceased patient, and residents being smacked and told to “shut up." The commenter also claimed to have witnessed a worker plugging a resident's nose to agitate him or her. 

"Residents are being left soiled because there's only '10 minutes left till home time', 'because the next shift can do it', 'because that resident fights', 'because they just changed them an hour ago.' Residents that require more communication, empathy and reassurance are yelled at, ignored and neglected because they simply 'do not have time.' Residents that are 'combative' or heavier in size are changed less often, whether if they are soiled," the commenter alleged.

The commenter said that the work had "turned robotic," adding that some residents had unprotected ulcers and bedsores that required medication. 

"Our residents deserve better, they deserve better care, they deserve better caregivers. I understand the unique circumstances and I am not aware of all the protocols but I strongly believe that Camilla Care needs better employees, more employees and better employees. I truly believe that certain staff are under-qualified and should not be trusted with a vulnerable life," the post reads.

"I want to acknowledge my Camilla co-workers that spend their time caring for these residents, those who take time and talk to them, those who realize someone needs extra care or 1:1 time. The valuable staff at Camilla are outnumbered by the poor ones. They deserve better and I know there has to be something we can do. I am speaking for the loved ones and family members that don’t know what has been happening at Camilla Care."

Last week, Sienna announced that it has dedicated resources to investigate the situation within Camilla Care and will "immediately take action should the allegations prove true."

"Our people - residents, families and staff - are our first priority and we are working to get to the bottom of this," the company said in a statement. 

The company said that all employees named in the complaints have been put on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigations into the whistleblower's allegations.

Sienna also said it reported the allegations to the Ministry of Long-Term Care and to Peel Regional Police.

Peel police have confirmed that they're investigating. 

"We voluntarily entered into an agreement with our hospital partner, Trillium Health Partners, to have them temporarily assume management of the residence and have committed to working cooperatively with them," the company said. 

"We worked with Trillium Health Partners to retain an external third-party investigator to review these allegations. This investigation is underway." 

Sienna also announced that it has hired Paul Boniferro, former Deputy Attorney General of Ontario, to conduct an immediate, company-wide review into the "policies, practices and culture at Sienna." 

Another one of Sienna' facilities, the Altamont Care Community in Scarborough, was mentioned in the CAF report and subsequently taken over by the province. 

"This review will help us identify how best to ensure that our expectations of a respectful, safe and inclusive environment are met at every residence, at all hours of the day," the company's statement reads.

Sienna said it plans to hire more health experts, re-educate its frontline workers, implement a zero-tolerance policy and sensitivity training, increase communications with residents and their families, and accelerate its staffing, recruiting and retention efforts. 

"Sienna has established a special committee that is overseeing all the initiatives listed above. We are committed to delivering full and transparent reporting of our progress, including in our communications with our residents and their loved ones and via regular postings on our website."

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