Union head urges province to send military, Red Cross to Windsor LTC home in major outbreak

·3 min read

The union head representing workers at a Windsor long-term care home in a major COVID-19 outbreak home says the home is operating with "below crisis" staffing levels.

Unifor's national president Jerry Dias put out a statement that demands immediate action be taken at The Village at St. Clair, noting that staff are stretched thin. He released a letter Tuesday urging the Ontario government to send in the military or Red Cross to assist.

As of Tuesday, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported 147 cases in the home — 97 residents and 50 staff members are ill with the disease. According to provincial data, eight residents have died.

This is the largest COVID-19 outbreak Windsor-Essex has seen in a long-term care home.

"This is a matter of life or death," Dias said in a statement. "The current owners of The Village at St. Clair are no longer capable of providing the necessary care. The Government of Ontario must step in."

In a statement to CBC News, the Ministry of Long-Term Care said that it conducted an on-site inspection of the home on Tuesday, but did not offer any information on what it found. It continued to say that decisions around increased management support are assessed on a case-by-case basis.

It did not say it is providing additional staff to the home and noted that the home said its staffing is "stable."

The union's letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford argues a different story.

Dias says the union has received "desperate pleas from our members on the front line who are quite literally in tears over their inability to meet the needs of their residents."

It continues to say that there are not enough staff available to provide the necessary care to residents, with a single PSW assigned to care for 30 residents in some cases.

"When you add to the fact that many of these residents are sick with COVID-19, you can only imagine the horrors that are taking place," the letter states.

CBC News has reached out to The Village at St. Clair for comment.

In a news release Tuesday, Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH), which is partnered with the home to provide infection control support, said it has sent in a team of eight staff members.

Jonathan Pinto/CBC
Jonathan Pinto/CBC

It continued to say that the hospital's Incident Management Response Team is working with the home's company, Schlegel Villages, to identify any further needs.

"Managing this disease is not something that can be done overnight and Health Human Resources are limited. We are committed to doing all we can to assist our partners," HDGH's president Janice Kaffer said in a news release.

The news release also included a statement from Schlegel Villages CEO James Schlegel, who said the support is appreciated.

"We have seen all too clearly these past nine months how difficult this virus can potentially be,"Schlegel said.

"Collaboration and cooperation among healthcare providers is critical in meeting the challenge. We're certainly grateful for the relationship we have with HDGH and the tangible support they are providing us."

Ministry in 'regular contact' with the home

The Ministry of Long Term Care said it is taking the concerns from residents, family and staff at The Village at St. Clair "very seriously" and that it has been in "regular contact" with the home as it addresses the outbreak.

In partnership with the local health unit, the local health integration network, HDGH the ministry said it is working with the home to improve its infection prevention and control measures, help with staffing and ensure proper PPE supplies.

More nurses and PSWs have been brought in and hospital staff are there as well, the ministry said.