Eighteen patients of a Woodbridge long-term care home who have tested positive for COVID-19 have been transported to hospitals after the operator of the home said the level of care "exceeded" what could be provided at the facility.

Paramedics transferred 18 patients of Woodbridge Vista Care Community, located near Steeles Avenue and Martin Grove Road, to hospitals outside York Region on Saturday night.

"Yesterday, we worked with William Osler Health System in Brampton, and the Oakville and Milton sites of Halton Healthcare Services to transfer 18 residents from Woodbridge Vista Care Community as the level of care required for these residents exceeded that provided at a long-term care home. We are grateful to our hospital partners for their support, and we will continue to work together to ensure the needs of our residents are met," a statement from the home's operator Sienna Senior Living read.

Speaking to CP24 on Sunday afternoon, Joanne Dykeman, the executive vice president - operations at Sienna Senior Living, said managing the pandemic has been very difficult and that they are taking everything very seriously.

Dykeman said the decision to transfer the residents to area hospitals was made because long-term care is not acute care, which she said those residents needed.

"We work on a daily basis to manage the outbreak. We work with public health partners, the clinicians and physicians, and we make a determination based on staffing and the care needs of the residents," she said.

"And when we take a look at that and the care resources available, then we make a decision if we need to make a different move such to the acute care setting. And that's what happened yesterday."

A COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the home on May 7, according to York Region Public Health.

A total of 85 patients at the 244-bed facility, including the 18 who were transferred to hospitals, have tested positive for COVID-19 to date. Of the cases, 17 patients have died.

Additionally, 28 staff members have also tested positive for the virus, and so far.

On Sunday afternoon, York Region Public Health's medical officer of health, Dr. Karim Kurji, issued an order to the home.

"The Order includes a number of measures, including requiring the Institution to comply with all directions related to the COVID-19 outbreak as made by Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Long-Term Care, York Region Public Health, William Osler Health System, Public Health Ontario and the Central West Local Health Integrated Network. This Order is effective as of Sunday, May 31, 2020," York Region said in a statement.

York Region said the order, which was the first one issued during the COVID-19 pandemic by York Region Public Health, was not made lightly.

"Sienna Living, they don't care. It's a for-profit organization. They're in here to make money," Frank Crudo, whose mother was a resident of the home for three years.

Crudo's mother tested positive for COVID-19 and died at Etobicoke General Hospital last week.

He said he is angry and frustrated about the care his mom received leading up to her death.

"They were not telling us the truth. They're holding back information," Crudo said.

He said what hurts the most is that his mother will never be a part of the lives of her 13 grandkids and one great-grandchild.

"They've put their blood and sweat into this country to let us flourish," Crudo said. "Sienna is accountable."

Angelo Borzellino's mom also died last week after contracting COVID-19. He said his mom was a resident of the home for the past five years.

Before the pandemic, Borzellino and his family were able to call his mother regularly, he said. But, since COVID-19 hit the home, Borzellino noted, "all hell broke loose."

"Nothing but lies from this place," he said. "Would I say that they took care of my mother? Not at all. Before COVID, yes, they did. They did somewhat of a job. Not a great job, but somewhat of a job. But those three months, I believe in my heart they didn't do the job at all."

When asked if he was angry at Sienna Living, Borzellino said, angry does not properly describe how he feels.

"Do something," he said. "Doing a little thing is better than doing nothing, and that's what they've been doing. Nothing."

Brenda Chino, whose mother is living at the home, said there is a lack of communication between management and families.

She said operators need to be more forthright with what is happening in the home.

"You need to get your act together," Chino said.

"And you need to tell us the truth about what is going on in these homes. We need to know. That's our family in there. I'm not going to put up with it anymore. I'm done."

Dykeman said it is important that families reach out to them and express their needs, so she invited them to a Zoom meeting Sunday night.

"I want to invite families to a Zoom meeting tonight to speak with me and express their questions or let me answer any concerns that they do have. It's important that they hear from us, and I welcome that opportunity to speak with them this evening," she said.

Dykeman said the home is taking action to provide all types of communication to the families.

"We understand their needs for communication, and we do believe we can reach out this evening and speak."

Union calls on province to take control of home  

In a statement posted on Twitter earlier this week, the municipality said York Region Public Health is "actively supporting" Woodbridge Vista Care Community through the pandemic.

"We have met with the facility on four occasions to date to ensure outbreak control measures and infection prevention and control practices are in place to stop the spread within the facility," the post read.

"We will continue to support the home with this outbreak until it is closed."

SEIU Healthcare, a union which represents tens of thousands of frontline health-care workers in the country, said its members have been reporting “serious concerns” about the situation at Woodbridge Vista Care Community.

“Staff have lost confidence in management’s ability to control the crisis,” the union said in an open letter to the province.

The union is calling on the Ford government to take over the home, as the provincial government has done with other long-term care facilities in Ontario.

Following the release of a damning military report that outlined troubling conditions at a number of Ontario long-term care homes, the Ford government agreed to take control of an additional five long-term care facilities in the province, bringing the total number of homes the government has taken over to seven.

“We’ve called on you in recent weeks to use your authority—whether in the Long-Term Care Homes Act or the new emergency tools you gave yourself—and take over administrative and operational control of nursing homes where necessary,” the union's statement read.

“It is necessary you exercise that authority now and immediately intervene at Sienna’s Woodbridge Vista Care Community. Action is required for the health and safety of everyone at this nursing home.”

Sharleen Stewart, the president of SEIU Healthcare, told CP24 that she is thankful for the release of the military report that shed light on the dire situation at some homes in the province.

"Today I am just lividly outraged at the point that again another home is in this situation... For years, for decades we have been calling on the province to deal with these issues in these long-term care facilities," she said in an interview with CP24.

"Daily, when we hear these reports, it is just so heartbreaking and frustrating and I'm just so angry that it is taking so long."

In response to the staffing situation, Dykeman said the home currently has proper staffing, and that they are well equipped to continue to manage the outbreak.

She said they have all the protocols in place working.

"The staff that we have at Woodbridge are incredibly dedicated and we're so honored to work with them. There's many personal support workers, registered nurses and clinicians and others that have done a tremendous job," Dykeman said.

"We are very confident with our systems and processes and the work that we are doing together to manage the outbreak.