By: Mike Anderson
It’s been one week since Southlake officially took over management of the River Glen Haven Nursing Home in Sutton, York Region’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak, with 32 deaths reported since April 27.
And already concerns are being raised by family members that the hospital is not living up to its early commitments to provide frontline hospital staff, improved communications and greater transparency.
Although the rate of infection in the home appears to have slowed, some family members are upset that pledges made by Southlake President & CEO Arden Krystal during a virtual town hall held with family members on May 29 are not being kept.
During the meeting, Ms. Krystal promised to improve communications by providing family members with daily email updates and responding to queries within 24-hours through a dedicated email account.
Email updates were sent on May 29 & 30, but weren’t sent out the next two days.
And, some family members reported that their email queries went unanswered over last weekend.
Maureen McDermott, who administers a Facebook group for RGH family members, said Southlake needs to step up their game.
“It’s part of the mandate, and they’re not living up to it. And they’re also breaking the resident’s charter of rights for communication. I sent four emails over the weekend that weren’t answered,” said Ms. McDermott.
While her emails were eventually answered, and an apology issued by Southlake, it left a bad impression on Ms. McDermott.
“So when you do a town hall, and you make a commitment, follow through on stuff. And if you’re not following through on it, maybe try and reply to one of the many inquiries. And I’m not the only one sending inquiries,” she said.
Although family members have been able to discuss their loved one’s care with Southlake’s management team at RGH, in some cases, these phone calls have been limited to 30 minutes once a week.
This has raised concerns that family members won’t be able to effectively advocate for their loved ones.
“How do I help my mother when my hands are tied,” said one family member, who wishes to remain anonymous.
Southlake is denying there has been a lapse in communications. According to a hospital spokesperson, an email was sent to families on June 2 confirming daily email updates would be provided Monday to Friday, beginning June 5.
The spokesperson also said that while Southlake cannot comment on the specific situation of an individual resident or family member, it has responded to all families that have written, and spoken directly to families “continuously” since the takeover on May 29.
Another area of concern is over the pledge made by Ms. Krystal to address the chronic staffing shortage at RGH.
On May 29, Ms. Krystal, in an interview with The Post, said that after a risk assessment was completed, the hospital was planning to send volunteer frontline staff to plug staffing gaps at RGH.
“We’ve done the risk assessments, our joint occupational health and safety group have reviewed it. And our immediate action plan will be to mitigate those things. And then we can start sending some of our own voluntary frontline staff,” said Ms. Krystal.
Later in the day, at the virtual town hall, she reaffirmed that was no shortage of volunteers at Southlake who were interested in helping out at RGH.
“We want to work with River Glen to bring their staffing up to the appropriate level… we do have staff at Southlake right now that are chomping at the bit to come… either they grew up in Sutton, or they live in the area, and they really want to help,” she said.
However, according to a senior hospital spokesperson, that option is no longer being considered.
“At this time, given the existing complement of RGH staff and outside agency support, RNs and PSWs from Southlake are not necessary. A number of positions are posted, and as River Glen Haven (RGH) hires more permanent staff, there will be less outside agency staff required,” said Kathryn Perrier, manager of communications, in an email response to The Post on June 3.
Currently, the hospital is hoping to fill vacant positions at RGH by advertising on its website.
River Glen Haven has also placed a large billboard on High St, in front of the home, advertising staff vacancies.
Southlake also promised to improve transparency at RGH by providing information about the outbreak on their website.
“Southlake has committed to providing regular updates on our website, likely on a weekly basis, so the public can hear about the improvements being made at RGH,” said Ms. Perrier, in the same email, on June 3.
However, as of posting, an update has not been posted on the Southlake website.