Holland Christian Homes’ Grace Manor in Brampton was one of five long-term care homes in the province of Ontario cited in a harsh report about conditions in the facilities, prepared by the Canadian Armed Forces’ Joint Task Force. Military assistance arrived at Grace Manor on April 28 at the request of Holland Christian Homes when COVID-19 infections had caused staff shortages.
Findings by the military in some of the homes included conditions of residents not being fed properly, left in soiled diapers, cockroach infestations, and more. The report, released to the public on May 26, was met with immediate reaction from Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and outrage among the general public. Stories about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the inadequacies of long-term care in Ontario to protect vulnerable people have been hard to hear.
Holland Christian Homes’ citations were relatively minor in comparison to the other homes. Among the deficiencies noted by the Armed Forces were staff moving between COVID units and other units without changing contaminated equipment; wearing the same gloves for tasks from one patient to another; a case of leaving food in a resident’s mouth while they were sleeping; and improper use of lifts. The Armed Forces noted that in a May 7 teleconference with HCH staff, a week after they had arrived at Grace Manor, the “minor concerns were raised in a collegial manner and facility staff advised they will address the deficiencies.”
Indeed the deficiencies noted by the Armed Forces were mitigated by the time the report became public. Christian Reformed chaplain Richard Bodini wrote in a message to prayer partners, “I know the staff at Grace and Faith Manor are deeply committed to caring for the residents, whom they know by name. I know the incidents reported in the military document were dealt with immediately. Staff were disciplined, re-educated, or fired in those situations … immediately.” Bodini went on to note that the state of long-term care in general in Ontario is one of concern. “It’s a deep and sad situation for our aging parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, loved ones.”
A statement released by HCH stated that Grace Manor welcomed the deployment of Canadian Armed Forces personnel at a time when their services were greatly needed. “We will be forever thankful for their like-minded dedication to our residents, sense of humanity and compassion, professionalism and noted expertise. Their efforts, along with those of our staff, volunteers and health system partners have been nothing less than heroic.”
Following the release of the military report, the Province of Ontario took over management of four of the homes cited, but not Grace Manor. Ken Rawlins, CEO, said, “That the provincial government has not moved to appoint temporary management at Holland Christian Homes is a testament to having subsequently addressed all findings in close collaboration with the military, and the manner in which we have always treated reports and findings with the care, attention and diligence they deserve.”
The Christian Labour Association of Canada is the union that represents 338 employees at the facility, including personal support workers, registered nurses, food service workers, maintenance staff, and others. In a statement, it said the conditions described by the Armed Forces staff—homes in poor conditions, compromised care, and diminished resident dignity—have “lifted the veil on a long, ongoing crisis in the system” that has gone largely unnoticed by the general public, until now.
“Ontarians are rightly outraged by the Canadian Armed Forces’ report on the problems found in these long-term care homes,” said Michael Reid, the health care coordinator for CLAC, a union that represents 8,000 health care workers in Canada. “Workers have warned for years that long-term care is in a state of crisis.”
The majority of funding for long-term care homes comes from the government. “The essential problem,” Reid told The Banner, “is that the government responds to every problem with more regulation, instead of acknowledging that the problems indicate a need for higher staffing levels.”
In its statement, CLAC urged the government and the public not to lay blame at the feet of those who keep doing their best, for little pay and at great personal cost. “The system is failing them, too,” the statement read. “The root causes of the crisis in long term care must be treated. Our elders, healthcare workers, and all Ontarians deserve nothing less.”
Holland Christian Homes is a not-for-profit organization with deep roots in the Christian Reformed Church. In addition to its two long-term care homes (Grace Manor and Faith Manor), which house 240 residents, it operates six apartment towers with 850 residents. Heritage Christian Reformed Church is in HCH, and there are three chaplains, two from the CRC and one from the Reformed Church in America.