TORONTO — Eighteen residents at a Toronto-area long-term care home were hospitalized with COVID-19 over the weekend, the facility said as Ontario reported another 326 cases of the virus and 19 deaths on Sunday.

Provincial data shows 80 residents and 20 staff have tested positive for the coronavirus at Woodbridge Vista Care Community, and a dozen residents have died in the facility — a situation the executive vice-president of facility operator Sienna Senior Living said was untenable.  

“Long-term care can manage to a certain extent, but when you get many people sick with COVID-19 symptoms you want to do everything possible,” said Joanne Dykeman, adding that the home had consulted with families before making the decision.

“I really felt we needed the move to make sure those residents who were quite sick got into another care setting.”

But Dykeman said she stands by her staff.

“I don’t think there is a better manager,” she said. “I’ve got the right team members to do that work and I think we need to continue to manage a really tough pandemic that’s never happened in a 100 years.”

The health-care union representing front-line workers at the home disputed that.

SEIU Healthcare also said that staffing levels and the availability of personal protective equipment were a problem at the facility —something Dykeman refutes.

The union said workers also complained of infected and non-infected residents living in the same rooms, although Dykeman said there is only overlap when people are awaiting testing results and said infected residents are not knowingly left to share rooms with non-infected people.

But the union said it has been calling on the province to step in at the facility.

“It’s frustrating because we’ve called on the government to act early, months ago,” said Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare.

“This is exactly why we need an inquiry, so that we can find out why these things happened, why when people were calling early and identifying concerns that nothing was done about it until we heard these terrible reports.”

Later on Saturday, York Region Public Health said it had issued an order to the facility telling it to comply with regulations set by regional and provincial health bodies during the pandemic.

The region said it was the first time it had issued such an order to a care home and said it didn’t take the decision lightly.

Elsewhere in Ontario, a health unit in Norfolk County said 85 workers at a farm had tested positive for COVID-19 on the weekend and five of them were admitted to hospital.

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit said the virus spread through a migrant worker residence and the Mexican consulate had been notified about the outbreak.

The unit said a nearby health unit was also assisting in responding to the outbreak.

The outbreaks come as the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ontario reached 27,859. The number includes 2,266 deaths and 21,810 cases marked as resolved.

The province continued to test below its capacity on Saturday, having only completed 17,000 tests when it is able to complete 25,000 per day.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2020.

Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press

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