Retirement home operator launches probe after handles removed from residents' doors

·2 min read

A retirement home operator says it's launched an investigation after a senior staff member at a southern Ontario facility allegedly removed the handles from some residents' doors.

A statement from Verve Senior Living says the removals took place at White Cliffe Terrace home in Courtice, Ont., noting they were removed from "a small number" of suites belonging to assisted living residents.

The statement did not specify why the handles were removed, but several media reports allege the residents involved had tested positive for COVID-19. The Canadian Press could not immediately independently verify the allegation.

David Bird, president of Verve parent company Diversicare Canada, says the home's general manager was immediately placed on leave once the missing handles came to light.

He says all handles have since been replaced and an investigation is underway to determine how long residents may have been confined to their rooms.

Bird says he was "deeply disturbed" upon hearing of the missing handles, calling the decision a violation of the company's practices and protocols.

"We are thankful no residents were harmed due to these actions and I am thankful that this serious incident was brought to our attention," Bird said in the statement. "...There is absolutely no excuse to remove door handles -- ever. We never lock in or prevent the free movement of our residents."

Bird said the home has implemented measures, such as signs, alarms and increased staffing levels, to assist residents who may "not fully understand the measures we have in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus."

A senior Diversicare staff member is now reviewing all operations at the home, Bird said, adding the company is also connecting with residents and family members to offer explanations, reassurances and apologies for what happened.

"Residents and family members trust us to provide a very high standard of service to our residents and we let them down," he said. "We will do everything we can to earn back their trust."

Verve maintains 32 retirement communities across four provinces.

White Cliffe Terrace is not currently listed on Durham Public Health's database of facilities experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak.

Durham Regional Police did not immediately respond to request for comment on whether they are investigating the alleged incident.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 13, 2021.

The Canadian Press