(The Canadian Press)

(The Canadian Press)

36 soldiers test positive for COVID-19 after working in Ontario, Quebec care homes

Nearly 1,700 military members are working in long-term care homes overwhelmed by COVID-19

A new report from the military helping battle COVID-19 in five long-term care facilities in Ontario has revealed extreme neglect and exposed the extent of the ugly conditions facing residents, prompting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to offer help for what he called an infuriating situation.

The report found people left in filth for weeks, others left on the floor where they had fallen, cockroach infestations, people choking while being improperly fed, patients with brutal pressure sores, and seniors pleading for help for hours to no avail.

“There are things in there that are extremely troubling,” Trudeau said of the report, as he offered federal help.

Premier Doug Ford raised the prospect of criminal charges as he grasped for words to describe what he had read.

“It’s appalling. It’s disgusting,” an emotional Ford said. “The dignity of these patients in long-term care, not being cleaned? These are standard operating procedures.”

At the request of Quebec and Ontario, the Canadian Armed Forces have been helping out at nursing homes, which overall have accounted for most of Canada’s 6,638 deaths from coronavirus disease. More than 80 per cent of fatalities in Quebec have been in such facilities.

Ford, who said he was concerned at least some other homes in the province and elsewhere in Canada were in similar crisis, made the military document public.

“You need to know exactly what I know,” Ford said.

The five Ontario facilities cited in the report are Orchard Villa in Pickering (69 deaths), Grace Manor in Brampton (11 deaths), and three Toronto homes: Altamont Care Community, with 52 deaths, Eatonville Care Centre, with 42, and Hawthorne Place, with 39. At least one faces a proposed class-action lawsuit.

Ford, who has asked the Canadian Forces to extend its homes mission for another 30 days, thanked the military for exposing the issues. He called it the worst report he had ever read, and promised action to fix what he called a broken system.

“It was gut-wrenching. I was up all night thinking of this,” Ford said. “There’ll be accountability, there’ll be justice.”

The premier said one death had been referred to the chief coroner, who would share findings with police for a possible criminal investigation. Inspectors would also be looking into “critical incidents.”

Quebec’s ombudswoman said she would investigate why so many seniors had died from COVID-19 in facilities for older seniors.

The COVID deployment has also exposed military members to the virus.

As of Tuesday, the Armed Forces reported that 39 members working in long-term care homes in Ontario and Quebec had become sick — a 30 per cent jump in less than a week. Of those, 24 infected were in Quebec and 15 in Ontario.

Some good news did emerge from Ontario, which reported its lowest number of new cases — 287 — in more than two weeks. That’s down sharply from the more than 400 a day reported over the previous five days. However, 21 more people died from the disease.

The ongoing battle to keep the novel coronavirus in check comes as a blanket of hot, humid air settled over much of south Central Canada, while anti-pandemic measures have closed many places where people might usually seek relief.

Heat waves can be dangerous for those with health conditions. In Quebec, for example, only about one-third of long-term care rooms have access to air conditioning. Elsewhere, with malls, swimming pools and most cooling centres closed, authorities have been trying to come up with ways to mitigate the concern.

The City of Toronto, for example, has opened six designated sites from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at otherwise idled community centres, a stark contrast to the hundreds of sites that would normally be available to cool off. The centres have a total combined capacity of about 580 people — or one person for every four square metres.

Environment Canada did say conditions would moderate in the next few days.

The comments from Trudeau and Ford came after a new poll found a substantial mistrust of governments when it comes to the pandemic. Half of Canadians said governments were hiding information about COVID-19, while some said they believed conspiracy theories about the origins of the virus, according to the survey from Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies.

-With files from Canadian Press reporters across the country.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Local health authority maps are updated each week. The brown maps show the number of confirmed and active cases of COVID-19 for the week of Jan. 15 to 21, with the blue map showing cases over the past year. (Image supplied)
COVID-19 outbreak numbers increase at Acropolis and exposures are up in S.D. 52

Business COVID-19 safety plans are law, public needs to follow health protocols - Northern Health

Asher Hauknes shows his strength with Prince Rupert Gymnastics head coach Erin Hipkiss looking on Nov. 13. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Gymnastics Association benefits from Community Gaming Grant

Prince Rupert sports club to receive just less than $90,000 to build new facility

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

Most Read