'There are preventable deaths here': Long-term care doctor calls on military to help Toronto nursing home
TORONTO -- A Toronto long-term care doctor is calling on the military to help support a Scarborough nursing home battling a massive COVID-19 outbreak.
Scarborough's Tendercare Living Centre houses 254 residents, and as of Tuesday morning, nearly half have tested positive for COVID-19. According to the latest provincial numbers, 118 residents and 47 staff members have tested positive for the virus, while 21 residents have died.
"We need to think outside the box, and if it means getting the military involved again, to help them, that probably should happen now," Dr. Silvy Mathew said.
The Toronto doctor isn't on staff at Tendercare, but she spent five hours there on Sunday after an appeal went out to long-term care physicians. Mathew calls the situation in the home "dire," saying residents need help now, if fatalities are to be prevented.
"You're in long-term care because you need help. You need help with either feeding yourself, bathing yourself, going to the washroom, [or] transferring yourself,” the doctor said. “If you don't have enough personal support workers, then you can't take care of people. You can have food delivered, but somebody has to help you actually eat it."
Tendercare's management team says a significant number of staff are infected and have been forced to isolate. They call the outbreak "extremely trying" and "difficult to mitigate when case rates in the surrounding community are high."
"We have reached out to the surrounding hospitals, Ontario Health and staffing agencies for additional resources to support resident care," Candy Chan, the manager of resident programs, said.
“We will continue to do everything we can to support our staff and residents at Tendercare Living Centre, and continue to explore every potential resource that could assist further.”
When asked about the possibility of bringing in military assistance, however, the Ontario Ministry of Long-term Care said the Scarborough Health Network, the local public health unit, the local health integration network and "others" have been assisting the home since Dec. 14.
"We have brought in our partners from across the health sector and are confident that they will help stabilize the home and return it to normal operations," the office of the Minister of Long-Term Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton said in a statement.
Nonetheless, Mathew said she still feels military assistance is needed.
"I don't think that there are enough staff that any hospital or agency can come up with to make this safe tomorrow,” she said.
On Friday, Tendercare told CTV News Toronto that 11 residents had died. On Tuesday the death toll had reached 21, which means in just days the number of fatalities has almost doubled.
"They cannot get the care that they need. Not even close," Mathew said. "There are preventable deaths here and if we just get enough help immediately, then we can do something."
The Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Care says it has completed an inspection of the home, and is now "determining the next actions to take."