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Local MPPs call for gov’t oversight of Amberwood Suites

New Democrat MPPs say retirement homes should not be self-regulating, but should have third-party oversight

Sudbury's two New Democrat MPPs believe there should be government oversight at the Amberwood Suites retirement home in view of the death of a resident connected to the COVID-19 outbreak there. 

The outbreak, which has so far infected 31 Amberwood residents and three staff members, has attracted the attention of Sudbury MPP Jamie West and Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas. They issued a joint news release expressing personal concern, as well as concern for family members of residents.

“Today’s death is tragic and alarming. Families are worried about their vulnerable loved ones. They were not provided with information on the situation as it was emerging. They didn't know how many had been affected, if their loved ones were among those affected and what steps the retirement home was taking,” said West. 

 “It was painful to hear stories of residents left without essential care. Residents were left in their beds for days, unable to get help. Residents are stressed, they are scared and they are worried,’’ said Gélinas.

According to the news release, the death occurred after several residents were transferred to Health Sciences North and several others were being isolated at the retirement home.  

Gélinas and West said in their release that the Doug Ford government "must provide oversight of the retirement home now to ensure the safety of residents and stop the spread of COVID-19".   

The two MPPs also called on Ford to reverse the previous Liberal government’s decision to allow the retirement home sector to self-regulate, a measure Gélinas and the NDP opposed in 2010. 

NDP opposition leader Andrea Horwath and the NDP have been calling for the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority to be replaced with a body that has actual oversight and enforcement powers, before more seniors are put at risk, said the release. 

Gélinas said many retirement home residents are frail and in need of oversight, accountability and protection provided by the government.   

“If this was a long-term care home the outbreak would have been on the government website at least, but because it is a retirement home, worried loved ones waited for days to get any information. They got more information from the local media than Autumnwood Mature Lifestyle, the company that owns Amberwood Suites," said Gélinas. 

The release quoted a recent Auditor General’s investigation, which said many retirement home residents have complex needs similar to those in long-term care homes, but their care is not afforded the same oversight that is supposed to be provided by the provincial government in long-term care.

West said this situation is unacceptable. 

"If nothing else this pandemic has shown us that retirement home owners should be accountable to their residents and should be subject to far greater provincial government regulation and oversight to keep Ontario seniors safe,” said West. “The hard-earned money seniors pay to live in these retirement homes should be spent on resident safety, not corporate profits.”

West and Gélinas also thanked the community health care providers who mobilized quickly to care for the residents affected by the outbreak, including the North East Specialized Geriatric Centre headed by Dr. Jo-Anne Clark, local paramedics, St. Joseph's Villa/Continuing Care Centre, HSN among others. The residents of Amberwood that have tested positive for COVID, all have an individual care plan and are being looked after by this team, said the NDP release.