Police escort daughter from Toronto vets centre after bed-bug complaint
Colin Perkel , The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, December 30, 2012 4:47PM EST
TORONTO -- Canada's largest veterans centre had police escort the daughter of an aged vet from the facility and warned her never to return on pain of arrest after she complained about bed bugs and a patient-safety issue.
Jackie Storrison said Sunday she was devastated and humiliated to be marched out of Sunnybrook Veterans Centre by security and issued a formal do-not trespass notice.
"I was paraded through Warrior's Hall like a common criminal in front of a large crowd to my great embarrassment," Storrison said.
"I believe this to be a deliberate, calculated act of retribution against me for attempting to advocate for my father."
Storrison, 61, is among more than a dozen relatives with loved ones in the veterans centre who have spoken publicly about concerns of neglect and substandard care of the most frail residents at the 500-bed centre.
Those concerns prompted Minister of Veterans Affairs Steven Blaney to order an inspection and audit of the facility. Results are pending.
Storrison said she was forced to leave Thursday evening after she notified a group of nurses that she had spotted an elderly resident pushing a food table down a hallway.
"It was obvious this resident was at risk of falling and potential serious injury," she said.
"No one moved."
A patient-care manager, accompanied by two security guards, later told Storrison the incident had occurred during a shift change and that she should hire a 24-hour attendant if she had any safety concerns for her dad.
The manager, Jane Moreland, then chastised her for having previously pointed out live bed bugs in the linen closet of another resident, Storrison said.
"Staff had allegedly rid the room of all his clothing and bedding, yet continued to insist that the red bites on his body were an innocuous rash," Storrison said.
"I'm not prepared to discuss other residents with you," Storrison said Moreland told her.
Storrison, a mother and grandmother, said she was then told to leave.
Security issued her a warning she would be arrested if she returned to Sunnybrook, and, along with two police officers, escorted her to her car.
Moreland did not respond to a request for comment but a Sunnybrook spokesman said Sunday that Storrison had gone on a lengthy "verbal rampage" against staff -- something she denies emphatically.
"She was verbally abusive to the point where police and security had to be called," said Craig DuHamel.
"When it crosses a line into abuse, we have to escalate it."
For the past three years, Storrison has acted as primary caregiver to her dad, Valmond Pelletier, 91, spending several hours almost every evening of the year with him at the veterans centre.
She said she was forced to have someone else get him from Sunnybrook on the weekend so he and her 93-year-old mother Elizabeth could celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary off-site.
"Needless to say, I am extremely distraught about being victimized by this scandalous treatment, and am very concerned about the potentially serious implications for my father and his physical and emotional health," she said.
Storrison's plight has attracted the attention of the Canadian Veterans Advocacy, which is threatening to demonstrate at Sunnybrook if the situation is not resolved quickly.
In a note to members, group co-founder Mike Blais called Sunnybrook's action "draconian."
"To deny a daughter access to her father at this time of year when she was only concerned about the welfare and safety of another veteran is unconscionable," Blais said.
"If the voices of the children/primary caregivers will not be heard, perhaps they will hear ours, the voices of honourable veterans across this nation."
DuHamel said the facility was hoping to "work something out" with Storrison.
Sunnybrook insists its quality of care is equal or superior to comparable facilities, and points to surveys showing high patient and family satisfaction rates.
Some relatives and attendants, however, paint a far different picture.
Their complaints include unexplained injuries, residents abandoned in soiled diapers for hours on end, left in bed for days, or not fed on time. They also said Sunnybrook managers shut them down or intimidated them when they tried to raise their concerns.