The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) and police are investigating abuse allegations against two healthcare aides at a personal care home who remained at work nearly four months after a whistleblower came forward.
On Tuesday, Gina Trinidad, COO of Community Health Services and Long Term Care with the WRHA, confirmed the investigation into abuse allegations at the Extendicare Oakview Place personal care home in Winnipeg.
“We are deeply disturbed and disappointed by these serious allegations and the process the facility initially took to investigate the concerns,” Trinidad told media.
She said the Winnipeg Police Service is currently in the early stages of a criminal investigation into the allegations that affect 15 residents at the home. Trinidad said the WRHA would not release details of the allegations until the investigation is complete.
The Winnipeg Police Service confirmed there is an investigation underway, but could not provide any other details.
HEALTHCARE AIDES REMAINED AT WORK FOR FOUR MONTHS: WRHA
The WRHA said a whistleblower came forward to local Extendicare management in February with the allegations of mistreatment by two healthcare aides. However, the WRHA was not informed until about four months later when it was approached by another whistleblower on June 10.
Trinidad confirmed it was not until June that the two healthcare aides were placed on leave.
When WRHA learned of the allegations, Trinidad said it contacted the police and the Protection for Persons in Care office, and ensured the two healthcare aides were immediately placed on leave.
Trinidad told media the information at this time is that these allegations are isolated to the two staff members.
‘I FEEL SICK TO MY STOMACH’: FAMILY OF FORMER OAKVIEW RESIDENT
When Jennifer Shaw heard about the allegations on Tuesday, she said she felt like throwing up.
“I feel sick to my stomach,” she said. “I knew as soon as I saw Extendicare, I didn’t need to wonder if it was somewhere else, I knew it was there.”
Shaw’s grandmother Grace had been a resident at Oakview Place for two years before she died of a stroke in May 2020. Shaw said she had concerns for her grandmother, who lived with dementia, and the care she was getting in the home.
Shaw recalls finding occasional bruising on her grandmother’s face and body, and would sometimes have to clean her grandmother herself after finding she had been left all day with food on her.
However, Shaw said her concerns were never addressed.
“When we would go see my grandma, we would leave hoping that those people that were caring for her were going to care for her properly and we don’t know if that happened,” she said. “When we were there it was okay, but when you leave you don’t know what’s happening.”
Shaw said she had worked as a healthcare aide at Oakview Place between 2004 to 2008 and had concerns at the time. When her grandmother moved into the home, Shaw had hoped things had gotten better – she says they didn’t.
“From working there and seeing the things that went on, and then my grandma also being there – she was dirty all the time, there were people in the hallway yelling all the time and asking for help, and sometimes they were short-staffed.”
Trinidad said the WRHA has made two unannounced visits to Oakview Place since the allegations came to light.
“The results have generally been positive and our site reviews have shown the care being delivered is what we expect of service providers,” she said.
EXTENDICARE APOLOGIZES FOR ‘BREAKDOWN’ IN INVESTIGATIVE PROCESS
Sandra Goers, the director of operational quality for western Canada and regional director for Manitoba Extendicare, said there was a ‘breakdown’ in the internal investigation launched by Extendicare in February.
Among those breakdowns, Goers said only one family was notified of the allegations.
“I’m not going to sit here in front of you and make any excuses whatsoever,” Goers said. “We are wholeheartedly apologizing for what has happened.”
Goers said a new administrator has been put in place at the home after the person previously in the role decided to leave the organization. Goers said she also took over the role of regional director for Manitoba Extendicare.
-with files from CTV’s Jill Macyshon