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Jarlette 'failed to ensure' Roberta Place was safe: ministry report

Ministry inspection at Essa Road facility, conducted Jan. 12 and 13, shows long-term care home did not follow protocol expected by province

BARRIE — A recently released report from the Ministry of Long-Term Care sheds a damning light on the ongoing and increasingly deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the Roberta Place long-term care home in Barrie. 

A ministry inspection at the Essa Road facility, which was conducted Jan. 12 and 13, shows the long-term care home had not followed protocol expected by the province.

The report states the licensee — Barrie Long Term Care Centre Inc., c/o Jarlette Health Services  “has failed to ensure that the home was a safe and secure environment for its residents.”

Multiple violations were noted in the subsequent Jan. 18 report, with one written notice and one compliance order issued.

The report states some staff were providing care to both confirmed COVID-positive residents and residents not confirmed to have the virus. The administrator indicated to the inspector that cohorting of staff on all resident home areas was not always possible.

Cohorting is the grouping of residents based on their risk of infection or whether they have tested positive for COVID-19 during an outbreak. 

“Not cohorting staff and residents placed other residents in the home at risk of disease transmission," the inspector's notes indicated. 

Last week, Jarlette Health Services president David Jarlette acknowledged staffing levels have been a concern, describing the Roberta Place situation as "tenuous."

On Saturday, Jarlette also further addressed the issue of cohorting. He said the virus came into the long-term care home so quickly they weren't able to achieve cohorting "in a quick and timely fashion."

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit declared an outbreak at Roberta Place on Jan. 8. 

As of Monday at the 137-bed long-term care home, there had been 44 resident deaths, 127 positive cases among residents (which is all but two people residing there) and 86 positive tests among team members. An essential caregiver linked to the facility has also died. 

On Jan. 11, Roberta Place community relations co-ordinator Stephanie Barber told BarrieToday via email that the long-term care home was working directly with public health officials, the Ministry of Long-Term Care and other community partners to keep residents and staff safe. 

“At this time, all residents are in isolation and being cared for in their individual rooms and the home continues to comply with all infection prevention and health and safety precautions,” Barber said at the time.

However, the ministry inspection over the course of the following two days paints a different picture. 

“Multiple residents were observed out of isolation, touching high-touch surfaces and coming in close contact with other residents,” says the ministry report. “Some of these residents were identified as COVID-19 positive. A registered practical nurse (RPN) indicated that they tried to keep residents isolated, but some residents refused to stay in their rooms.”

The report further stated residents not isolating placed other residents at risk for disease transmission.

The inspector noted resident rooms were shared by both confirmed COVID-positive residents and residents not confirmed to have the virus. A personal support worker (PSW) told the inspector residents within those shared rooms would often come into close contact with each other.

Also noted in the inspection report was the facility's compliance history.

In the past 36 months, there have been 12 previous compliance orders (COs), 30 voluntary plans of correction (VPCs) and 15 written notifications (WNs) issued to the home related to different sub-sections of the legislation.

At a press conference Monday, when asked about the inspection report at Roberta Place, Minister of Health Christine Elliott reiterated there has been support coming into the long-term care home, including assistance from the Red Cross, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH), and Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital (OSMH).

“We now have a relationship between long-term care homes and hospitals where they’re able to deploy personnel, bring in (personal protective equipment) and whatever else is necessary,” Elliott said. “We’ve also had some vaccines go into (Roberta Place) to the residents who are able to receive them.”

People who are positive for the virus cannot receive the vaccine.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford was asked Monday why the military hasn’t been called in to assist at Roberta Place.

"When I was asked that question, I was told we don’t need them,” he said.