Ambulance waits at RGH to transport resident to Southlake

By: Mike Anderson

The deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the River Glen Haven Nursing Home in Sutton, which claimed the lives of 36 residents, is finally over.

“The outbreak at River Glen Haven, originally declared on April 27, was closed as of July 2 at 8:32 p.m.,” said Patrick Casey, a spokesperson for York Region Public Health, in an email to The Post.

According to Mr. Casey, there have been no new cases in residents or staff for 14 days, allowing public health officials to declare the outbreak resolved.

While River Glen Haven struggled to contain the virus for over a month, the turning point came when Southlake Regional Health Centre was ordered by the province to take over the embattled nursing home on May 29.

The hospital instituted a series of measures to contain the outbreak, including improving infection prevention and control (IPAC), stabilizing staffing levels and providing PPE training.

“This is both a great achievement and the end of a sad and challenging time for this nursing home, said Arden Krystal, Southlake president and CEO, in a statement posted on the hospital’s website on July 3.

“I want to extend my deepest sympathies to those families and friends who lost loved ones during the outbreak. I know today’s news will bring little solace to you, but I hope you can find some comfort in knowing that memories of your loved one’s inspired the team at River Glen Haven to make the changes necessary to prevent future outbreaks and keep residents safe.”

Ms. Krystal also thanked the River Glen Haven staff, who’s dedication and sacrifice helped end the outbreak.

“Thank you to the staff and physicians at the home. While Southlake is providing some additional expertise and leadership, it is your dedication that ultimately ended this outbreak, and your continued commitment to improving the care you provide will prevent future outbreaks. You have demonstrated what we can do when we pull together and harness the power of many.”

Thirty-seven staff members were infected during the outbreak. And, many were forced to live in local motel rooms, separated from their families to avoid infecting them.

Mayor Margaret Quirk, who recently penned a letter to the Premier requesting a thorough review of Ontario’s LTC homes, also acknowledged the efforts of RGH staff in an email to The Post.

“While it is good news that the outbreak has been declared over, we won’t forget what happened and the 36 lives that were tragically lost. This has been a very difficult time for the families of those who died and our entire community who has kept them in our thoughts. Thank you to the staff at River Glen Haven and Southlake, who worked through many obstacles fighting this pandemic and who remain vigilant in stopping another outbreak from occurring.”

Maureen McDermott, who administers a Facebook group for family members, has been eagerly awaiting news that the outbreak is over so she can celebrate her mother’s birthday on July 9 — Elsie, a resident who recovered from COVID, is turning 93.

“I’m totally elated with the job Southlake has done,” she said. “But, I think I will feel the relief more when I’ve actually got my mom with me.”

“They have done a phenomenal job of getting River Glen out of outbreak. And I’m so happy that the front line staff can go home to their families. It’s been a long haul.”

River Glen Haven will soon allow visits from family members. However, they will be confined to the outdoor garden in front of the home to allow for physical distancing and other safety measures.

According to Ms. McDermott, Southlake has listened to family members’ wishes and will allow extended visits with their loved ones, who have been in lock-down since mid-March.

With the outbreak contained, Ms. Krystal said the hospital will now turn to “stabilizing” the operations of the home so that it can be returned to the owner, ATK Care Inc, on August 24.

However, this doesn’t sit well with Ms. McDermott, who would like to see Southlake continue managing the home until a provincial commission reviews LTC homes, like River Glen Haven.

“The push is on to get an extension. Southlake should just take it over until there’s a full inquiry, a public, non-partisan, judicial inquiry that involves family members. I want an opportunity to speak up.”

ATK Care Inc. is currently facing several lawsuits from family members of residents who died during the outbreak. The plaintiffs claim that the company was negligent and failed in its fiduciary duty to protect their loved ones. However, those allegations have yet to be proven in court.

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