Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday that he was shocked by the reports of alleged elder abuse in nursing homes impacted by the COVID-19 in the country’s province of Ontario.
During a press conference in Ottawa, Trudeau said he was aware of the reports and was saddened, shocked, disappointed and angered by what he’d heard. “It is deeply disturbing.”
The members of the Canadian Armed Forces sent to nursing homes in Ontario have seen shocking conditions, including “blatant disregard” for infection control measures, mistreatment of residents, and a level of care described as “horrible,” according to Global News.
The military members deployed to five of the province’s worst-hit nursing homes to help control the COVID-19 pandemic have raised concerns about each of the homes, describing the care as ranging from below best practices to “borderline abusive, if not abusive” and worse.
They reported witnessing cockroaches, flies and rotten food, seniors left in soiled diapers and crying out for help for lengthy periods without any response, the documents allege. At one home, seniors have not been bathed in weeks.
More than 1,675 military members reportedly have been working in five nursing homes in Ontario and 25 nursing homes in Quebec. Their duties include helping residents with day-to-day needs, cleaning the facilities and meal distribution.
More than two dozen Canadian soldiers have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.
“On reading the deeply disturbing report, I had obviously a range of emotions of anger, of sadness, of frustration, of grief,” Trudeau said.
“It is extremely troubling, and as I’ve said from the very beginning of this, 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.
Trudeau said the report underscores the need to improve standards of care for seniors in long-term care homes across the country and his government will support the provinces’ efforts to do that going forward. “We need to do a better job of caring for the people who built this country.”
The Ontario provincial government said in a tweet that it is aware of the abuse reports made by soldiers and will hold a press conference soon.
The military reportedly produces daily situation reports on the deployment and the allegations first surfaced in those assessments shortly after the Ontario deployment was launched. They were forwarded to the federal Public Safety Department, which contacted the provincial government.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Canada has reported 86,614 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 6,637 deaths.