Health watchdog voices concerns over Lethbridge care facility
Published Monday, September 9, 2013 9:38AM MDT
Last Updated Monday, September 9, 2013 6:18PM MDT
Friends of Medicare, a health care watchdog group, is raising the alarm after a patient was found with mice nibbling on her face at an assisted living center in Lethbridge.
The group says that the incident happened last Sunday and Sandra Azocar, executive director of Friends of Medicare, says the situation is ‘beyond reprehensible’.
"Staff at this facility have been expressing concerns regarding mice for the past year, and this is the same facility that has had an ongoing bed bug issues for over nine months," Azocar said in a release.
She says that after learning of the incident, management tells them that they’ve set more traps in the facility in an attempt to control the problem.
"Nevertheless, while dealing with a major health threat to the residents as well as staff, residents continue to be left in their rooms, sleeping on bed-bug infested mattresses."
St. Therese Villa is a 200 bed facility with five dementia units in the Covenant Health Authority. It was opened as a new model of care that offers home-like options for residents.
For several years, the facility has been plagued by a long list of concerns including bed bugs, mice, and a shortage of staff.
Friends of Medicare says that those concerns are not being addressed.
Shannon Phillips, also with Friends for Medicare, questions how appropriate it is to have for-profit organizations in charge of these types of facilities. "Is it appropriate that for profit companies are the ones responsible for the health standards and care for our most vulnerable populations and, for Friends of Medicare, the answer is no, it's not appropriate."
Patient care staff are responsible for the daily upkeep of the facility while housekeeping services are contracted out to Aramark Canada.
"In one the richest provinces in this country there is no reason whatsoever that our seniors, parents, grandparents and other vulnerable Albertans should be living under these appalling conditions," says Azocar. "Covenant Health needs to take immediate and urgent action to deal with these health hazards and ensure that residents are receiving, dignified, safe and appropriate care."
A former employee told CTV News that she quit her job out of frustration and says staff members are reluctant to approach management for fear of being fired.
"Threatened and intimidated. If you don't like it here, and those words were said, if you don't like it here, there's other facilities in this city you can go and work at, just don't use us as a reference," said the employee.
Covenant Health operates the facility and says it can't discuss specific incidents about residents but it does have a protocol in place for dealing with these kind of incidents.
"Look at prevention. And have a prevention protocol in place, traps inside and outside the building. They're near the door, check the building is well sealed," said Sheli Murphy from Covenant Health.
Covenant Health also says it has high housekeeping standards and does audits to ensure housekeeping staff are meeting those standards.
Covenant Health issued a statement in response to the allegations on Monday afternoon saying, "We are reviewing allegations that came forth today regarding one of our residents. The allegations have not been verified; however they are concerning, and we are taking immediate action. Our first thoughts are with the resident and family."
Alberta's Minister of Health, Fred Horne says he is disappointed to learn about the allegations.
"I have a tremendous number of questions about what exactly is going on there. I have already ensured that inspectors from both Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health are going to the facility today so they'll be conducting a care auditing the facility. I realize that we don't have all the information and we'll see what information that Covenant Health can provide us. They run the facility in Lethbridge. But this is completely unacceptable whatever circumstances went on and quality trumps all in the health system so as I say have inspectors on the ground there today who will be looking to see exactly what happened and more importantly how to make sure something like this never happens again. It's completely unacceptable in this province and is not tolerated," said Horne.
The resident who was bitten is expected to make a full recovery.
Friends of Medicare is calling for a full investigation under the Protection of Persons in Care Act.