GP Photo: River Glen Haven Nursing Home

By: Mike Anderson

Southlake Regional Health Centre will temporarily manage River Glen Haven Nursing Home in Sutton for 90 days, following a mandatory management order issued by the Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Care on May 25.

According to the ministry, the order was issued because River Glen Haven is unable to contain the spread of COVID-19, despite receiving the hospital’s support for weeks.

“When we look at homes that are struggling to contain the spread of COVID-19, despite the measures we’ve taken…and they’re still having troubles, then our obligation as a government is to take another measure to make sure that the safety of those residents is being safeguarded,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care during the Premier’s daily update on May 25.

“Our government is doing everything possible to keep Ontarians safe, especially our most vulnerable. This order will allow for alternative management to restore River Glen Haven to normal operations and keep residents safe,” added Caroline Mulroney, MPP York-Simcoe, who’s constituency office has been actively supporting the home during the outbreak.

The take over follows the introduction of an emergency order on May 12, which allows the province to replace a long-term care home’s management team if the home is struggling to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak.

According to the York Region Public Health, 74 residents of RGH have tested positive for the virus – more than half of the 119-bed facility, and 19 residents have died.

Public health also reports 30 staff members have tested positive since the outbreak was first reported on April 27.

York Region’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Karim Kurji admitted last week that the outbreak at RGH was proving difficult to resolve.

“This is still an ongoing battle with respect to River Glen in particular. I don’t think we can say that we’ve got that outbreak under control yet,” he said, during a virtual town hall meeting held on May 21, hosted by Mayor Margaret Quirk.

“We have managed to close roughly three-fifths of the outbreaks that we have had in York Region. Unfortunately, some outbreaks have been very resistant to being managed, and those include River Glen.”

Although the provincial take over is welcome news to family members, some believe it should have been done weeks ago.

“It’s too late as far as I’m concerned. Just ask the families of the 19 people that have past from this,” said Maureen McDermott, who’s 92-year-old mother tested positive, but is now recovering from the virus.

“It should have happened when we were screaming from the rooftops about the non-communication, about people who tested negative being mixed in with positive cases. We knew it wasn’t being managed well. They were way over their heads, and they should have said this is too big for us. Let’s get the help that’s out there.”

Lately, there have also been concerns that the level of care for residents has declined, as staff are preoccupied with the outbreak.

Tanya Coons, a registered practical nurse (RPN), recently moved her 83-year-old mother to Southlake because she was not receiving adequate treatment for a urinary tract infection (UTI), a common condition affecting the elderly.

“With the home being so understaffed and so focused on COVID-19, they don’t have the right resources to be able to perform their proper tasks,” she said.

“This home right now, due to the high rate of infections that have impacted staff and the residents, obviously cannot provide the same level of care. The level of care is very basic.”

Family members also point to a lack of communication from the home, in particular, during the first weeks of the outbreak.

They received the first email update from RGH administration on May 15, several weeks after the outbreak was first reported.

They’ve also been highly critical of the home’s communications concerning their loved ones, which they said lacked empathy, with bad news delivered bluntly.

In one case, an RGH administrator left a voicemail for a family member, asking her to make funeral arrangements for her father, who was in decline after testing positive.

According to Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO), leaving a voicemail containing private information regarding the health status of a resident is a breach of the code of ethics and standards of practice for nursing.

“It’s outrageous. Regardless of human resources or stress in a nursing home, no one has a right to leave a voice mail message about a tremendously sensitive nature regarding a person in the last hours or days of their life,” she said.

“You call the family, and you say, please call me back urgently. We need to speak to you. Honestly, I’ve never heard of something like this.”

There have also been reports that RGH administrators were not following recommendations made by Gale Seddon, a health care executive and RN from Southlake, who’s been leading a team inside the home for the past two weeks.

In one instance, Jordon Kannapuzha, COO for ATK Care Ltd, the nursing home’s owner, reportedly told staff that they could reuse N-95 masks for extended periods, contradicting directions given by Ms. Seddon, according to a source.

The Post asked Mr. Kannapuzha to respond to these claims; however, he has declined to comment as of posting.

With the take over, Southlake is assuring family members that things will change for the better at the embattled nursing home.

“Our top priorities are to manage the outbreak effectively and to ensure that residents receive high-quality care,” reads a statement issued to the media on May 25.

“Our other objectives include open and frequent communication with the family members of residents, achieving appropriate staffing levels, and supporting River Glen Haven staff during this difficult time.”

Southlake promises to provide daily updates to family members and will also provide regular public updates on its website.

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