Soldiers serving in long-term care homes in Ontario have reported “extremely troubling” cases of alleged elder abuse to provincial authorities, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today.
In his daily media briefing today, the PM said he was aware of the reports and was saddened, shocked, disappointed and angry by what he’d heard.
“It is deeply disturbing,” Trudeau said.
The allegations were first reported in an online story Tuesday morning by Global News.
The Ontario government confirmed in a tweet that it is aware of the abuse reports made by soldiers and will hold a briefing later today where it is expected to release details.
Trudeau did not detail the incidents reported by the military members, but said the allegations had been forwarded to Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
‘We found no rules’
Two military sources — who spoke to CBC News under the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the mission — told CBC’s Vassy Kapelos that military members deployed to the facilities found instances of severe neglect.
“We are going to ask the province to investigate the instances of neglect and do something about it,” said one source.
“We found no rules, a lack of staff training and medical equipment and instances of staff reusing syringes on seniors.”
“Members witnessed people dying and not being taken care of adequately and felt compelled to put it in writing,” said a second source.
Sources said military members deployed to long-term care homes saw cockroaches and residents left in dirty diapers or going unbathed for weeks.
The military produces daily situation reports on the deployment and the allegations first surfaced in those assessments shortly after the Ontario deployment was launched. They were forwarded to the federal Public Safety Department, which contacted the provincial government.
‘Anger, sadness, frustration’
A third source confirmed some troops reported poor sanitation conditions in some locations, while other noted violations of provincial health and medical standards, which they are obliged to report to both the military chain of command and their own health certification bodies.
The Department of National Defence refused comment, saying that the Ontario government is responsible for the institutions.
“On reading the deeply disturbing report, I had obviously a range of emotions of anger, of sadness, of frustration, of grief,” Trudeau said. “It is extremely troubling, and as I’ve said from the very beginning of this, we need to do a better job of supporting our seniors in long-term care right across the country, through this pandemic and beyond.”
Trudeau said the report underscores the need to improve standards of care for seniors in long-term care homes across the country, and said the federal government will support the provinces’ efforts to do that going forward. Long-term care falls under provincial jurisdiction.
“We need to do a better job of caring for the people who built this country,” Trudeau said. “The greatest generation saw us through World War Two. We need to be there to support them properly through this global crisis.”
Over 1,675 troops have been brought in to backstop five long-term care homes in Ontario and a further 25 in Quebec. Their duties include helping residents with day-to-day needs, cleaning the facilities and meal distribution.
It is unclear whether there have been similar abuse allegations levelled at long-term care facilities in Quebec.
Trudeau said there have been requests from Ontario and Quebec to extend the deployment of troops in long-term care homes.
In Ontario, soldiers have been deployed at the Orchard Villa in Pickering, Altamont Care Community in Scarborough, Eatonville in Etobicoke, Hawthorne Place in North York and Holland Christian Homes Grace Manor in Brampton.
No one in government or the military has indicated which facilities are the subject of the abuse complaints.
A class action lawsuit was filed on Monday against the Orchard Villa, alleging the spread of COVID-19 in the home was “a needless tragedy which has now caused 77 deaths and over 200 infections of residents.”