Soldiers describe deplorable conditions in Canadian nursing homes

Soldiers aiding coronavirus efforts report residents left in soiled diapers, cockroaches and ants in patient rooms.

    A body is removed from Centre d'hebergement Yvon-Brunet, a seniors' long-term care centre, amid the coronavirus pandemic in Montreal, Quebec [File: Christinne Muschi/Reuters]
    A body is removed from Centre d'hebergement Yvon-Brunet, a seniors' long-term care centre, amid the coronavirus pandemic in Montreal, Quebec [File: Christinne Muschi/Reuters]

    Canadian soldiers helping manage the coronavirus outbreak in nursing homes saw staff leaving people in soiled diapers, ignoring calls for help and reusing unsterilised equipment, an official report said on Tuesday.

    Nursing homes account for about 80 percent of all deaths attributed to the new coronavirus in Canada. The situation is dire in Ontario and Quebec, the two most populous provinces, where approximately 1,400 soldiers are working.

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    A report by the armed forces on five of the worst-affected Ontario homes revealed residents left in soiled diapers as well as "significant fecal contamination", cockroaches and ants in patient rooms.

    At one point, "patients [were] observed crying for help with staff not responding for 30 mins to over two hours", the report said.

    "It was the most heart-wrenching report I have read in my entire life," said Ontario Premier Doug Ford, at one point on the verge of tears.

    Ford - who promised a full-scale probe - said the system of long-term care was "broken" and had suffered from neglect for decades before the coronavirus pandemic tipped it over the edge.

    "I'm going to fix this system, no matter what it takes," he said, calling on the federal government for funding. Canada's 10 provinces have jurisdiction over healthcare.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was shocked and angry about the scenes, reiterating that Canada needed to do a much better job of taking care of its elderly population.

    Both Quebec and Ontario have asked that the soldiers stay on longer than initially planned, and the federal government is likely to agree, Trudeau said.

    Earlier this month Trudeau referred to "heartbreaking tragedies" in long-term care facilities, mentioning overworked employees and understaffed homes.

    Official public health data showed the total coronavirus Canadian death toll had edged up by just below 2 percent to 6,566 from Monday.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency