Top Stories 2017

I’m sure that many Ottawa families with loved ones in care are grateful to The Citizen for making the crisis in long-term care (LTC) homes one of the top local stories of the year. The Citizen’s outstanding editorials and investigative reports began with a story about an elderly resident who was punched in the face 11 times by a personal support worker, all caught on video. The coverage continued through to December 2017 with 13 additional reports prompting authorities to take action.
The Citizen’s reports gave several caregivers the courage to come forward with their stories about the many challenges they faced in advocating for a loved one in care, including reprisal campaigns by facilities that resulted in bans and notices of trespass against those who complained either internally or to the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care (MOHLTC).

July 4, 2017

Caught on video: Elderly Ottawa man with dementia punched in the face

11 times by personal support worker

Elizabeth Payne, The Ottawa Citizen

A personal support worker at a city-run long-term care home delivered 11 punches to the face of an elderly, immobile and largely non-verbal dementia patient, a video obtained by The Ottawa Citizen reveals. The high definition video camera that recorded the attack was installed by the patient’s family, and wasn’t even a secret to staff at the Garry J. Armstrong long-term care home on Island Lodge Road where the assault occurred. Workers were made aware that the video system was being installed in the room of 89-year-old Georges Karam after the family grew increasingly concerned about the number of unexplained injuries he had suffered since moving into the residence two years ago.

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December 18, 2017

Exclusive: Ottawa nursing homes have seen at least 163 cases of abuse since 2012

Drake Fenton, The Ottawa Citizen

Note: At the end of this report, readers can view a list compiled after The Citizen’s review of Ministry of Health and Long-term Care inspection reports that reveals the number of times Ottawa homes have been found non-compliant with provincial legislation governing long-term care since 2012. The list highlights the total number of incidents of non-compliance for each long-term care facility.

Every one of Ottawa’s 27 long-term care homes, which house some of the city’s most vulnerable residents, has been the site of either violence, sexual abuse or death resulting from improper care, an investigation by this newspaper reveals. Since 2012, there have been at least 163 cases of reported resident abuse — either physical, sexual or verbal — and at least 17 deaths that have led to a home being found non-compliant with provincial legislation governing long-term care. During that same period, there were a total of 2,033 instances of non-compliance at Ottawa long-term care homes. A facility can be found non-compliant for any of a litany of reasons. Some are relatively minor, such as a failure to offer a resident a snack. Some can be serious, even when no resident is harmed, such as leaving an exit door unlocked. And some are very serious, such as cases involving abuse and death. This newspaper’s data is the result of an examination of more than 8,500 pages of Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care inspection reports. Inspection reports published between 2012 to 2016, along with all available reports from 2017, were reviewed. The data shows a clear, upward trend in non-compliance since 2012. There were 141 instances of non-compliance across the city in 2012 and each year the number has risen, culminating in a 265 per cent increase over a five-year period. There were 516 non-compliance citations in 2016. There have already been 400 citations in 2017, though many reports have yet to be filed. Cases of reported abuse follow a slightly different trend, with the numbers remaining relatively flat before spiking in 2015 and 2016. There were 66 cases in 2016 and only 12 cases in 2012. (There have already been 33 reported cases in 2017.)

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On February 15, 2017, CTV News featured an update on accused serial killer Elizabeth Wettlaufer who was appearing in court by video that morning. Wettlaufer is a former Ontario RN who was fired from the Caressant care home in Woodstock in 2014, because of a medication error she made that put a resident at risk. Yet, she continued to work as a RN in LTC facilities for two more years until she was officially charged in October 2016. She stands accused of eight counts of first degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault.
Toronto criminal defense attorney Ari Goldkind was interviewed for this televised report. When asked why Wettlaufer was allowed to continue working as long as she did after the Woodstock care home had notified the CNO about the medication error that led to her dismissal, Mr. Goldkind answered that the CNO is mandated to keep things confidential, and that there always seems to be a cloak of secrecy over such cases despite the fact that among the College’s most important responsibilities is their obligation to protect the public. Mr. Goldkind ended his interview with a comment on how there are too many bad things happening in care homes lately, and he added that he hoped that the Wettlaufer case will bring greater awareness to the neglect, the lack of care and the lack of treating people with dignity in LTC facilities.

July 4, 2017

We are failing our elderly patients

André Picard, The Globe and Mail

Elizabeth Wettlaufer is one of the most prolific serial killers in Canadian history. While working as a nurse, she killed at least eight nursing home residents and attempted to kill at least six others. Yet, we know surprisingly little about her methods, her motives and the institutional regulatory failings that allowed her to get away with murder for almost a decade. Most chilling of all, had Ms. Wettlaufer not confessed, we would be none the wiser. The Ontario government, to its credit, announced a public inquiry, but it has yet to specify its scope and mandate.

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