Ottawa: Conditions at Ontario nursing homes hard-hit by COVID-19 outbreaks, as described by Canadian soldiers helping out there, are “deeply disturbing,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.
The Canadian military deployed troops at the height of the pandemic in April to five elderly care homes in the nation’s most populous province to fill severe staffing shortages.
In a report they said they found blatant disregard for infection control measures and “horrible” care of seniors that verged on abusive.
The soldiers said that among other forms of mistreatment, residents had been “left in beds soiled in diapers,” crying for help and forcefully fed, causing choking.
“It is deeply disturbing,” Trudeau told a daily briefing.
After reading the report, he said: “I had obviously a range of emotions of anger, of sadness, of frustration, of grief.”
“We need to do a better job of supporting our seniors in long-term care right across the country, through this pandemic and beyond,” he said.
“The greatest generation saw us through World War Two. We need to be there to support them properly through this global crisis.”
The military report said that, in one extreme case, a patient was believed to have choked to death while being fed lying down. Attempts to revive him failed.
Soldiers said they found “significant fecal contamination in numerous patient rooms” and dirty diapers often leading to “skin breakdown.”
Medical charts were inaccurate and families were given wrong information.
Residents who tested positive for the coronavirus were allowed to roam around their respective care homes, risking infecting others.
Nurses and support workers were also observed not changing their masks and other personal protective equipment for several hours as they moved between patient rooms.
Elderly care homes have accounted for about 80 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in Canada, which topped 6,700 on Tuesday.
Nearly 300 army doctors and nurses were sent to work in the Ontario care homes. Another 1,500 went to homes in Quebec.
A second report was expected Wednesday on conditions at the Quebec facilities.
“It’s gut-wrenching,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford about what he’d read in the first report, promising a probe into the “broken” elderly care system.