Letter

OHC: Send Feedback on Orchard Villa

October 13, 2022

The following is from the Ontario Health Coalition.

Dear members and supporters,

You may remember Orchard Villa. More than 70 of its residents died of COVID. It is where Diane Colangelo’s mom entered at 105 lbs. and died at 68 lbs. It was where June Morrison’s dad died, and where Andrew Watt’s mom died so emaciated he described her as looking like a concentration camp victim. It is where the military was sent in and found residents using bare mattresses on the floor, the odour of rotting food, insect infestation and more.  It is owned by Southbridge, a for-profit chain with one of the very worst COVID death rates of all of them. Southbridge doesn’t actually run their long-term care homes. They are an investment vehicle from which to take profits. They contract Extendicare — another for-profit — to run them. 

Orchard Villa is where Cathy Parkes and the Families of Orchard Villa took a brave public stand demanding accountability for the loss of their fathers and mothers, wives and husbands. We have supported them every step of the way. Please help again as the case of Orchard Villa winds its way to a conclusion.

On July 15, 2021, families and advocates flooded a public consultation telephone conference opposing the new 30-year license and bed expansion proposed for Orchard Villa. We had asked you to come out and you did!  

But the Ministry turned the consultation into a sham, limiting participants from asking questions and preventing them from commenting on the corporation’s record operating the home, even cutting off participants who tried to ask about care levels. 

We made a formal complaint and sent an open letter to the Long-Term Care Minister calling for a renewed, fair process that does not exclude consideration of the evidence about the corporation’s fitness to run a long-term care home for 30-years and for them to consider the criteria, including the operational record of the corporation in running the long-term care home, as was required under the Long-Term Care Homes Act.

As a result, the Ministry had to redo the consultation for Orchard Villa. The new consultation is taking place now. This time they are only accepting written submissions, there will be no hearing. We are strongly encouraging everyone to please send in your feedback on the proposal to give Orchard Villa a new 30-year license and bed expansion. The deadline for feedback is October 19 so make sure to send in your feedback as soon as possible.

We will be taking this issue forward and they need to see that Ontarians care. Please don’t forget to send in a note with your feedback before October 19.

There are two ways to provide feedback for this consultation:

  1. Share your feedback by email to LTCHomes.Licensing@ontario.ca
  2. Share your feedback by mail to:

Director under the Fixing Long-Term Care Act, 2021
Ministry of Long-Term Care
Capital Planning Branch
438 University Avenue, 8th Floor
Toronto, Ontario M5G 2K8

Please make sure you include the name of the long-term care home (Orchard Villa) and quote Project #23-034 on all submissions.

Here is a bit more information and background for you:

The residents & families of Orchard Villa have suffered enough. For-profit chain Southbridge owns this long-term care home where 71 residents died of COVID-19 and others died of dehydration, starvation and horrific neglect. There has been NO accountability for the corporate owners, whose LTC homes have the worst death rate in Ontario. Southbridge doesn’t actually operate its LTC facilities. It owns the licenses and takes profit from it, but it contracts out the operations of the homes to another for-profit corporation to run. Two sets of for-profits make profits out of public funding and residents’ fees. While the for-profits in general have far worse pandemic death rates, Southbridge has the worst, according to an analysis by the Toronto Star.

In the spring of 2020, 206 residents out of 233 contracted COVID-19 along with more than 100 staff. At least seventy-one residents died as a result of the virus. Others died of malnutrition and dehydration. The Canadian Forces described the condition in which they found residents left in soiled sanitary pads and the home infested with cockroaches and flies. They also found rotten food, understaffing, poor training, inadequate medical supplies, locked supply cabinets, staff who had been brought in by that point from agencies and the hospital not oriented and unable to access supplies they needed. Residents were put on mattresses on the floor to prevent them from standing up and walking or had their walkers taken away, or left on bare mattresses without linens. Food and important belongings were left out of residents’ reach. Hydration schedules were not followed, medication errors were documented and infection control protocols were not upheld.

Families testified before the COVID-19 Long-Term Care Commission describing dire understaffing and poor management conditions that predated the pandemic by years, resulting in extreme weight loss, bed sores, infections and other harm. The families did not blame individual staff. They describe dangerously chronic low levels of staffing. During the pandemic families who were shut out of the home described phoning repeatedly but there was not enough staff to answer. One family, unable to get through by phone, watched through the window as their mother with COVID-19 vomited in her room with no staff around. They had to bang on the window until they could get staff to come and give their mother water. She died days later.

Eventually — terribly belatedly — the local hospital took over the management of the home from Extendicare, the company that Southbridge had contracted to run the facility. Residents who had survived until then were finally transported out to hospital where they were found to be severely dehydrated, anorexic from malnutrition, and some in kidney failure. A hospital spokesperson reported that the home had dropped to 20% of a full staffing complement.

Orchard Villa’s for-profit long-term care operator was never fined. It never lost its license. There has been no accountability for the unspeakable suffering of the residents and their families.

Quite the opposite. In the fall of 2020, the Ford government passed a law shielding Orchard Villa and the other for-profit long-term care home operators that were facing lawsuits for negligence, wiping out the claims of families who had lost their loved ones. The families had to start again and file suits for gross negligence which has a higher burden of proof.

Suffering and death on the scale that we saw at Orchard Villa requires an unmitigated “never again”. What happened at Orchard Villa should never have been allowed to happen. But since it did, it should have resulted in a reckoning – real change and real accountability. Instead, the owners are being rewarded.

The lives of the elderly cannot be treated as disposable. Profit and greed cannot be allowed to trump fundamental human rights and the duty to care and compassion.

We can and must stop these plans. If we do not, what kind of a society are we?

For all our members and supporters, our heartfelt thank you for your care and your compassion for the residents, their families and the workers. Let’s all do everything we can do to stop the Ford government from saddling Ontarians with another generation of for-profit long-term care.

We have this opportunity now to stop them. I will be taking the time to make a written submission. I cannot conscience doing any less. Please do join me. 

With warm regards,
Natalie Mehra
Executive Director

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