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Executive at long-term care company dismissed after allegedly mocking family members of residents
TORONTO -- A top executive of a senior housing company, which manages some Ontario long-term care homes hard hit by COVID-19, has been dismissed from her job after she allegedly mocked the families of residents during a virtual meeting.
According to the union representing more than 60,000 front-line workers in the province, Joanne Dykeman, who was the executive vice-president of operations at Sienna Senior Living, made the alleged comments during a video conference town hall with the families of Woodbridge Vista Community Care residents on Wednesday night.
“Sienna Senior Living delivered prepared talking points in a transparent attempt to rebuild its corporate image after failing to keep workers and families safe during COVID-19,” SEIU Healthcare said in a statement.
“Before exiting the call, executives were overheard mocking and ridiculing the concerns of families.”
On Thursday evening, Sienna Senior Living said in a statement that Dykeman is no longer with the company.
“While she is deeply regretful of the comments she made yesterday evening, she also understands that they do not meet either her expectations nor those of Sienna Senior Living. Each resident and all of their loved ones are deserving of our respect at all times,” Lois Cormack, president and CEO of the company, said in a statement.
Anthony Manieri, whose 55-year-old sister lives at the long-term care facility and has tested positive for COVID-19, told CP24 Thursday the management policed the meeting.
He said families did not get the opportunity to voice their concerns.
"Everyone logged off, but her, and she just closed her laptop, and the audio kept going," Manieri said, adding that he was recording the meeting.
"As soon as she closed it, she called us bloodsucking class-action lawsuits people."
Manieri said Dykeman also ridiculed some of the questions that families asked during the meeting.
Following the call, he said they notified other families and even sent an email to the premier's office.
Some families held a protest at the facility on Thursday.
CP24 has not independently verified the alleged comments made during the meeting.
The virtual meeting was held after families demanded answers over the weekend following the transfer of 18 residents with COVID-19 infections to hospitals.
The company said the needs for those patients exceeded what could be provided at the home.
Families previously told CP24 there is a lack of communication from the management about the situation in the facility.
SEUI Healthcare President Sharleen Stewart called the behaviour from for-profit long-term care companies “appalling.”
“But the crisis in our long-term care system isn’t about the actions of any one executive, because at the end of the day it doesn’t change the fact that companies like Sienna are simply not in the business of care,” Stewart said in a statement.
“If Sienna was sincere about real change, they should call on Doug Ford for a full public inquiry and agree to testify in front of a judge.”
On Saturday, the union called the province to take control of Woodbridge Vista Care Community, where 21 residents have died after contracting the virus.
A COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the home on May 7, according to York Region Public Health.
Earlier, the province appointed William Osler Health System as the interim manager of the home.
“Despite receiving hospital support, Woodbridge Vista Care Community has been unable to contain the spread of COVID-19,” the province said in a news release issued Thursday.
"At least we know that our family members will be taken care of to a certain degree. We still need to have answers because, regarding my sister, I haven't had an update since Friday," Manieri said.