‘It doesn’t make any sense’: Concerns grow over retirement facility excluded from COVID-19 vaccines

·4 min read

Concerns are growing around Hamilton seniors in a retirement facility who have not yet received COVID vaccines, despite the city vaccinating seniors in the community.

Residents at The Court at Rushdale, a retirement and assisted living facility on Upper Sherman Avenue, are still waiting for COVID-19 vaccines after The Spectator reported last week that the home was not included in the initial rollout for long-term-care and retirement homes. The home’s provider says it’s because the home isn’t licensed.

Sue Moulton, whose 87-year-old mother lives at The Court at Rushdale, says licensing shouldn’t make a difference as long as the home’s residents are at risk.

“That’s just stupid,” said the Hamilton teacher.

Atria Retirement Canada, which operates the Hamilton home and other facilities across Canada, said last week that The Court at Rushdale is “an unlicensed, independent living community” which doesn’t yet fall in public health’s vaccine rollout.

Similar concerns were raised about an Atria facility in Whitby. It’s not clear how many other facilities in Hamilton are in the same boat.

“We are advocating for our residents to receive the vaccine as soon as possible,” said a statement attributed to Atria president Kristy Grange, adding the provider is prepared to work with public health “on a quick and efficient way” to vaccinate residents and staff.

While Grange praised the province for “prioritizing seniors” in the “massive effort” to deliver vaccines, she said, “at this time, it is not clear to our residents or staff when they will receive their vaccinations.”

Moulton decided to phone in to book her mom’s appointment, but worries about other residents who don’t have advocates.

On Monday, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said the province defines congregate settings. Public Health Ontario says “congregate living settings” are places where individuals — all or most of whom are not related — “live or stay overnight and use shared spaces” such as sleeping areas, bathrooms and kitchens.

“It’s essentially a place where there is shared dining ... (or) shared time that is spent together,” said the medical officer of health. She noted that seniors’ apartments where residents choose to spend time together, like in a lounge, don’t count.

Richardson said she’s “mindful” of other sites which are considered congregate care, such as supportive housing for people with disabilities, but didn’t say when those settings would receive vaccines.

For places not considered “official” congregate settings, Richardson said it’s more about helping residents “access the vaccine.” She advised residents to book online once the provincial portal opens on March 15, or use the city’s hotline, which reopens the same day.

But Atria says The Court at Rushdale does have shared dining in normal circumstances, which is now limited during COVID. Moulton added that her mother’s room doesn’t have a stove.

After booking her mom’s appointment, Moulton said other residents asked how they could do the same, since few of them use the internet. Moulton offered to give them the city’s number, but learned Tuesday night that the hotline had closed.

“Now these (residents) are going to be so confused, they’re going to try to call and it’s shut down,” she said.

Carolyn Thornton was also surprised when she learned The Court at Rushdale, where her parents in their 90s live, wasn’t expected to have a mobile clinic. “It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever,” she said. “These people are living together, they’re vulnerable ... they’re all elderly.”

Thornton also booked their appointments by phone, and she and her sister accompanied their parents, who both use walkers.

“There was no way for me to do it on my own,” Thornton said.

“My biggest concern is for all these residents who are not in the mix of receiving the vaccine,” she said. “It’s left up to family members because a lot of these people can’t get out on their own.”

Joan Annibale from Stoney Creek said her father, an 89-year-old Rushdale resident, received a call from St. Joe’s on March 6 because he’d received care in the last six months.

“He said he was in a retirement home, and they told him he’d probably be done at the home,” said Annibale. But after she learned the home wasn’t part of the initial rollout, she realized her dad wasn’t about to get one. He still doesn’t have an appointment.

“It is ridiculous that they should ... have to go out,” she said. “I would like The Court at Rushdale to have mobile vaccinations.”

Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator