Growing calls for investigation into handling of COVID-19 outbreaks in care homes

A growing number of seniors’ families are calling for an investigation into how COVID-19 ended up in so many care homes and led to so many seniors’ deaths in B.C.

"This is just so wrong. This should have never happened. These people did not deserve to die," an emotional Anita Coueffin-Cairns told CTV News.

Her mother-in-law, Sandra Cairns, was one of 20 seniors who died at the Lynn Valley Care Centre after an outbreak. In total, 78 residents and staff were infected. The outbreak was declared "over" earlier this week.

"These aren't just numbers, these are people's mothers, their fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles," Coueffin-Cairns said.

She believes the provincial government needs to look at why the virus wasn’t contained faster at Lynn Valley. She is also concerned about "for-profit" companies doing seniors’ care, as well as the lack of communication with families.

"We would call and we would call and we would call and nobody would answer the phones," she said.

CTV News spoke with several other families with loved ones at Lynn Valley and each of them echoed calls for an investigation, saying the handling of the outbreak, the care of seniors during it and the lack of communication with families needs to be reviewed.

CTV News requested an interview from management at Lynn Valley but has not heard back.

Meanwhile, at another care home, Vancouver’s Haro Park, there are also calls for an independent investigation after the deaths of 11 seniors. More than 70 staff and residents were infected with COVID-19.

One family member who did not want to be identified told CTV News, “They’re extremely short of staff, thereby the residents lacking the care and attention they require.”

B.C. Seniors Advocate, Isobel MacKenzie, is aware of families' concerns.

“We’ve certainly heard concerns about Lynn Valley and Haro Park which I think are the two outbreaks that I would describe as (having) 'got away from us' in the beginning,” she explained.

She also said that the coronavirus crisis has revealed at lot of "fault lines" in seniors’ care.

“Could we have done better? … I think we’ll find it didn’t have to be that bad at Lynn Valley and what could we have had in place that could have prevented that.”

MacKenzie says the pandemic has shone a light on a number of issues.

"I think we’re going to see an emphasis on not just the staffing levels but staffing training and all of that’s going to link to what are we paying people, how are we creating this culture of good care in our care homes.”

Anita Coueffin-Cairns says her family is still struggling with the loss of her mother-in-law and that when it comes to seniors’ care, B.C. has to do better.

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