A photo of Ontario Minister of Long Term Care Paul Calandra.

Orchard Villa is where Diane Colangelo’s 86-year-old mother, Patricia, arrived at 48 kilograms (105 lbs) and died at 31 kilograms (68 lbs). Paul William Russell Parkes also died there from what his daughter, Cathy, claims was severe dehydration. Andrew Watt’s mom, Nina, died mere weeks after arriving at the for-profit facility. Watt described Nina as being so emaciated that she looked like a concentration camp victim.

The privately owned and operated for-profit Long Term Care (LTC) facility in Pickering, Ontario is where more than 70 residents died in the early part of the pandemic from COVID-19.

A total of 206 residents out of 233 and more than 100 staff contracted COVID-19.

The military was sent in, but much of what they reported were not situations arising from the pandemic. Rather, they reported systemic issues that could be directly tied back to inadequate staffing and chronic under funding.

Armed forces members found residents lying on bare mattresses on the floor; others were left in soiled diapers for extended periods of time; the stench of rotting food in the hallways; cockroach and fly infestations; and inadequately trained staff.

Families had been reporting the dire under staffing and poor management conditions for years.

In fact, family members who testified before the COVID-19 Long-Term Care Commission detailed dangerously low levels of staffing on a regular basis that led to chronic neglect of residents.

They also described phoning repeatedly during the pandemic lock down, but no one answering the phone because there was not enough staff.

One family, unable to get through by phone, went to Orchard Villa to see their mother through her window. They watched their mother vomit in her room and had to bang on the window until they could get staff to come to her aid. She died days later.

Eventually, the local hospital took over management of the home. The remaining residents were taken to hospital where it was determined that they were severely dehydrated, anorexic, and some in kidney failure. A hospital spokesperson reported that the home had only 20 per cent of the necessary staff on duty.

Orchard Villa is owned by Southbridge, but Southbridge doesn’t actually operate any of their long-term care homes. Instead. they contract out care to Extendicare another for-profit corporation. Ultimately, Southbridge and Extendicare are making profits from public funding and residents’ fees while their levels of care come under critical scrutiny.

And, yet there has been no accountability for these corporate owners with one of the worst death rates in Ontario. They were never fined. They never lost their license. There has been no accountability for the suffering and deaths of residents or the ongoing trauma to family members.

Instead, the fall of 2020, the Ford government passed a law shielding Orchard Villa, and other for-profit LTC home operators, from lawsuits for negligence. Families who had filed lawsuits for negligence then had to file lawsuits for gross negligence which requires a higher burden of proof.

According to Natalie Mehra, Executive Director of Ontario Health Coalition (OHC), “Suffering and death on the scale that we saw at Orchard Villa requires an unmitigated never again. What happened at Orchard Villa should never have been allowed to happen. But since it did, it should have resulted in a reckoning – real change and real accountability. Instead, the owners are being rewarded.”

On July 15, 2021, the Ministry of Long-Term Care held a public consultation telephone conference regarding the new 30-year license and bed expansion proposed for Orchard Villa. Despite a record number of delegations, the Ministry limited participants from asking questions and prevented them from commenting on the corporation’s abysmal record.

OHC made a formal complaint and sent an open letter to Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra calling for a renewed, fair process that would include consideration of the evidence around Southbridge’s fitness to run a LTC home for 30-years. OHC also requested the Ministry consider the criteria, including the operational record of the corporation in running the LTC home, as required under the Long-Term Care Homes Act.

As a result, the Ministry had to restart the consultation process for Orchard Villa and it is taking place right now.

This time the LTC Ministry is only accepting written submissions with the incredibly short deadline of Wednesday, October 19. There will, in fact, be no hearing at all.

It is imperative that the LTC Ministry hear from Ontarians. There are two ways to provide written feedback for the consultation:

  1. Email  LTCHomes.Licensing@ontario.ca
  2. Canada Post mail

Director under the Fixing Long-Term Care Act, 2021
Ministry of Long-Term Care
Capital Planning Branch
438 University Avenue, 8th Floor
Toronto, Ontario M5G 2K8

Please make sure you include the name of the long-term care home — Orchard Villa — and quote Project #23-034 on all submissions.

Mehra wants Ontarians to remember, “The lives of the elderly cannot be treated as disposable. Profit and greed cannot be allowed to trump fundamental human rights and the duty to care and compassion. We can and must stop these plans. If we do not, what kind of a society are we?”

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