Area families of residents in long-term-care are raising concerns about transparency as the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the sector continue to rise across the province.
At a virtual town hall held by a group called Voices of LTC Thursday, family members from Hamilton and St. Catharines shared their stories and called for change.
Hamilton resident Lainie Tessier spoke about her mother, a former resident of Shalom Village in Westdale, who became sick with COVID-19 and died in December. She previously told The Spectator the home didn’t wear PPE right away, despite warnings about her mother’s symptoms.
Shalom Village is the city’s largest current outbreak. The outbreak at Grace Villa on east Mountain was declared over as of Jan. 19. Shalom has had 214 cases since Dec. 9 in its long-term-care and assisted-living units combined. Of those, 112 are resident cases and 97 are staff cases. The home reported Jan. 20 that there are nine active resident and 11 active staff cases.
Twenty people have died with COVID-19 at Shalom, while Grace Villa had 44 deaths in less than two months. That doesn’t include people who died without COVID-19. Experts have previously warned about deaths from other outbreak-related conditions, such as not being attended to due to staffing shortages.
Neither Grace Villa or Shalom Village have released those numbers, citing privacy.
Tessier says it shows an absence of transparency.
“They don’t want it to look as catastrophic as it is,” she said in the town hall.
Public health says a total of 156 people have died with COVID-19 in long-term-care and retirement home outbreaks in Hamilton so far. Asked for the total number including those who died without COVID-19, spokesperson Jacqueline Durlov said public health does not have that information.
“Each home holds this information and regulations about releasing it,” she said in an email.
No new deaths were reported in Hamilton seniors’ homes Thursday. However, half of the four new outbreaks in the city were in seniors’ homes. Ridgeview Long Term Care Home in Stoney Creek and Amica Dundas are both in outbreak with one case each.
Several ongoing outbreaks also saw new cases. Maxwell’s Retirement Home reported 13 new cases, for a total of 15. Macassa Lodge has 34 cases, including three new ones. That includes 20 resident and 14 staff cases.
There was also a new case at Blackadar Continuing Care Centre, which now has 11 cases. The Meadows Long-Term Care Home reported a new death Jan. 20, its sixth so far.
On Thursday, public health said all 27 long-term-care homes in the city have received COVID-19 vaccines. In addition, the mobile clinic was set to complete its final round to 12 retirement homes — up from the previous 10 — by the end of Jan. 21.
Durlov said the mobile clinic administered about 4,594 doses of the vaccine by the end of Jan. 20, including mostly seniors’ home residents, along with “a handful” of staff and “possibly” essential caregivers.
The city’s goal was to vaccinate 4,900 residents in seniors’ homes with the mobile clinic this week.
Seniors’ mental health has also been a topic of concern during the pandemic, including in long-term-care homes.
On Thursday, the province announced support for seniors’ mental health, including 46 mental health beds for 16 hospitals across the province. Four of the beds will go to Niagara Health System and two to Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington. No Hamilton hospitals were included.
Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator