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Companies managing troubled Ontario long-term care homes run dozens more, make millions in profits

OTTAWA – The companies managing long term care homes where the military found rotting food, cockroaches, patients in soiled beds and conditions that allowed COVID-19 to spread, also run dozens of other facilities in the province and have made millions of dollars a year operating them.

On Tuesday, a report military members wrote while helping in the care homes was released publicly, detailing what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called “deeply disturbing” conditions at the five Ontario homes.

The companies’ own websites show in addition to the troubled facilities, they operate 80 of Ontario’s approximately 630 long-term care homes

The Altamont Care Community in the east end of Toronto where 52 people have died is run by Sienna Senior Living. Military members there reported residents had been bed-bound for weeks. They found there were inadequate supplies, not enough staff and arguments between the staff that had remained there.

“A significant number of residents have pressure ulcers … as a result of prolonged bed rest,” reads the military’s report.

Sienna owns 37 long term care facilities in Ontario and another eight in British Columbia.

According to the company’s financial reports, they posted a $7.5 million profit in 2019, a $9.8 million profit in 2018 and $21.8 million profit in 2017. The company’s shares lost nearly half their value since February when the COVID-19 crisis began closing at $10.56 a share on Wednesday.

In a statement, the company said it was stepping up its efforts.

“With the support of the Canadian Forces, Altamont has continuously evaluated and implemented additional measures, processes, and protocols,” they said in a written statement.

The company said staffing is a major issue for the entire sector, strained even further by COVID-19.

“We are committed to working with the government, and our health system partners, to solve this urgent issue.”

In a note to investors earlier this month, the company’s management said staffing could affect profitability going forward.

“Any shortage of qualified personnel and general inflationary pressures may require the company to enhance its pay and benefits package to compete effectively,” they wrote. “An increase in labour-related costs or a failure to attract, train and retain qualified and skilled personnel may have a material adverse impact on the business, operating results and financial condition of the company.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced Wednesday the province would be stepping up inspections at long term care homes across the province, beginning with inspections of the five facilities the military identified.

“We are going to do surprise inspections right across the province, so my message to all long term care homes is to get your act together.”

© Peter J. Thompson/National PostHawthorne Place Care Centre in North York, May 27, 2020.

He also said the province would be taking over control of five long term care homes in the province, including four of the ones the military has flagged. The other home which was not on the military’s list is also owned by Sienna, Camilla Care Community in Mississauga, Ont.

Ford did not commit to taking actions specifically against the companies who ran the homes the military flagged, but said the inspections would expose companies not living up to expectations.

“We are going to do rigorous inspections and we are going to find out very quickly who are good operators and who are bad actors,” he said. “We are fully prepared to take over more homes if necessary. We are fully prepared to pull licenses.”

Southbridge, a limited partnership, which operates the Orchard Villa where 77 residents have died, also operates the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont, where 28 residents succumbed to COVID-19 early in the crisis.

In total, the company runs 27 long term care homes in Ontario and on its website boasts of being the sixth largest operator in the province with ambitions to grow.

At Orchard Villa, the military found cockroaches and rotting food. They documented staff having inadequate personal protective equipment and training. They found workers attempting to feed patients without lifting them and said they believed in one case that may have led to an apparent choking death.

Southbridge did not respond to emailed questions from the National Post.

Eatonville Care Home and Hawthorne Place Care Centre, both in the Toronto area, are run by the same company, Rykka Care Centres, an operating partner of Responsive Management Inc. and have had the military helping for weeks.

Responsive Management operates another 12 long term care homes in the province and several retirement communities according to its website. The company is privately held and there are no public reports on its financials. It did not respond to emailed questions from the National Post .

At Eatonville, the military found positive COVID-19 patients roomed together with non-infected patients, and inadequate personal protective equipment.

The military reported regular checks of patient’s vital signs weren’t being done and members of the forces were even asked not to do that by staff, because it would wake up the patients.

© Carlos Osorio/ReutersTwo residents and an employee are outside of Orchard Villa Retirement Residence where several residents have died of COVID-19, in Pickering, Ont., on May 26, 2020.

At Hawthorne, the military reported management cut back on staff when Canadian Forces members arrived. Since the crisis began, the military has had 15 members test positive with COVID-19.

The last home where the military was present was Grace Manor in Brampton, Ont. That facility was run by Holland Christian Homes and had the fewest problems according to the military’s report. Canadian Forces members left that facility earlier this week, after the situation stabilized.

Marissa Lennox, chief policy officer, at the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, said the military’s report was sadly not a shock to advocates. She said the system has multiple failings and need a complete overhaul.

“It fails seniors from home operators running these homes looking at their bottom dollar and making that a priority over the actual basic care needs of residents, all the way up to the ministry not performing inspections.”

Trudeau said he would be discussing long term care with the Ontario premier during a Thursday evening teleconference, but did not make any specific funding commitments. He said the military would remain in place at homes in Ontario and Quebec until June 12.


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