PANDEMIC #5 - Shirley and Tracy
COMMONS
PANDEMIC #5 – Shirley and Tracy
Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them.
May 20, 2020

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Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them.

COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.

Featured in this episode: Tracy Rowley, Sherina Harris (HuffPost Canada), Emma Paling (HuffPost Canada), Zaid Noorsumar 

To learn more:

“COVID-19 Has Killed 164 At Revera’s Care Homes. Their Families Want Answers” by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris in HuffPost Canada

“Is it Time to Care Yet?” by Zaid Noorsumar in Rank and File

“It is time to forget the profits and fix long-term care” by Geoffrey Stevens in The Waterloo Region Record

This episode is sponsored by Freshbooks and The Jerry Cans

Additional music from Audio Network

 

TRANSCRIPT:

 

EPISODE 5 – “SHIRLEY AND TRACY”

 

[COLD OPEN]

[ARSHY MANN]

Here’s what you need to understand about Shirley and Tracy: They both lived in Kitchener, one of the many mid-sized cities that dot Southern Ontario, and they met when Tracy started out helping Shirley with errands, like groceries and cleaning. 

 

[TRACY ROWLEY]

She was the type of person that she either liked you or she didn’t like you. And for some reason we just clicked from day one. And she was like, “No, you’re my daughter. You’re not my cleaning person, and you’re not this. You’re… You’re my family.”

 

[ARSHY] 

That’s Tracy Rowley. And she says, that’s exactly what happened. She became Shirley Egerdeen’s family. She became her daughter.

 

[ROWLEY]

So my mother and I, as… She called me her adopted mother, or surrogate mother. She never had any husband. She didn’t have children. 

 

[ARSHY] 

They saw each other all the time and did the things mothers and daughters do together.

 

[ROWLEY]

We’re both Libras, so our birthdays are three days apart, so we would have Law & Order marathons for our birthday and eat Swiss Chalet. She’s very feisty.

 

[ARSHY] 

But late last year, Shirley’s health took a turn for the worse.

 

[ROWLEY]

So in December of last year, she got a really bad cold and the start of pneumonia. So she was put into our local hospital. And, at that time, she needed to recover a little more to be able to get back to the process of getting out of the bed into her wheelchair again, and she wasn’t strong enough from that. So the hospital said, “The best thing we could do right now is put her in long-term care.”

 

[ARSHY] 

At first, Shirley was placed in a facility in Elmira, a nearby rural community. but she wanted to come back to town.

 

[ROWLEY]

She said, what’s my best way of coming back to Kitchener? I want to be closer to my daughter. And the lady at the hospital said the quickest she’ll get back to Kitchener is to go to Forest Heights because they always have openings. And I never thought twice about it. I really didn’t.

 

[ARSHY] 

It’s a decision Tracy regrets to this day.

 

[ROWLEY]

But I understand now why so many seniors beg their kids, “Please don’t put me in a senior’s home. Please, please don’t.” Because I saw it firsthand, and if I had to do it over again, I would have done something. I would have found the room. I would have done something to make sure that she didn’t have to go there.

 

[ARSHY] 

A month ago, Shirley Egerdeen became one of almost 50 people to die of COVID-19 at Forest Heights. Forest Heights is owned by Revera, one of the biggest for-profit long-term care providers in Canada. Tracy believes that Shirley didn’t have to die in this way. And today she’s one of the many people who have joined a class action against Revera and another for-profit chain. 

I’m Arshy Mann and, from CANADALAND, this is Commons.

 

[PART ONE]

[ARSHY] 

When Shirley moved to Forest Heights, Tracy visited her constantly. And right away, the trouble began.

 

[ROWLEY]

And I’d visit her every day and we watched TV. We’d still watch her Law & Order and everything else. Her bed was right beside the bathroom, which, you know, it happens. There’s four people in a room. Nobody really talks to each other. There’s a local dining room they could go to. But they didn’t.

 

[ARSHY] 

More disturbingly, Shirley wasn’t bathed.

 

[ROWLEY]

My mom never had a shower the whole time. So she said no, cause maybe she was having a bad day or whatever. They never asked her again or they didn’t come to me. 

 

[ARSHY] 

Shirley wasn’t eating well either.

 

[ROWLEY]

And they would bring meals in. And if she was sleeping, they wouldn’t wake her up and then would she’d wake up, her food was cold. So she’d ask for it to be heated up, but they wouldn’t heat it. The potatoes would still feel like there was ice in the middle. So that’s why she wasn’t really eating.

 

[ARSHY] 

Shirley soon became injured from just being there.

 

[ROWLEY]

She also had a bedsore on her butt and or like a pressure sore. It was a very big one. So she was put on a waterbed. And then they said, “Well, you know, she’s not sitting in it right.” So they took her off of it, put her in a regular bed. And within a week, that sore on her bottom had now infected and got worse, that they now had to put the waterbed back in again. So, she went through pain that she didn’t need to.

 

[ARSHY] 

If you’ve been listening to this series, you’ve heard similar stories already. You heard about Wyonne Somers, who died of improper wound care at McKenzie Towne, also a Revera facility, back in 2013. 22 people have died of COVID-19 at McKenzie Towne, making it the facility where more people have died than anywhere else in Alberta.

At Forest Heights, where Shirley Egerdeen lived, the death toll is more than double that. In fact, over 160 people have died of COVID-19 in Revera homes since the pandemic began. 

So what is Revera?

 

[SHERINA HARRIS]

Revera is a privately owned long-term care home company. They are officially called Revera Inc. They also operate retirement homes.

 

[ARSHY] 

That’s Sherina Harris, a reporter for HuffPost Canada.

 

[EMMA PALING]

I believe there is about one hundred of their homes just in Ontario and dozens more in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

[ARSHY] 

And that’s Emma Paling, also a reporter for HuffPost Canada. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been digging into Revera’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including what happened to Shirley Egerdeen.

 

[PALING]

Shirley lived in a ward, which meant that she shared a room with three other people and she shared a bathroom with those people. She was the first one in her room to test positive for COVID-19, and the staff at the home told Tracy that she wouldn’t be moved. 

 

[ROWLEY]

I asked, you know, would she be moved? Will she go to another room? What’s happening for isolation? And he said, “We’ve put a curtain around her.” I said, “There’s three other people in that room. How is that isolated?” And she’s also right beside the bathroom, so there’s always bacteria and germs coming from there from other people. And he said, “Well, you know, that’s what we’re doing. Her curtain’s around her. Within the week, the other people in her room were all infected with COVID-19.

 

[PALING]

And all of the relatives told us similar things, that after their family member had contracted COVID-19, they weren’t really isolated from other people. And even before they contracted it, when there were already outbreaks, the residents were allowed to move around the buildings, continued to share bathrooms. People weren’t really being separated from each other and isolation wasn’t really being enforced.

One of the other major concerns that we heard was that the company wasn’t communicating. They didn’t communicate a plan for how they were going to deal with the outbreak. They didn’t communicate how their relatives were going to be cared for or isolated, once they tested positive.

 

[ROWLEY]

Even if you tried to call in during the outbreak, they wouldn’t answer the phone. So you couldn’t get updates. And in my case, it was always, “Well, her stats are good, so if anything changes, we’ll call you.” Some people could do window visits and they could do that. I couldn’t. She was in a wheelchair. For her to get out of bed, it would take people to get her out of bed. And they didn’t have the staff to do that.

So I would never have had that opportunity and I would call in, and I would call in, and they wouldn’t answer or it would always be the same thing, “You know, well, her room oxygen’s fine, her temperature is fine and… Okay, I’ve got another call. I got to go.”

I had paid for a phone for her to have in her own room. So if she didn’t answer it or that,  for a couple of days, I know obviously she wasn’t feeling well.

 

[PALING]

She had obviously deteriorated since she caught COVID-19. Shirley wasn’t able to talk or answer her, but staff members put a phone on Shirley’s chest, so Tracy could at least kind of talk to her, be there for her. She didn’t realize, of course, that that would be the last time they spoke. 

 

[ROWLEY]

I guess I had this “mother” feeling myself in my stomach the night before she passed away. And I called in and asked if there’d be any way they could put a phone close to her so I could talk to her. And they put a phone in a glove and they put it on her chest, but she wasn’t responsive. I could hear her breathing and, um, I just talked to her for an hour. She’d call me “Toots” sometimes, so I’d be like, “Hey, Toots, are you sleeping on me? Am I that boring?” No one trying… Between my tears, to try and say nice things to her, and, um, we hung up about 11:00 that night. And then I got the call at 4:00 a.m. that she had passed.

And I asked the lady, was she alone when she passed, and, um, the nurse said, “We went in to change her dressing at four o’clock, and she wasn’t breathing.” And I said, “Did you know how long that was for?” and I just got the same response: “We went in at four o’clock to change her dressing and she wasn’t breathing.” Therefore I don’t know how long she was lying in there, not breathing. 

 

PART TWO

[ARSHY] 

Since late April, just over a month after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Revera has put out a handful of news releases. That includes an action plan for Forest Heights, the details of a new initiative to procure PPE, and responses to two class-action lawsuits against them: One in Alberta, and the one that Tracy is involved in in Ontario.

But, by far, their most comprehensive statement is a five-page long release called “Let’s focus on the real changes needed in the long-term care sector.” And in it, Revera goes to great lengths to rebut the argument that for-profit homes are handling this pandemic worse than non-profit or public homes.

We told you in the last episode about how the Toronto Star reported that people in for-profit homes are much more likely to die if there’s an outbreak than in non-profit and public homes. And here’s Revera’s response to that argument:

“We are seeing more and more media stories attempting to draw a link between the ownership model for long-term care and the passing of residents from COVID-19. There are many variables and factors that have played a part in why COVID-19 spread in some homes and not others. However, objective data has not shown that ownership is one of them.”

In that release, Revera does make some good points. They say that governments were too focused on hospitals early on and ignored long-term care, and that’s true. They say that they don’t get enough funding per resident, and I completely agree. But some of their other claims are disputable.

For one, Revera cites something called the “Qindex.” The Qindex was introduced in 2018 and is a metric that is meant to track the overall quality of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes. But there’s a good reason to be skeptical of Qindex.

 

[ZAID NOORSUMAR]

Quindex is an assessment tool created by the Ontario Long-Term Care Association that represents the for-profits.

 

[ARSHY]

That’s Zaid Noorsumar. He’s a freelance journalist who covers labour issues, and for the last year he’s been investigating long-term care and home care in Ontario. And he told us that it’s essential to note where exactly this data is coming from. 

 

[NOORSUMAR]

The Qindex is a convenient way for the Long-term Care Association to say that for-profits deliver the similar quality of care as the non-profits and municipal homes.

 

[ARSHY]

The index was created by the University of Toronto in partnership with the association that mostly represents the for-profit homes.

 

[NOORSUMAR]

So, the metrics are not the best way to assess quality in long-term care. But if you, you know, examine where the research comes from, it comes from the association… which if you look at the board of directors, is all these big corporations on the board of directors. So, it’s–it’s really problematic.

And it just so happens that Wendy Gilmour, Revera’s senior vice-president of long-term care, is on the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s board of directors.

In that same five-page news release, Revera also said that they didn’t know about asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. And that’s true. Health officials were very much focused on people with symptoms. So even when employees tested positive for COVID-19, Revera admits that they did ask them, in some circumstances, to come into work. 

 

[PALING]

And the company defended that by saying, you know, they didn’t realize that COVID could spread if people didn’t have symptoms. And so they thought it would be safe.

 

[ARSHY]

But at another Revera residence, Carling View Manor in Ottawa, Emma Paling says that something else happened. 

 

[PALING]

And what I heard from the employee at Carling View Manor was that they were taking temperatures of all the staff coming in and out at the beginning and end of their shift. And the first person who had a fever was asked to go home. But none of the people that he worked with, none of the residents that he had cared for that day, were isolated. They were still sharing dining rooms, sharing bathrooms, moving around the building.

 

[ARSHY]

From the very beginning, health officials were clear that anyone who came into contact with someone with symptoms needed to go into isolation.

 

[PALING]

There’s very specific steps that you are supposed to be taking if you had it. And yet Revera was letting asymptomatic employees, who tested positive, care for residents. And they were also letting people who had contact with symptomatic cases move around.

 

[ARSHY]

Emma Paling says that Revera has not denied any of the allegations that she and Harris reported. 

Revera also says in their statement that, because they’re a large chain, they had access to PPE throughout the pandemic. But employees say that they weren’t provided with proper protection. 

 

[HARRIS]

The source also raised some concerns that I think we’ve been seeing a lot in the news from other homes and other health care institutions as well: concerns about a lack of PPE. They said now they have enough, but, uh, that was more of an issue. And they found that when they would ask managers about it, they weren’t, uh, really given kind of a clear answer.

 

[ARSHY]

I think this news release, and their public relations efforts during this pandemic, are indicative. Their evidence that for-profit homes believe that their very business model is under attack now, and they have an obligation to their shareholders to fight back

And Revera is a particularly interesting case. It has deep political connections, like many of the other for-profit long-term care and retirement companies. 

 

[PALING]

Their Chief Elder Officer for Revera is Hazel McCallion, the famous “Hurricane Hazel,” former mayor of Mississauga, who is a good friend of Premier Doug Ford. And their Chair Emeritus of their board is Bill Davis, a former conservative premier of Ontario.

 

[ARSHY]

But by far, their most interesting political connection is who owns them. Revera isn’t a publicly traded company. It’s entirely privately owned by the Canadian federal government. 

The Public Sector Pension Fund, which manages the pensions for federal employees, the RCMP and the Canadian forces, bought Revera outright in 2006.

 

[PALING]

I think that makes it even more interesting to see how the politicians respond and handle this. Especially because all the federal public servants are getting their pensions paid out by this company’s profits.

 

[ARSHY]

The PSP Investment Board is managed at arm’s length from the federal government, but its members are appointed by the cabinet. And because this technically makes Revera a private company, we don’t have access to their financials. 

But according to a recent Toronto Star investigation, we know that three of Revera’s competitors: Chartwell, Sienna and Extendicare, collectively paid out over $1.5 billion dollars in dividends to their shareholders over the last decade. So it’s reasonable to assume Revera had paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to federal pensions over the last 12 years.

Of course, not all of that, by any means, was from long-term care. These companies have other businesses. But they made a lot of money for their shareholders over the years, including the federal government. And that was during a time when the long-term care crisis in Ontario and across Canada was getting worse. When investigations and inquiries were consistently calling for more staffing, for more investment. 

What doesn’t show up on these balance sheets is the human cost of all this. What happens when we try to make caring for vulnerable people as efficient as possible so that we can eke out an extra few percentage points of profit. 

I’ve been looking through the filings of the Public Service Pension fund, and in every annual report, there’s a section that talks about the percentage of their holdings that are real estate and, under that, you get a few mentions of Revera.

And the thing that I’ve been feeling is that, in those reports, everything is so abstract. It’s so distanced from the reality on the ground. For the people who set up the framework for everything a company like Revera does, Tracy and Shirley don’t really figure into things. They’re a data point within a data point within a data point.

But for Tracy and Shirley, nothing could be more important. Tracy called Shirley every Mother’s Day. 

 

[ROWLEY]

And then this Mother’s Day, it was… I couldn’t call her, I couldn’t come over and hug her. I couldn’t do any of that. It consisted of sitting at a cemetery and putting some flowers, and still putting a Mother’s Day card down there. But I didn’t get that hug. I didn’t get that personal contact. And I hadn’t for months from her. And I know how much she wanted that, because every call that we talked to before she passed was how much she missed me, and when was this gonna be over, so she could see me again?

 

I kept telling her that if I won the lottery, I was going to buy a big house and, um, I was gonna make sure she was with me all the time. The emotion and the feeling was, “I wish… I never I never put her there. I wish I found space somewhere for her. I wish that I could have taken better care of her, even if that meant changing her dressings or hiring someone or doing something,” because at least if she did pass on my care, she knew I loved her and she knew I took such good care of her. She… She wouldn’t have taken that last breath by herself. So I just wish I never… I never put her there.

 

OUTRO

[ARSHY]

The lawsuit that Tracy is involved in the largest COVID-19-related class action so far.

 

[PALING]

It’s now one hundred million dollars in damages. And there were originally two representative plaintiffs who had both lost mothers. There are now six representative plaintiffs who have all lost a family member at a Revera home. Revera says that they’re currently reviewing the suit and will eventually respond. But that, right now, their focus is to prevent further illness and the loss of life. 

 

[ARSHY]

Tracy says that for her, it’s not about the money.

 

[ROWLEY]

I want to be a voice for my mother, and I don’t want her to be a COVID status. I don’t want her to be a number. I want people to understand she was actually a person. She was a loving, caring person that was taken too soon, that wasn’t ready to go. At least I wasn’t ready for her to go.

 

[ARSHY]

And she thinks that a lawsuit might be one of the only ways to change things. 

 

[ROWLEY]

So they’re forced to have something in place, if this happens for the second wave, that, you know, they’re not losing 50 people again. So families aren’t going through the death of their loved one, not being able to see them, not knowing if they’re OK. I don’t want people to go through that. I want seniors to have a voice.

 

END CREDITS

That’s your episode of Commons for the week. If you want to support us, click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com

This episode relied on reporting done by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris at HuffPost Canada, Marco Chown Oved, Kenyon Wallace and Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto Star, Geoffrey Stevens at the Waterloo Record and many, many others. 

If you want to get in touch with us, you can tweet at us at @COMMONSpod.

You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com.

This episode was produced by me and Jordan Cornish, with production help by Tiffany Lam. Our managing editor is Andréa Schmidt, and our music is by Nathan Burley. 

If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND.

 

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Legal Weed is Bad for Poor People
We talk to a Liberal MP and a criminal defense lawyer about what legalisation means for the people who built the markets.
February 22, 2016
42
Live From U of Ottawa: Refugees Welcome, But Bad News About the Job Market…
When Canadian University grads work at Starbucks and immigrant doctors drive taxis, how will refugees get on their feet?
February 29, 2016
43
Rogue Senators
Senator Diane Bellemare quit the Conservative caucus, saying pressure to toe the party line is getting in the way of Senators doing their jobs.
March 14, 2016
44
Canada’s Arms Deals: Beyond Saudi Arabia
$5/month for-adree COMMONS by clicking here. Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada. Featured in this episode: Tracy Rowley, Sherina Harris (HuffPost Canada), Emma Paling (HuffPost Canada), Zaid Noorsumar  To learn more: “COVID-19 Has Killed 164 At Revera’s Care Homes. Their Families Want Answers” by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris in HuffPost Canada “Is it Time to Care Yet?” by Zaid Noorsumar in Rank and File “It is time to forget the profits and fix long-term care” by Geoffrey Stevens in The Waterloo Region Record This episode is sponsored by Freshbooks and The Jerry Cans Additional music from Audio Network   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 5 – “SHIRLEY AND TRACY”   [COLD OPEN] [ARSHY MANN] Here’s what you need to understand about Shirley and Tracy: They both lived in Kitchener, one of the many mid-sized cities that dot Southern Ontario, and they met when Tracy started out helping Shirley with errands, like groceries and cleaning.    [TRACY ROWLEY] She was the type of person that she either liked you or she didn’t like you. And for some reason we just clicked from day one. And she was like, “No, you’re my daughter. You’re not my cleaning person, and you’re not this. You’re… You’re my family.”   [ARSHY]  That’s Tracy Rowley. And she says, that’s exactly what happened. She became Shirley Egerdeen’s family. She became her daughter.   [ROWLEY] So my mother and I, as… She called me her adopted mother, or surrogate mother. She never had any husband. She didn’t have children.    [ARSHY]  They saw each other all the time and did the things mothers and daughters do together.   [ROWLEY] We’re both Libras, so our birthdays are three days apart, so we would have Law & Order marathons for our birthday and eat Swiss Chalet. She’s very feisty.   [ARSHY]  But late last year, Shirley’s health took a turn for the worse.   [ROWLEY] So in December of last year, she got a really bad cold and the start of pneumonia. So she was put into our local hospital. And, at that time, she needed to recover a little more to be able to get back to the process of getting out of the bed into her wheelchair again, and she wasn’t strong enough from that. So the hospital said, “The best thing we could do right now is put her in long-term care.”   [ARSHY]  At first, Shirley was placed in a facility in Elmira, a nearby rural community. but she wanted to come back to town.   [ROWLEY] She said, what’s my best way of coming back to Kitchener? I want to be closer to my daughter. And the lady at the hospital said the quickest she’ll get back to Kitchener is to go to Forest Heights because they always have openings. And I never thought twice about it. I really didn’t.   [ARSHY]  It’s a decision Tracy regrets to this day.   [ROWLEY] But I understand now why so many seniors beg their kids, “Please don’t put me in a senior’s home. Please, please don’t.” Because I saw it firsthand, and if I had to do it over again, I would have done something. I would have found the room. I would have done something to make sure that she didn’t have to go there.   [ARSHY]  A month ago, Shirley Egerdeen became one of almost 50 people to die of COVID-19 at Forest Heights. Forest Heights is owned by Revera, one of the biggest for-profit long-term care providers in Canada. Tracy believes that Shirley didn’t have to die in this way. And today she’s one of the many people who have joined a class action against Revera and another for-profit chain.  I’m Arshy Mann and, from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   [PART ONE] [ARSHY]  When Shirley moved to Forest Heights, Tracy visited her constantly. And right away, the trouble began.   [ROWLEY] And I’d visit her every day and we watched TV. We’d still watch her Law & Order and everything else. Her bed was right beside the bathroom, which, you know, it happens. There’s four people in a room. Nobody really talks to each other. There’s a local dining room they could go to. But they didn’t.   [ARSHY]  More disturbingly, Shirley wasn’t bathed.   [ROWLEY] My mom never had a shower the whole time. So she said no, cause maybe she was having a bad day or whatever. They never asked her again or they didn’t come to me.    [ARSHY]  Shirley wasn’t eating well either.   [ROWLEY] And they would bring meals in. And if she was sleeping, they wouldn’t wake her up and then would she’d wake up, her food was cold. So she’d ask for it to be heated up, but they wouldn’t heat it. The potatoes would still feel like there was ice in the middle. So that’s why she wasn’t really eating.   [ARSHY]  Shirley soon became injured from just being there.   [ROWLEY] She also had a bedsore on her butt and or like a pressure sore. It was a very big one. So she was put on a waterbed. And then they said, “Well, you know, she’s not sitting in it right.” So they took her off of it, put her in a regular bed. And within a week, that sore on her bottom had now infected and got worse, that they now had to put the waterbed back in again. So, she went through pain that she didn’t need to.   [ARSHY]  If you’ve been listening to this series, you’ve heard similar stories already. You heard about Wyonne Somers, who died of improper wound care at McKenzie Towne, also a Revera facility, back in 2013. 22 people have died of COVID-19 at McKenzie Towne, making it the facility where more people have died than anywhere else in Alberta. At Forest Heights, where Shirley Egerdeen lived, the death toll is more than double that. In fact, over 160 people have died of COVID-19 in Revera homes since the pandemic began.  So what is Revera?   [SHERINA HARRIS] Revera is a privately owned long-term care home company. They are officially called Revera Inc. They also operate retirement homes.   [ARSHY]  That’s Sherina Harris, a reporter for HuffPost Canada.   [EMMA PALING] I believe there is about one hundred of their homes just in Ontario and dozens more in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.   [ARSHY]  And that’s Emma Paling, also a reporter for HuffPost Canada. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been digging into Revera’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including what happened to Shirley Egerdeen.   [PALING] Shirley lived in a ward, which meant that she shared a room with three other people and she shared a bathroom with those people. She was the first one in her room to test positive for COVID-19, and the staff at the home told Tracy that she wouldn’t be moved.    [ROWLEY] I asked, you know, would she be moved? Will she go to another room? What’s happening for isolation? And he said, “We’ve put a curtain around her.” I said, “There’s three other people in that room. How is that isolated?” And she’s also right beside the bathroom, so there’s always bacteria and germs coming from there from other people. And he said, “Well, you know, that’s what we’re doing. Her curtain’s around her. Within the week, the other people in her room were all infected with COVID-19.   [PALING] And all of the relatives told us similar things, that after their family member had contracted COVID-19, they weren’t really isolated from other people. And even before they contracted it, when there were already outbreaks, the residents were allowed to move around the buildings, continued to share bathrooms. People weren’t really being separated from each other and isolation wasn’t really being enforced. One of the other major concerns that we heard was that the company wasn’t communicating. They didn’t communicate a plan for how they were going to deal with the outbreak. They didn’t communicate how their relatives were going to be cared for or isolated, once they tested positive.   [ROWLEY] Even if you tried to call in during the outbreak, they wouldn’t answer the phone. So you couldn’t get updates. And in my case, it was always, “Well, her stats are good, so if anything changes, we’ll call you.” Some people could do window visits and they could do that. I couldn’t. She was in a wheelchair. For her to get out of bed, it would take people to get her out of bed. And they didn’t have the staff to do that. So I would never have had that opportunity and I would call in, and I would call in, and they wouldn’t answer or it would always be the same thing, “You know, well, her room oxygen’s fine, her temperature is fine and… Okay, I’ve got another call. I got to go.” I had paid for a phone for her to have in her own room. So if she didn’t answer it or that,  for a couple of days, I know obviously she wasn’t feeling well.   [PALING] She had obviously deteriorated since she caught COVID-19. Shirley wasn’t able to talk or answer her, but staff members put a phone on Shirley’s chest, so Tracy could at least kind of talk to her, be there for her. She didn’t realize, of course, that that would be the last time they spoke.    [ROWLEY] I guess I had this “mother” feeling myself in my stomach the night before she passed away. And I called in and asked if there’d be any way they could put a phone close to her so I could talk to her. And they put a phone in a glove and they put it on her chest, but she wasn’t responsive. I could hear her breathing and, um, I just talked to her for an hour. She’d call me “Toots” sometimes, so I’d be like, “Hey, Toots, are you sleeping on me? Am I that boring?” No one trying… Between my tears, to try and say nice things to her, and, um, we hung up about 11:00 that night. And then I got the call at 4:00 a.m. that she had passed. And I asked the lady, was she alone when she passed, and, um, the nurse said, “We went in to change her dressing at four o’clock, and she wasn’t breathing.” And I said, “Did you know how long that was for?” and I just got the same response: “We went in at four o’clock to change her dressing and she wasn’t breathing.” Therefore I don’t know how long she was lying in there, not breathing.    PART TWO [ARSHY]  Since late April, just over a month after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Revera has put out a handful of news releases. That includes an action plan for Forest Heights, the details of a new initiative to procure PPE, and responses to two class-action lawsuits against them: One in Alberta, and the one that Tracy is involved in in Ontario. But, by far, their most comprehensive statement is a five-page long release called “Let’s focus on the real changes needed in the long-term care sector.” And in it, Revera goes to great lengths to rebut the argument that for-profit homes are handling this pandemic worse than non-profit or public homes. We told you in the last episode about how the Toronto Star reported that people in for-profit homes are much more likely to die if there’s an outbreak than in non-profit and public homes. And here’s Revera’s response to that argument: “We are seeing more and more media stories attempting to draw a link between the ownership model for long-term care and the passing of residents from COVID-19. There are many variables and factors that have played a part in why COVID-19 spread in some homes and not others. However, objective data has not shown that ownership is one of them.” In that release, Revera does make some good points. They say that governments were too focused on hospitals early on and ignored long-term care, and that’s true. They say that they don’t get enough funding per resident, and I completely agree. But some of their other claims are disputable. For one, Revera cites something called the “Qindex.” The Qindex was introduced in 2018 and is a metric that is meant to track the overall quality of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes. But there’s a good reason to be skeptical of Qindex.   [ZAID NOORSUMAR] Quindex is an assessment tool created by the Ontario Long-Term Care Association that represents the for-profits.   [ARSHY] That’s Zaid Noorsumar. He’s a freelance journalist who covers labour issues, and for the last year he’s been investigating long-term care and home care in Ontario. And he told us that it’s essential to note where exactly this data is coming from.    [NOORSUMAR] The Qindex is a convenient way for the Long-term Care Association to say that for-profits deliver the similar quality of care as the non-profits and municipal homes.   [ARSHY] The index was created by the University of Toronto in partnership with the association that mostly represents the for-profit homes.   [NOORSUMAR] So, the metrics are not the best way to assess quality in long-term care. But if you, you know, examine where the research comes from, it comes from the association… which if you look at the board of directors, is all these big corporations on the board of directors. So, it’s–it’s really problematic. And it just so happens that Wendy Gilmour, Revera’s senior vice-president of long-term care, is on the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s board of directors. In that same five-page news release, Revera also said that they didn’t know about asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. And that’s true. Health officials were very much focused on people with symptoms. So even when employees tested positive for COVID-19, Revera admits that they did ask them, in some circumstances, to come into work.    [PALING] And the company defended that by saying, you know, they didn’t realize that COVID could spread if people didn’t have symptoms. And so they thought it would be safe.   [ARSHY] But at another Revera residence, Carling View Manor in Ottawa, Emma Paling says that something else happened.    [PALING] And what I heard from the employee at Carling View Manor was that they were taking temperatures of all the staff coming in and out at the beginning and end of their shift. And the first person who had a fever was asked to go home. But none of the people that he worked with, none of the residents that he had cared for that day, were isolated. They were still sharing dining rooms, sharing bathrooms, moving around the building.   [ARSHY] From the very beginning, health officials were clear that anyone who came into contact with someone with symptoms needed to go into isolation.   [PALING] There’s very specific steps that you are supposed to be taking if you had it. And yet Revera was letting asymptomatic employees, who tested positive, care for residents. And they were also letting people who had contact with symptomatic cases move around.   [ARSHY] Emma Paling says that Revera has not denied any of the allegations that she and Harris reported.  Revera also says in their statement that, because they’re a large chain, they had access to PPE throughout the pandemic. But employees say that they weren’t provided with proper protection.    [HARRIS] The source also raised some concerns that I think we’ve been seeing a lot in the news from other homes and other health care institutions as well: concerns about a lack of PPE. They said now they have enough, but, uh, that was more of an issue. And they found that when they would ask managers about it, they weren’t, uh, really given kind of a clear answer.   [ARSHY] I think this news release, and their public relations efforts during this pandemic, are indicative. Their evidence that for-profit homes believe that their very business model is under attack now, and they have an obligation to their shareholders to fight back And Revera is a particularly interesting case. It has deep political connections, like many of the other for-profit long-term care and retirement companies.    [PALING] Their Chief Elder Officer for Revera is Hazel McCallion, the famous “Hurricane Hazel,” former mayor of Mississauga, who is a good friend of Premier Doug Ford. And their Chair Emeritus of their board is Bill Davis, a former conservative premier of Ontario.   [ARSHY] But by far, their most interesting political connection is who owns them. Revera isn’t a publicly traded company. It’s entirely privately owned by the Canadian federal government.  The Public Sector Pension Fund, which manages the pensions for federal employees, the RCMP and the Canadian forces, bought Revera outright in 2006.   [PALING] I think that makes it even more interesting to see how the politicians respond and handle this. Especially because all the federal public servants are getting their pensions paid out by this company’s profits.   [ARSHY] The PSP Investment Board is managed at arm’s length from the federal government, but its members are appointed by the cabinet. And because this technically makes Revera a private company, we don’t have access to their financials.  But according to a recent Toronto Star investigation, we know that three of Revera’s competitors: Chartwell, Sienna and Extendicare, collectively paid out over $1.5 billion dollars in dividends to their shareholders over the last decade. So it’s reasonable to assume Revera had paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to federal pensions over the last 12 years. Of course, not all of that, by any means, was from long-term care. These companies have other businesses. But they made a lot of money for their shareholders over the years, including the federal government. And that was during a time when the long-term care crisis in Ontario and across Canada was getting worse. When investigations and inquiries were consistently calling for more staffing, for more investment.  What doesn’t show up on these balance sheets is the human cost of all this. What happens when we try to make caring for vulnerable people as efficient as possible so that we can eke out an extra few percentage points of profit.  I’ve been looking through the filings of the Public Service Pension fund, and in every annual report, there’s a section that talks about the percentage of their holdings that are real estate and, under that, you get a few mentions of Revera. And the thing that I’ve been feeling is that, in those reports, everything is so abstract. It’s so distanced from the reality on the ground. For the people who set up the framework for everything a company like Revera does, Tracy and Shirley don’t really figure into things. They’re a data point within a data point within a data point. But for Tracy and Shirley, nothing could be more important. Tracy called Shirley every Mother’s Day.    [ROWLEY] And then this Mother’s Day, it was… I couldn’t call her, I couldn’t come over and hug her. I couldn’t do any of that. It consisted of sitting at a cemetery and putting some flowers, and still putting a Mother’s Day card down there. But I didn’t get that hug. I didn’t get that personal contact. And I hadn’t for months from her. And I know how much she wanted that, because every call that we talked to before she passed was how much she missed me, and when was this gonna be over, so she could see me again?   I kept telling her that if I won the lottery, I was going to buy a big house and, um, I was gonna make sure she was with me all the time. The emotion and the feeling was, “I wish… I never I never put her there. I wish I found space somewhere for her. I wish that I could have taken better care of her, even if that meant changing her dressings or hiring someone or doing something,” because at least if she did pass on my care, she knew I loved her and she knew I took such good care of her. She… She wouldn’t have taken that last breath by herself. So I just wish I never… I never put her there.   OUTRO [ARSHY] The lawsuit that Tracy is involved in the largest COVID-19-related class action so far.   [PALING] It’s now one hundred million dollars in damages. And there were originally two representative plaintiffs who had both lost mothers. There are now six representative plaintiffs who have all lost a family member at a Revera home. Revera says that they’re currently reviewing the suit and will eventually respond. But that, right now, their focus is to prevent further illness and the loss of life.    [ARSHY] Tracy says that for her, it’s not about the money.   [ROWLEY] I want to be a voice for my mother, and I don’t want her to be a COVID status. I don’t want her to be a number. I want people to understand she was actually a person. She was a loving, caring person that was taken too soon, that wasn’t ready to go. At least I wasn’t ready for her to go.   [ARSHY] And she thinks that a lawsuit might be one of the only ways to change things.    [ROWLEY] So they’re forced to have something in place, if this happens for the second wave, that, you know, they’re not losing 50 people again. So families aren’t going through the death of their loved one, not being able to see them, not knowing if they’re OK. I don’t want people to go through that. I want seniors to have a voice.   END CREDITS That’s your episode of Commons for the week. If you want to support us, click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com This episode relied on reporting done by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris at HuffPost Canada, Marco Chown Oved, Kenyon Wallace and Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto Star, Geoffrey Stevens at the Waterloo Record and many, many others.  If you want to get in touch with us, you can tweet at us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by me and Jordan Cornish, with production help by Tiffany Lam. Our managing editor is Andréa Schmidt, and our music is by Nathan Burley.  If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND.   I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
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April 4, 2016
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April 11, 2016
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April 19, 2016
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April 25, 2016
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May 2, 2016
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May 11, 2016
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May 16, 2016
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June 6, 2016
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June 21, 2016
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August 9, 2016
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A Message About the Future of COMMONS
We have news.
October 18, 2016
COMMONS returns!
$5/month for-adree COMMONS by clicking here. Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada. Featured in this episode: Tracy Rowley, Sherina Harris (HuffPost Canada), Emma Paling (HuffPost Canada), Zaid Noorsumar  To learn more: “COVID-19 Has Killed 164 At Revera’s Care Homes. Their Families Want Answers” by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris in HuffPost Canada “Is it Time to Care Yet?” by Zaid Noorsumar in Rank and File “It is time to forget the profits and fix long-term care” by Geoffrey Stevens in The Waterloo Region Record This episode is sponsored by Freshbooks and The Jerry Cans Additional music from Audio Network   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 5 – “SHIRLEY AND TRACY”   [COLD OPEN] [ARSHY MANN] Here’s what you need to understand about Shirley and Tracy: They both lived in Kitchener, one of the many mid-sized cities that dot Southern Ontario, and they met when Tracy started out helping Shirley with errands, like groceries and cleaning.    [TRACY ROWLEY] She was the type of person that she either liked you or she didn’t like you. And for some reason we just clicked from day one. And she was like, “No, you’re my daughter. You’re not my cleaning person, and you’re not this. You’re… You’re my family.”   [ARSHY]  That’s Tracy Rowley. And she says, that’s exactly what happened. She became Shirley Egerdeen’s family. She became her daughter.   [ROWLEY] So my mother and I, as… She called me her adopted mother, or surrogate mother. She never had any husband. She didn’t have children.    [ARSHY]  They saw each other all the time and did the things mothers and daughters do together.   [ROWLEY] We’re both Libras, so our birthdays are three days apart, so we would have Law & Order marathons for our birthday and eat Swiss Chalet. She’s very feisty.   [ARSHY]  But late last year, Shirley’s health took a turn for the worse.   [ROWLEY] So in December of last year, she got a really bad cold and the start of pneumonia. So she was put into our local hospital. And, at that time, she needed to recover a little more to be able to get back to the process of getting out of the bed into her wheelchair again, and she wasn’t strong enough from that. So the hospital said, “The best thing we could do right now is put her in long-term care.”   [ARSHY]  At first, Shirley was placed in a facility in Elmira, a nearby rural community. but she wanted to come back to town.   [ROWLEY] She said, what’s my best way of coming back to Kitchener? I want to be closer to my daughter. And the lady at the hospital said the quickest she’ll get back to Kitchener is to go to Forest Heights because they always have openings. And I never thought twice about it. I really didn’t.   [ARSHY]  It’s a decision Tracy regrets to this day.   [ROWLEY] But I understand now why so many seniors beg their kids, “Please don’t put me in a senior’s home. Please, please don’t.” Because I saw it firsthand, and if I had to do it over again, I would have done something. I would have found the room. I would have done something to make sure that she didn’t have to go there.   [ARSHY]  A month ago, Shirley Egerdeen became one of almost 50 people to die of COVID-19 at Forest Heights. Forest Heights is owned by Revera, one of the biggest for-profit long-term care providers in Canada. Tracy believes that Shirley didn’t have to die in this way. And today she’s one of the many people who have joined a class action against Revera and another for-profit chain.  I’m Arshy Mann and, from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   [PART ONE] [ARSHY]  When Shirley moved to Forest Heights, Tracy visited her constantly. And right away, the trouble began.   [ROWLEY] And I’d visit her every day and we watched TV. We’d still watch her Law & Order and everything else. Her bed was right beside the bathroom, which, you know, it happens. There’s four people in a room. Nobody really talks to each other. There’s a local dining room they could go to. But they didn’t.   [ARSHY]  More disturbingly, Shirley wasn’t bathed.   [ROWLEY] My mom never had a shower the whole time. So she said no, cause maybe she was having a bad day or whatever. They never asked her again or they didn’t come to me.    [ARSHY]  Shirley wasn’t eating well either.   [ROWLEY] And they would bring meals in. And if she was sleeping, they wouldn’t wake her up and then would she’d wake up, her food was cold. So she’d ask for it to be heated up, but they wouldn’t heat it. The potatoes would still feel like there was ice in the middle. So that’s why she wasn’t really eating.   [ARSHY]  Shirley soon became injured from just being there.   [ROWLEY] She also had a bedsore on her butt and or like a pressure sore. It was a very big one. So she was put on a waterbed. And then they said, “Well, you know, she’s not sitting in it right.” So they took her off of it, put her in a regular bed. And within a week, that sore on her bottom had now infected and got worse, that they now had to put the waterbed back in again. So, she went through pain that she didn’t need to.   [ARSHY]  If you’ve been listening to this series, you’ve heard similar stories already. You heard about Wyonne Somers, who died of improper wound care at McKenzie Towne, also a Revera facility, back in 2013. 22 people have died of COVID-19 at McKenzie Towne, making it the facility where more people have died than anywhere else in Alberta. At Forest Heights, where Shirley Egerdeen lived, the death toll is more than double that. In fact, over 160 people have died of COVID-19 in Revera homes since the pandemic began.  So what is Revera?   [SHERINA HARRIS] Revera is a privately owned long-term care home company. They are officially called Revera Inc. They also operate retirement homes.   [ARSHY]  That’s Sherina Harris, a reporter for HuffPost Canada.   [EMMA PALING] I believe there is about one hundred of their homes just in Ontario and dozens more in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.   [ARSHY]  And that’s Emma Paling, also a reporter for HuffPost Canada. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been digging into Revera’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including what happened to Shirley Egerdeen.   [PALING] Shirley lived in a ward, which meant that she shared a room with three other people and she shared a bathroom with those people. She was the first one in her room to test positive for COVID-19, and the staff at the home told Tracy that she wouldn’t be moved.    [ROWLEY] I asked, you know, would she be moved? Will she go to another room? What’s happening for isolation? And he said, “We’ve put a curtain around her.” I said, “There’s three other people in that room. How is that isolated?” And she’s also right beside the bathroom, so there’s always bacteria and germs coming from there from other people. And he said, “Well, you know, that’s what we’re doing. Her curtain’s around her. Within the week, the other people in her room were all infected with COVID-19.   [PALING] And all of the relatives told us similar things, that after their family member had contracted COVID-19, they weren’t really isolated from other people. And even before they contracted it, when there were already outbreaks, the residents were allowed to move around the buildings, continued to share bathrooms. People weren’t really being separated from each other and isolation wasn’t really being enforced. One of the other major concerns that we heard was that the company wasn’t communicating. They didn’t communicate a plan for how they were going to deal with the outbreak. They didn’t communicate how their relatives were going to be cared for or isolated, once they tested positive.   [ROWLEY] Even if you tried to call in during the outbreak, they wouldn’t answer the phone. So you couldn’t get updates. And in my case, it was always, “Well, her stats are good, so if anything changes, we’ll call you.” Some people could do window visits and they could do that. I couldn’t. She was in a wheelchair. For her to get out of bed, it would take people to get her out of bed. And they didn’t have the staff to do that. So I would never have had that opportunity and I would call in, and I would call in, and they wouldn’t answer or it would always be the same thing, “You know, well, her room oxygen’s fine, her temperature is fine and… Okay, I’ve got another call. I got to go.” I had paid for a phone for her to have in her own room. So if she didn’t answer it or that,  for a couple of days, I know obviously she wasn’t feeling well.   [PALING] She had obviously deteriorated since she caught COVID-19. Shirley wasn’t able to talk or answer her, but staff members put a phone on Shirley’s chest, so Tracy could at least kind of talk to her, be there for her. She didn’t realize, of course, that that would be the last time they spoke.    [ROWLEY] I guess I had this “mother” feeling myself in my stomach the night before she passed away. And I called in and asked if there’d be any way they could put a phone close to her so I could talk to her. And they put a phone in a glove and they put it on her chest, but she wasn’t responsive. I could hear her breathing and, um, I just talked to her for an hour. She’d call me “Toots” sometimes, so I’d be like, “Hey, Toots, are you sleeping on me? Am I that boring?” No one trying… Between my tears, to try and say nice things to her, and, um, we hung up about 11:00 that night. And then I got the call at 4:00 a.m. that she had passed. And I asked the lady, was she alone when she passed, and, um, the nurse said, “We went in to change her dressing at four o’clock, and she wasn’t breathing.” And I said, “Did you know how long that was for?” and I just got the same response: “We went in at four o’clock to change her dressing and she wasn’t breathing.” Therefore I don’t know how long she was lying in there, not breathing.    PART TWO [ARSHY]  Since late April, just over a month after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Revera has put out a handful of news releases. That includes an action plan for Forest Heights, the details of a new initiative to procure PPE, and responses to two class-action lawsuits against them: One in Alberta, and the one that Tracy is involved in in Ontario. But, by far, their most comprehensive statement is a five-page long release called “Let’s focus on the real changes needed in the long-term care sector.” And in it, Revera goes to great lengths to rebut the argument that for-profit homes are handling this pandemic worse than non-profit or public homes. We told you in the last episode about how the Toronto Star reported that people in for-profit homes are much more likely to die if there’s an outbreak than in non-profit and public homes. And here’s Revera’s response to that argument: “We are seeing more and more media stories attempting to draw a link between the ownership model for long-term care and the passing of residents from COVID-19. There are many variables and factors that have played a part in why COVID-19 spread in some homes and not others. However, objective data has not shown that ownership is one of them.” In that release, Revera does make some good points. They say that governments were too focused on hospitals early on and ignored long-term care, and that’s true. They say that they don’t get enough funding per resident, and I completely agree. But some of their other claims are disputable. For one, Revera cites something called the “Qindex.” The Qindex was introduced in 2018 and is a metric that is meant to track the overall quality of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes. But there’s a good reason to be skeptical of Qindex.   [ZAID NOORSUMAR] Quindex is an assessment tool created by the Ontario Long-Term Care Association that represents the for-profits.   [ARSHY] That’s Zaid Noorsumar. He’s a freelance journalist who covers labour issues, and for the last year he’s been investigating long-term care and home care in Ontario. And he told us that it’s essential to note where exactly this data is coming from.    [NOORSUMAR] The Qindex is a convenient way for the Long-term Care Association to say that for-profits deliver the similar quality of care as the non-profits and municipal homes.   [ARSHY] The index was created by the University of Toronto in partnership with the association that mostly represents the for-profit homes.   [NOORSUMAR] So, the metrics are not the best way to assess quality in long-term care. But if you, you know, examine where the research comes from, it comes from the association… which if you look at the board of directors, is all these big corporations on the board of directors. So, it’s–it’s really problematic. And it just so happens that Wendy Gilmour, Revera’s senior vice-president of long-term care, is on the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s board of directors. In that same five-page news release, Revera also said that they didn’t know about asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. And that’s true. Health officials were very much focused on people with symptoms. So even when employees tested positive for COVID-19, Revera admits that they did ask them, in some circumstances, to come into work.    [PALING] And the company defended that by saying, you know, they didn’t realize that COVID could spread if people didn’t have symptoms. And so they thought it would be safe.   [ARSHY] But at another Revera residence, Carling View Manor in Ottawa, Emma Paling says that something else happened.    [PALING] And what I heard from the employee at Carling View Manor was that they were taking temperatures of all the staff coming in and out at the beginning and end of their shift. And the first person who had a fever was asked to go home. But none of the people that he worked with, none of the residents that he had cared for that day, were isolated. They were still sharing dining rooms, sharing bathrooms, moving around the building.   [ARSHY] From the very beginning, health officials were clear that anyone who came into contact with someone with symptoms needed to go into isolation.   [PALING] There’s very specific steps that you are supposed to be taking if you had it. And yet Revera was letting asymptomatic employees, who tested positive, care for residents. And they were also letting people who had contact with symptomatic cases move around.   [ARSHY] Emma Paling says that Revera has not denied any of the allegations that she and Harris reported.  Revera also says in their statement that, because they’re a large chain, they had access to PPE throughout the pandemic. But employees say that they weren’t provided with proper protection.    [HARRIS] The source also raised some concerns that I think we’ve been seeing a lot in the news from other homes and other health care institutions as well: concerns about a lack of PPE. They said now they have enough, but, uh, that was more of an issue. And they found that when they would ask managers about it, they weren’t, uh, really given kind of a clear answer.   [ARSHY] I think this news release, and their public relations efforts during this pandemic, are indicative. Their evidence that for-profit homes believe that their very business model is under attack now, and they have an obligation to their shareholders to fight back And Revera is a particularly interesting case. It has deep political connections, like many of the other for-profit long-term care and retirement companies.    [PALING] Their Chief Elder Officer for Revera is Hazel McCallion, the famous “Hurricane Hazel,” former mayor of Mississauga, who is a good friend of Premier Doug Ford. And their Chair Emeritus of their board is Bill Davis, a former conservative premier of Ontario.   [ARSHY] But by far, their most interesting political connection is who owns them. Revera isn’t a publicly traded company. It’s entirely privately owned by the Canadian federal government.  The Public Sector Pension Fund, which manages the pensions for federal employees, the RCMP and the Canadian forces, bought Revera outright in 2006.   [PALING] I think that makes it even more interesting to see how the politicians respond and handle this. Especially because all the federal public servants are getting their pensions paid out by this company’s profits.   [ARSHY] The PSP Investment Board is managed at arm’s length from the federal government, but its members are appointed by the cabinet. And because this technically makes Revera a private company, we don’t have access to their financials.  But according to a recent Toronto Star investigation, we know that three of Revera’s competitors: Chartwell, Sienna and Extendicare, collectively paid out over $1.5 billion dollars in dividends to their shareholders over the last decade. So it’s reasonable to assume Revera had paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to federal pensions over the last 12 years. Of course, not all of that, by any means, was from long-term care. These companies have other businesses. But they made a lot of money for their shareholders over the years, including the federal government. And that was during a time when the long-term care crisis in Ontario and across Canada was getting worse. When investigations and inquiries were consistently calling for more staffing, for more investment.  What doesn’t show up on these balance sheets is the human cost of all this. What happens when we try to make caring for vulnerable people as efficient as possible so that we can eke out an extra few percentage points of profit.  I’ve been looking through the filings of the Public Service Pension fund, and in every annual report, there’s a section that talks about the percentage of their holdings that are real estate and, under that, you get a few mentions of Revera. And the thing that I’ve been feeling is that, in those reports, everything is so abstract. It’s so distanced from the reality on the ground. For the people who set up the framework for everything a company like Revera does, Tracy and Shirley don’t really figure into things. They’re a data point within a data point within a data point. But for Tracy and Shirley, nothing could be more important. Tracy called Shirley every Mother’s Day.    [ROWLEY] And then this Mother’s Day, it was… I couldn’t call her, I couldn’t come over and hug her. I couldn’t do any of that. It consisted of sitting at a cemetery and putting some flowers, and still putting a Mother’s Day card down there. But I didn’t get that hug. I didn’t get that personal contact. And I hadn’t for months from her. And I know how much she wanted that, because every call that we talked to before she passed was how much she missed me, and when was this gonna be over, so she could see me again?   I kept telling her that if I won the lottery, I was going to buy a big house and, um, I was gonna make sure she was with me all the time. The emotion and the feeling was, “I wish… I never I never put her there. I wish I found space somewhere for her. I wish that I could have taken better care of her, even if that meant changing her dressings or hiring someone or doing something,” because at least if she did pass on my care, she knew I loved her and she knew I took such good care of her. She… She wouldn’t have taken that last breath by herself. So I just wish I never… I never put her there.   OUTRO [ARSHY] The lawsuit that Tracy is involved in the largest COVID-19-related class action so far.   [PALING] It’s now one hundred million dollars in damages. And there were originally two representative plaintiffs who had both lost mothers. There are now six representative plaintiffs who have all lost a family member at a Revera home. Revera says that they’re currently reviewing the suit and will eventually respond. But that, right now, their focus is to prevent further illness and the loss of life.    [ARSHY] Tracy says that for her, it’s not about the money.   [ROWLEY] I want to be a voice for my mother, and I don’t want her to be a COVID status. I don’t want her to be a number. I want people to understand she was actually a person. She was a loving, caring person that was taken too soon, that wasn’t ready to go. At least I wasn’t ready for her to go.   [ARSHY] And she thinks that a lawsuit might be one of the only ways to change things.    [ROWLEY] So they’re forced to have something in place, if this happens for the second wave, that, you know, they’re not losing 50 people again. So families aren’t going through the death of their loved one, not being able to see them, not knowing if they’re OK. I don’t want people to go through that. I want seniors to have a voice.   END CREDITS That’s your episode of Commons for the week. If you want to support us, click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com This episode relied on reporting done by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris at HuffPost Canada, Marco Chown Oved, Kenyon Wallace and Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto Star, Geoffrey Stevens at the Waterloo Record and many, many others.  If you want to get in touch with us, you can tweet at us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by me and Jordan Cornish, with production help by Tiffany Lam. Our managing editor is Andréa Schmidt, and our music is by Nathan Burley.  If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND.   I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
February 13, 2017
68
Strong Hearts To The Front
$5/month for-adree COMMONS by clicking here. Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada. Featured in this episode: Tracy Rowley, Sherina Harris (HuffPost Canada), Emma Paling (HuffPost Canada), Zaid Noorsumar  To learn more: “COVID-19 Has Killed 164 At Revera’s Care Homes. Their Families Want Answers” by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris in HuffPost Canada “Is it Time to Care Yet?” by Zaid Noorsumar in Rank and File “It is time to forget the profits and fix long-term care” by Geoffrey Stevens in The Waterloo Region Record This episode is sponsored by Freshbooks and The Jerry Cans Additional music from Audio Network   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 5 – “SHIRLEY AND TRACY”   [COLD OPEN] [ARSHY MANN] Here’s what you need to understand about Shirley and Tracy: They both lived in Kitchener, one of the many mid-sized cities that dot Southern Ontario, and they met when Tracy started out helping Shirley with errands, like groceries and cleaning.    [TRACY ROWLEY] She was the type of person that she either liked you or she didn’t like you. And for some reason we just clicked from day one. And she was like, “No, you’re my daughter. You’re not my cleaning person, and you’re not this. You’re… You’re my family.”   [ARSHY]  That’s Tracy Rowley. And she says, that’s exactly what happened. She became Shirley Egerdeen’s family. She became her daughter.   [ROWLEY] So my mother and I, as… She called me her adopted mother, or surrogate mother. She never had any husband. She didn’t have children.    [ARSHY]  They saw each other all the time and did the things mothers and daughters do together.   [ROWLEY] We’re both Libras, so our birthdays are three days apart, so we would have Law & Order marathons for our birthday and eat Swiss Chalet. She’s very feisty.   [ARSHY]  But late last year, Shirley’s health took a turn for the worse.   [ROWLEY] So in December of last year, she got a really bad cold and the start of pneumonia. So she was put into our local hospital. And, at that time, she needed to recover a little more to be able to get back to the process of getting out of the bed into her wheelchair again, and she wasn’t strong enough from that. So the hospital said, “The best thing we could do right now is put her in long-term care.”   [ARSHY]  At first, Shirley was placed in a facility in Elmira, a nearby rural community. but she wanted to come back to town.   [ROWLEY] She said, what’s my best way of coming back to Kitchener? I want to be closer to my daughter. And the lady at the hospital said the quickest she’ll get back to Kitchener is to go to Forest Heights because they always have openings. And I never thought twice about it. I really didn’t.   [ARSHY]  It’s a decision Tracy regrets to this day.   [ROWLEY] But I understand now why so many seniors beg their kids, “Please don’t put me in a senior’s home. Please, please don’t.” Because I saw it firsthand, and if I had to do it over again, I would have done something. I would have found the room. I would have done something to make sure that she didn’t have to go there.   [ARSHY]  A month ago, Shirley Egerdeen became one of almost 50 people to die of COVID-19 at Forest Heights. Forest Heights is owned by Revera, one of the biggest for-profit long-term care providers in Canada. Tracy believes that Shirley didn’t have to die in this way. And today she’s one of the many people who have joined a class action against Revera and another for-profit chain.  I’m Arshy Mann and, from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   [PART ONE] [ARSHY]  When Shirley moved to Forest Heights, Tracy visited her constantly. And right away, the trouble began.   [ROWLEY] And I’d visit her every day and we watched TV. We’d still watch her Law & Order and everything else. Her bed was right beside the bathroom, which, you know, it happens. There’s four people in a room. Nobody really talks to each other. There’s a local dining room they could go to. But they didn’t.   [ARSHY]  More disturbingly, Shirley wasn’t bathed.   [ROWLEY] My mom never had a shower the whole time. So she said no, cause maybe she was having a bad day or whatever. They never asked her again or they didn’t come to me.    [ARSHY]  Shirley wasn’t eating well either.   [ROWLEY] And they would bring meals in. And if she was sleeping, they wouldn’t wake her up and then would she’d wake up, her food was cold. So she’d ask for it to be heated up, but they wouldn’t heat it. The potatoes would still feel like there was ice in the middle. So that’s why she wasn’t really eating.   [ARSHY]  Shirley soon became injured from just being there.   [ROWLEY] She also had a bedsore on her butt and or like a pressure sore. It was a very big one. So she was put on a waterbed. And then they said, “Well, you know, she’s not sitting in it right.” So they took her off of it, put her in a regular bed. And within a week, that sore on her bottom had now infected and got worse, that they now had to put the waterbed back in again. So, she went through pain that she didn’t need to.   [ARSHY]  If you’ve been listening to this series, you’ve heard similar stories already. You heard about Wyonne Somers, who died of improper wound care at McKenzie Towne, also a Revera facility, back in 2013. 22 people have died of COVID-19 at McKenzie Towne, making it the facility where more people have died than anywhere else in Alberta. At Forest Heights, where Shirley Egerdeen lived, the death toll is more than double that. In fact, over 160 people have died of COVID-19 in Revera homes since the pandemic began.  So what is Revera?   [SHERINA HARRIS] Revera is a privately owned long-term care home company. They are officially called Revera Inc. They also operate retirement homes.   [ARSHY]  That’s Sherina Harris, a reporter for HuffPost Canada.   [EMMA PALING] I believe there is about one hundred of their homes just in Ontario and dozens more in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.   [ARSHY]  And that’s Emma Paling, also a reporter for HuffPost Canada. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been digging into Revera’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including what happened to Shirley Egerdeen.   [PALING] Shirley lived in a ward, which meant that she shared a room with three other people and she shared a bathroom with those people. She was the first one in her room to test positive for COVID-19, and the staff at the home told Tracy that she wouldn’t be moved.    [ROWLEY] I asked, you know, would she be moved? Will she go to another room? What’s happening for isolation? And he said, “We’ve put a curtain around her.” I said, “There’s three other people in that room. How is that isolated?” And she’s also right beside the bathroom, so there’s always bacteria and germs coming from there from other people. And he said, “Well, you know, that’s what we’re doing. Her curtain’s around her. Within the week, the other people in her room were all infected with COVID-19.   [PALING] And all of the relatives told us similar things, that after their family member had contracted COVID-19, they weren’t really isolated from other people. And even before they contracted it, when there were already outbreaks, the residents were allowed to move around the buildings, continued to share bathrooms. People weren’t really being separated from each other and isolation wasn’t really being enforced. One of the other major concerns that we heard was that the company wasn’t communicating. They didn’t communicate a plan for how they were going to deal with the outbreak. They didn’t communicate how their relatives were going to be cared for or isolated, once they tested positive.   [ROWLEY] Even if you tried to call in during the outbreak, they wouldn’t answer the phone. So you couldn’t get updates. And in my case, it was always, “Well, her stats are good, so if anything changes, we’ll call you.” Some people could do window visits and they could do that. I couldn’t. She was in a wheelchair. For her to get out of bed, it would take people to get her out of bed. And they didn’t have the staff to do that. So I would never have had that opportunity and I would call in, and I would call in, and they wouldn’t answer or it would always be the same thing, “You know, well, her room oxygen’s fine, her temperature is fine and… Okay, I’ve got another call. I got to go.” I had paid for a phone for her to have in her own room. So if she didn’t answer it or that,  for a couple of days, I know obviously she wasn’t feeling well.   [PALING] She had obviously deteriorated since she caught COVID-19. Shirley wasn’t able to talk or answer her, but staff members put a phone on Shirley’s chest, so Tracy could at least kind of talk to her, be there for her. She didn’t realize, of course, that that would be the last time they spoke.    [ROWLEY] I guess I had this “mother” feeling myself in my stomach the night before she passed away. And I called in and asked if there’d be any way they could put a phone close to her so I could talk to her. And they put a phone in a glove and they put it on her chest, but she wasn’t responsive. I could hear her breathing and, um, I just talked to her for an hour. She’d call me “Toots” sometimes, so I’d be like, “Hey, Toots, are you sleeping on me? Am I that boring?” No one trying… Between my tears, to try and say nice things to her, and, um, we hung up about 11:00 that night. And then I got the call at 4:00 a.m. that she had passed. And I asked the lady, was she alone when she passed, and, um, the nurse said, “We went in to change her dressing at four o’clock, and she wasn’t breathing.” And I said, “Did you know how long that was for?” and I just got the same response: “We went in at four o’clock to change her dressing and she wasn’t breathing.” Therefore I don’t know how long she was lying in there, not breathing.    PART TWO [ARSHY]  Since late April, just over a month after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Revera has put out a handful of news releases. That includes an action plan for Forest Heights, the details of a new initiative to procure PPE, and responses to two class-action lawsuits against them: One in Alberta, and the one that Tracy is involved in in Ontario. But, by far, their most comprehensive statement is a five-page long release called “Let’s focus on the real changes needed in the long-term care sector.” And in it, Revera goes to great lengths to rebut the argument that for-profit homes are handling this pandemic worse than non-profit or public homes. We told you in the last episode about how the Toronto Star reported that people in for-profit homes are much more likely to die if there’s an outbreak than in non-profit and public homes. And here’s Revera’s response to that argument: “We are seeing more and more media stories attempting to draw a link between the ownership model for long-term care and the passing of residents from COVID-19. There are many variables and factors that have played a part in why COVID-19 spread in some homes and not others. However, objective data has not shown that ownership is one of them.” In that release, Revera does make some good points. They say that governments were too focused on hospitals early on and ignored long-term care, and that’s true. They say that they don’t get enough funding per resident, and I completely agree. But some of their other claims are disputable. For one, Revera cites something called the “Qindex.” The Qindex was introduced in 2018 and is a metric that is meant to track the overall quality of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes. But there’s a good reason to be skeptical of Qindex.   [ZAID NOORSUMAR] Quindex is an assessment tool created by the Ontario Long-Term Care Association that represents the for-profits.   [ARSHY] That’s Zaid Noorsumar. He’s a freelance journalist who covers labour issues, and for the last year he’s been investigating long-term care and home care in Ontario. And he told us that it’s essential to note where exactly this data is coming from.    [NOORSUMAR] The Qindex is a convenient way for the Long-term Care Association to say that for-profits deliver the similar quality of care as the non-profits and municipal homes.   [ARSHY] The index was created by the University of Toronto in partnership with the association that mostly represents the for-profit homes.   [NOORSUMAR] So, the metrics are not the best way to assess quality in long-term care. But if you, you know, examine where the research comes from, it comes from the association… which if you look at the board of directors, is all these big corporations on the board of directors. So, it’s–it’s really problematic. And it just so happens that Wendy Gilmour, Revera’s senior vice-president of long-term care, is on the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s board of directors. In that same five-page news release, Revera also said that they didn’t know about asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. And that’s true. Health officials were very much focused on people with symptoms. So even when employees tested positive for COVID-19, Revera admits that they did ask them, in some circumstances, to come into work.    [PALING] And the company defended that by saying, you know, they didn’t realize that COVID could spread if people didn’t have symptoms. And so they thought it would be safe.   [ARSHY] But at another Revera residence, Carling View Manor in Ottawa, Emma Paling says that something else happened.    [PALING] And what I heard from the employee at Carling View Manor was that they were taking temperatures of all the staff coming in and out at the beginning and end of their shift. And the first person who had a fever was asked to go home. But none of the people that he worked with, none of the residents that he had cared for that day, were isolated. They were still sharing dining rooms, sharing bathrooms, moving around the building.   [ARSHY] From the very beginning, health officials were clear that anyone who came into contact with someone with symptoms needed to go into isolation.   [PALING] There’s very specific steps that you are supposed to be taking if you had it. And yet Revera was letting asymptomatic employees, who tested positive, care for residents. And they were also letting people who had contact with symptomatic cases move around.   [ARSHY] Emma Paling says that Revera has not denied any of the allegations that she and Harris reported.  Revera also says in their statement that, because they’re a large chain, they had access to PPE throughout the pandemic. But employees say that they weren’t provided with proper protection.    [HARRIS] The source also raised some concerns that I think we’ve been seeing a lot in the news from other homes and other health care institutions as well: concerns about a lack of PPE. They said now they have enough, but, uh, that was more of an issue. And they found that when they would ask managers about it, they weren’t, uh, really given kind of a clear answer.   [ARSHY] I think this news release, and their public relations efforts during this pandemic, are indicative. Their evidence that for-profit homes believe that their very business model is under attack now, and they have an obligation to their shareholders to fight back And Revera is a particularly interesting case. It has deep political connections, like many of the other for-profit long-term care and retirement companies.    [PALING] Their Chief Elder Officer for Revera is Hazel McCallion, the famous “Hurricane Hazel,” former mayor of Mississauga, who is a good friend of Premier Doug Ford. And their Chair Emeritus of their board is Bill Davis, a former conservative premier of Ontario.   [ARSHY] But by far, their most interesting political connection is who owns them. Revera isn’t a publicly traded company. It’s entirely privately owned by the Canadian federal government.  The Public Sector Pension Fund, which manages the pensions for federal employees, the RCMP and the Canadian forces, bought Revera outright in 2006.   [PALING] I think that makes it even more interesting to see how the politicians respond and handle this. Especially because all the federal public servants are getting their pensions paid out by this company’s profits.   [ARSHY] The PSP Investment Board is managed at arm’s length from the federal government, but its members are appointed by the cabinet. And because this technically makes Revera a private company, we don’t have access to their financials.  But according to a recent Toronto Star investigation, we know that three of Revera’s competitors: Chartwell, Sienna and Extendicare, collectively paid out over $1.5 billion dollars in dividends to their shareholders over the last decade. So it’s reasonable to assume Revera had paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to federal pensions over the last 12 years. Of course, not all of that, by any means, was from long-term care. These companies have other businesses. But they made a lot of money for their shareholders over the years, including the federal government. And that was during a time when the long-term care crisis in Ontario and across Canada was getting worse. When investigations and inquiries were consistently calling for more staffing, for more investment.  What doesn’t show up on these balance sheets is the human cost of all this. What happens when we try to make caring for vulnerable people as efficient as possible so that we can eke out an extra few percentage points of profit.  I’ve been looking through the filings of the Public Service Pension fund, and in every annual report, there’s a section that talks about the percentage of their holdings that are real estate and, under that, you get a few mentions of Revera. And the thing that I’ve been feeling is that, in those reports, everything is so abstract. It’s so distanced from the reality on the ground. For the people who set up the framework for everything a company like Revera does, Tracy and Shirley don’t really figure into things. They’re a data point within a data point within a data point. But for Tracy and Shirley, nothing could be more important. Tracy called Shirley every Mother’s Day.    [ROWLEY] And then this Mother’s Day, it was… I couldn’t call her, I couldn’t come over and hug her. I couldn’t do any of that. It consisted of sitting at a cemetery and putting some flowers, and still putting a Mother’s Day card down there. But I didn’t get that hug. I didn’t get that personal contact. And I hadn’t for months from her. And I know how much she wanted that, because every call that we talked to before she passed was how much she missed me, and when was this gonna be over, so she could see me again?   I kept telling her that if I won the lottery, I was going to buy a big house and, um, I was gonna make sure she was with me all the time. The emotion and the feeling was, “I wish… I never I never put her there. I wish I found space somewhere for her. I wish that I could have taken better care of her, even if that meant changing her dressings or hiring someone or doing something,” because at least if she did pass on my care, she knew I loved her and she knew I took such good care of her. She… She wouldn’t have taken that last breath by herself. So I just wish I never… I never put her there.   OUTRO [ARSHY] The lawsuit that Tracy is involved in the largest COVID-19-related class action so far.   [PALING] It’s now one hundred million dollars in damages. And there were originally two representative plaintiffs who had both lost mothers. There are now six representative plaintiffs who have all lost a family member at a Revera home. Revera says that they’re currently reviewing the suit and will eventually respond. But that, right now, their focus is to prevent further illness and the loss of life.    [ARSHY] Tracy says that for her, it’s not about the money.   [ROWLEY] I want to be a voice for my mother, and I don’t want her to be a COVID status. I don’t want her to be a number. I want people to understand she was actually a person. She was a loving, caring person that was taken too soon, that wasn’t ready to go. At least I wasn’t ready for her to go.   [ARSHY] And she thinks that a lawsuit might be one of the only ways to change things.    [ROWLEY] So they’re forced to have something in place, if this happens for the second wave, that, you know, they’re not losing 50 people again. So families aren’t going through the death of their loved one, not being able to see them, not knowing if they’re OK. I don’t want people to go through that. I want seniors to have a voice.   END CREDITS That’s your episode of Commons for the week. If you want to support us, click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com This episode relied on reporting done by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris at HuffPost Canada, Marco Chown Oved, Kenyon Wallace and Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto Star, Geoffrey Stevens at the Waterloo Record and many, many others.  If you want to get in touch with us, you can tweet at us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by me and Jordan Cornish, with production help by Tiffany Lam. Our managing editor is Andréa Schmidt, and our music is by Nathan Burley.  If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND.   I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
February 21, 2017
69
“I’m Ashamed Of Myself For Being Afraid”
$5/month for-adree COMMONS by clicking here. Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada. Featured in this episode: Tracy Rowley, Sherina Harris (HuffPost Canada), Emma Paling (HuffPost Canada), Zaid Noorsumar  To learn more: “COVID-19 Has Killed 164 At Revera’s Care Homes. Their Families Want Answers” by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris in HuffPost Canada “Is it Time to Care Yet?” by Zaid Noorsumar in Rank and File “It is time to forget the profits and fix long-term care” by Geoffrey Stevens in The Waterloo Region Record This episode is sponsored by Freshbooks and The Jerry Cans Additional music from Audio Network   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 5 – “SHIRLEY AND TRACY”   [COLD OPEN] [ARSHY MANN] Here’s what you need to understand about Shirley and Tracy: They both lived in Kitchener, one of the many mid-sized cities that dot Southern Ontario, and they met when Tracy started out helping Shirley with errands, like groceries and cleaning.    [TRACY ROWLEY] She was the type of person that she either liked you or she didn’t like you. And for some reason we just clicked from day one. And she was like, “No, you’re my daughter. You’re not my cleaning person, and you’re not this. You’re… You’re my family.”   [ARSHY]  That’s Tracy Rowley. And she says, that’s exactly what happened. She became Shirley Egerdeen’s family. She became her daughter.   [ROWLEY] So my mother and I, as… She called me her adopted mother, or surrogate mother. She never had any husband. She didn’t have children.    [ARSHY]  They saw each other all the time and did the things mothers and daughters do together.   [ROWLEY] We’re both Libras, so our birthdays are three days apart, so we would have Law & Order marathons for our birthday and eat Swiss Chalet. She’s very feisty.   [ARSHY]  But late last year, Shirley’s health took a turn for the worse.   [ROWLEY] So in December of last year, she got a really bad cold and the start of pneumonia. So she was put into our local hospital. And, at that time, she needed to recover a little more to be able to get back to the process of getting out of the bed into her wheelchair again, and she wasn’t strong enough from that. So the hospital said, “The best thing we could do right now is put her in long-term care.”   [ARSHY]  At first, Shirley was placed in a facility in Elmira, a nearby rural community. but she wanted to come back to town.   [ROWLEY] She said, what’s my best way of coming back to Kitchener? I want to be closer to my daughter. And the lady at the hospital said the quickest she’ll get back to Kitchener is to go to Forest Heights because they always have openings. And I never thought twice about it. I really didn’t.   [ARSHY]  It’s a decision Tracy regrets to this day.   [ROWLEY] But I understand now why so many seniors beg their kids, “Please don’t put me in a senior’s home. Please, please don’t.” Because I saw it firsthand, and if I had to do it over again, I would have done something. I would have found the room. I would have done something to make sure that she didn’t have to go there.   [ARSHY]  A month ago, Shirley Egerdeen became one of almost 50 people to die of COVID-19 at Forest Heights. Forest Heights is owned by Revera, one of the biggest for-profit long-term care providers in Canada. Tracy believes that Shirley didn’t have to die in this way. And today she’s one of the many people who have joined a class action against Revera and another for-profit chain.  I’m Arshy Mann and, from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   [PART ONE] [ARSHY]  When Shirley moved to Forest Heights, Tracy visited her constantly. And right away, the trouble began.   [ROWLEY] And I’d visit her every day and we watched TV. We’d still watch her Law & Order and everything else. Her bed was right beside the bathroom, which, you know, it happens. There’s four people in a room. Nobody really talks to each other. There’s a local dining room they could go to. But they didn’t.   [ARSHY]  More disturbingly, Shirley wasn’t bathed.   [ROWLEY] My mom never had a shower the whole time. So she said no, cause maybe she was having a bad day or whatever. They never asked her again or they didn’t come to me.    [ARSHY]  Shirley wasn’t eating well either.   [ROWLEY] And they would bring meals in. And if she was sleeping, they wouldn’t wake her up and then would she’d wake up, her food was cold. So she’d ask for it to be heated up, but they wouldn’t heat it. The potatoes would still feel like there was ice in the middle. So that’s why she wasn’t really eating.   [ARSHY]  Shirley soon became injured from just being there.   [ROWLEY] She also had a bedsore on her butt and or like a pressure sore. It was a very big one. So she was put on a waterbed. And then they said, “Well, you know, she’s not sitting in it right.” So they took her off of it, put her in a regular bed. And within a week, that sore on her bottom had now infected and got worse, that they now had to put the waterbed back in again. So, she went through pain that she didn’t need to.   [ARSHY]  If you’ve been listening to this series, you’ve heard similar stories already. You heard about Wyonne Somers, who died of improper wound care at McKenzie Towne, also a Revera facility, back in 2013. 22 people have died of COVID-19 at McKenzie Towne, making it the facility where more people have died than anywhere else in Alberta. At Forest Heights, where Shirley Egerdeen lived, the death toll is more than double that. In fact, over 160 people have died of COVID-19 in Revera homes since the pandemic began.  So what is Revera?   [SHERINA HARRIS] Revera is a privately owned long-term care home company. They are officially called Revera Inc. They also operate retirement homes.   [ARSHY]  That’s Sherina Harris, a reporter for HuffPost Canada.   [EMMA PALING] I believe there is about one hundred of their homes just in Ontario and dozens more in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.   [ARSHY]  And that’s Emma Paling, also a reporter for HuffPost Canada. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been digging into Revera’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including what happened to Shirley Egerdeen.   [PALING] Shirley lived in a ward, which meant that she shared a room with three other people and she shared a bathroom with those people. She was the first one in her room to test positive for COVID-19, and the staff at the home told Tracy that she wouldn’t be moved.    [ROWLEY] I asked, you know, would she be moved? Will she go to another room? What’s happening for isolation? And he said, “We’ve put a curtain around her.” I said, “There’s three other people in that room. How is that isolated?” And she’s also right beside the bathroom, so there’s always bacteria and germs coming from there from other people. And he said, “Well, you know, that’s what we’re doing. Her curtain’s around her. Within the week, the other people in her room were all infected with COVID-19.   [PALING] And all of the relatives told us similar things, that after their family member had contracted COVID-19, they weren’t really isolated from other people. And even before they contracted it, when there were already outbreaks, the residents were allowed to move around the buildings, continued to share bathrooms. People weren’t really being separated from each other and isolation wasn’t really being enforced. One of the other major concerns that we heard was that the company wasn’t communicating. They didn’t communicate a plan for how they were going to deal with the outbreak. They didn’t communicate how their relatives were going to be cared for or isolated, once they tested positive.   [ROWLEY] Even if you tried to call in during the outbreak, they wouldn’t answer the phone. So you couldn’t get updates. And in my case, it was always, “Well, her stats are good, so if anything changes, we’ll call you.” Some people could do window visits and they could do that. I couldn’t. She was in a wheelchair. For her to get out of bed, it would take people to get her out of bed. And they didn’t have the staff to do that. So I would never have had that opportunity and I would call in, and I would call in, and they wouldn’t answer or it would always be the same thing, “You know, well, her room oxygen’s fine, her temperature is fine and… Okay, I’ve got another call. I got to go.” I had paid for a phone for her to have in her own room. So if she didn’t answer it or that,  for a couple of days, I know obviously she wasn’t feeling well.   [PALING] She had obviously deteriorated since she caught COVID-19. Shirley wasn’t able to talk or answer her, but staff members put a phone on Shirley’s chest, so Tracy could at least kind of talk to her, be there for her. She didn’t realize, of course, that that would be the last time they spoke.    [ROWLEY] I guess I had this “mother” feeling myself in my stomach the night before she passed away. And I called in and asked if there’d be any way they could put a phone close to her so I could talk to her. And they put a phone in a glove and they put it on her chest, but she wasn’t responsive. I could hear her breathing and, um, I just talked to her for an hour. She’d call me “Toots” sometimes, so I’d be like, “Hey, Toots, are you sleeping on me? Am I that boring?” No one trying… Between my tears, to try and say nice things to her, and, um, we hung up about 11:00 that night. And then I got the call at 4:00 a.m. that she had passed. And I asked the lady, was she alone when she passed, and, um, the nurse said, “We went in to change her dressing at four o’clock, and she wasn’t breathing.” And I said, “Did you know how long that was for?” and I just got the same response: “We went in at four o’clock to change her dressing and she wasn’t breathing.” Therefore I don’t know how long she was lying in there, not breathing.    PART TWO [ARSHY]  Since late April, just over a month after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Revera has put out a handful of news releases. That includes an action plan for Forest Heights, the details of a new initiative to procure PPE, and responses to two class-action lawsuits against them: One in Alberta, and the one that Tracy is involved in in Ontario. But, by far, their most comprehensive statement is a five-page long release called “Let’s focus on the real changes needed in the long-term care sector.” And in it, Revera goes to great lengths to rebut the argument that for-profit homes are handling this pandemic worse than non-profit or public homes. We told you in the last episode about how the Toronto Star reported that people in for-profit homes are much more likely to die if there’s an outbreak than in non-profit and public homes. And here’s Revera’s response to that argument: “We are seeing more and more media stories attempting to draw a link between the ownership model for long-term care and the passing of residents from COVID-19. There are many variables and factors that have played a part in why COVID-19 spread in some homes and not others. However, objective data has not shown that ownership is one of them.” In that release, Revera does make some good points. They say that governments were too focused on hospitals early on and ignored long-term care, and that’s true. They say that they don’t get enough funding per resident, and I completely agree. But some of their other claims are disputable. For one, Revera cites something called the “Qindex.” The Qindex was introduced in 2018 and is a metric that is meant to track the overall quality of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes. But there’s a good reason to be skeptical of Qindex.   [ZAID NOORSUMAR] Quindex is an assessment tool created by the Ontario Long-Term Care Association that represents the for-profits.   [ARSHY] That’s Zaid Noorsumar. He’s a freelance journalist who covers labour issues, and for the last year he’s been investigating long-term care and home care in Ontario. And he told us that it’s essential to note where exactly this data is coming from.    [NOORSUMAR] The Qindex is a convenient way for the Long-term Care Association to say that for-profits deliver the similar quality of care as the non-profits and municipal homes.   [ARSHY] The index was created by the University of Toronto in partnership with the association that mostly represents the for-profit homes.   [NOORSUMAR] So, the metrics are not the best way to assess quality in long-term care. But if you, you know, examine where the research comes from, it comes from the association… which if you look at the board of directors, is all these big corporations on the board of directors. So, it’s–it’s really problematic. And it just so happens that Wendy Gilmour, Revera’s senior vice-president of long-term care, is on the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s board of directors. In that same five-page news release, Revera also said that they didn’t know about asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. And that’s true. Health officials were very much focused on people with symptoms. So even when employees tested positive for COVID-19, Revera admits that they did ask them, in some circumstances, to come into work.    [PALING] And the company defended that by saying, you know, they didn’t realize that COVID could spread if people didn’t have symptoms. And so they thought it would be safe.   [ARSHY] But at another Revera residence, Carling View Manor in Ottawa, Emma Paling says that something else happened.    [PALING] And what I heard from the employee at Carling View Manor was that they were taking temperatures of all the staff coming in and out at the beginning and end of their shift. And the first person who had a fever was asked to go home. But none of the people that he worked with, none of the residents that he had cared for that day, were isolated. They were still sharing dining rooms, sharing bathrooms, moving around the building.   [ARSHY] From the very beginning, health officials were clear that anyone who came into contact with someone with symptoms needed to go into isolation.   [PALING] There’s very specific steps that you are supposed to be taking if you had it. And yet Revera was letting asymptomatic employees, who tested positive, care for residents. And they were also letting people who had contact with symptomatic cases move around.   [ARSHY] Emma Paling says that Revera has not denied any of the allegations that she and Harris reported.  Revera also says in their statement that, because they’re a large chain, they had access to PPE throughout the pandemic. But employees say that they weren’t provided with proper protection.    [HARRIS] The source also raised some concerns that I think we’ve been seeing a lot in the news from other homes and other health care institutions as well: concerns about a lack of PPE. They said now they have enough, but, uh, that was more of an issue. And they found that when they would ask managers about it, they weren’t, uh, really given kind of a clear answer.   [ARSHY] I think this news release, and their public relations efforts during this pandemic, are indicative. Their evidence that for-profit homes believe that their very business model is under attack now, and they have an obligation to their shareholders to fight back And Revera is a particularly interesting case. It has deep political connections, like many of the other for-profit long-term care and retirement companies.    [PALING] Their Chief Elder Officer for Revera is Hazel McCallion, the famous “Hurricane Hazel,” former mayor of Mississauga, who is a good friend of Premier Doug Ford. And their Chair Emeritus of their board is Bill Davis, a former conservative premier of Ontario.   [ARSHY] But by far, their most interesting political connection is who owns them. Revera isn’t a publicly traded company. It’s entirely privately owned by the Canadian federal government.  The Public Sector Pension Fund, which manages the pensions for federal employees, the RCMP and the Canadian forces, bought Revera outright in 2006.   [PALING] I think that makes it even more interesting to see how the politicians respond and handle this. Especially because all the federal public servants are getting their pensions paid out by this company’s profits.   [ARSHY] The PSP Investment Board is managed at arm’s length from the federal government, but its members are appointed by the cabinet. And because this technically makes Revera a private company, we don’t have access to their financials.  But according to a recent Toronto Star investigation, we know that three of Revera’s competitors: Chartwell, Sienna and Extendicare, collectively paid out over $1.5 billion dollars in dividends to their shareholders over the last decade. So it’s reasonable to assume Revera had paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to federal pensions over the last 12 years. Of course, not all of that, by any means, was from long-term care. These companies have other businesses. But they made a lot of money for their shareholders over the years, including the federal government. And that was during a time when the long-term care crisis in Ontario and across Canada was getting worse. When investigations and inquiries were consistently calling for more staffing, for more investment.  What doesn’t show up on these balance sheets is the human cost of all this. What happens when we try to make caring for vulnerable people as efficient as possible so that we can eke out an extra few percentage points of profit.  I’ve been looking through the filings of the Public Service Pension fund, and in every annual report, there’s a section that talks about the percentage of their holdings that are real estate and, under that, you get a few mentions of Revera. And the thing that I’ve been feeling is that, in those reports, everything is so abstract. It’s so distanced from the reality on the ground. For the people who set up the framework for everything a company like Revera does, Tracy and Shirley don’t really figure into things. They’re a data point within a data point within a data point. But for Tracy and Shirley, nothing could be more important. Tracy called Shirley every Mother’s Day.    [ROWLEY] And then this Mother’s Day, it was… I couldn’t call her, I couldn’t come over and hug her. I couldn’t do any of that. It consisted of sitting at a cemetery and putting some flowers, and still putting a Mother’s Day card down there. But I didn’t get that hug. I didn’t get that personal contact. And I hadn’t for months from her. And I know how much she wanted that, because every call that we talked to before she passed was how much she missed me, and when was this gonna be over, so she could see me again?   I kept telling her that if I won the lottery, I was going to buy a big house and, um, I was gonna make sure she was with me all the time. The emotion and the feeling was, “I wish… I never I never put her there. I wish I found space somewhere for her. I wish that I could have taken better care of her, even if that meant changing her dressings or hiring someone or doing something,” because at least if she did pass on my care, she knew I loved her and she knew I took such good care of her. She… She wouldn’t have taken that last breath by herself. So I just wish I never… I never put her there.   OUTRO [ARSHY] The lawsuit that Tracy is involved in the largest COVID-19-related class action so far.   [PALING] It’s now one hundred million dollars in damages. And there were originally two representative plaintiffs who had both lost mothers. There are now six representative plaintiffs who have all lost a family member at a Revera home. Revera says that they’re currently reviewing the suit and will eventually respond. But that, right now, their focus is to prevent further illness and the loss of life.    [ARSHY] Tracy says that for her, it’s not about the money.   [ROWLEY] I want to be a voice for my mother, and I don’t want her to be a COVID status. I don’t want her to be a number. I want people to understand she was actually a person. She was a loving, caring person that was taken too soon, that wasn’t ready to go. At least I wasn’t ready for her to go.   [ARSHY] And she thinks that a lawsuit might be one of the only ways to change things.    [ROWLEY] So they’re forced to have something in place, if this happens for the second wave, that, you know, they’re not losing 50 people again. So families aren’t going through the death of their loved one, not being able to see them, not knowing if they’re OK. I don’t want people to go through that. I want seniors to have a voice.   END CREDITS That’s your episode of Commons for the week. If you want to support us, click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com This episode relied on reporting done by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris at HuffPost Canada, Marco Chown Oved, Kenyon Wallace and Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto Star, Geoffrey Stevens at the Waterloo Record and many, many others.  If you want to get in touch with us, you can tweet at us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by me and Jordan Cornish, with production help by Tiffany Lam. Our managing editor is Andréa Schmidt, and our music is by Nathan Burley.  If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND.   I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
March 7, 2017
70
You Have No Rights At The Border
$5/month for-adree COMMONS by clicking here. Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada. Featured in this episode: Tracy Rowley, Sherina Harris (HuffPost Canada), Emma Paling (HuffPost Canada), Zaid Noorsumar  To learn more: “COVID-19 Has Killed 164 At Revera’s Care Homes. Their Families Want Answers” by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris in HuffPost Canada “Is it Time to Care Yet?” by Zaid Noorsumar in Rank and File “It is time to forget the profits and fix long-term care” by Geoffrey Stevens in The Waterloo Region Record This episode is sponsored by Freshbooks and The Jerry Cans Additional music from Audio Network   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 5 – “SHIRLEY AND TRACY”   [COLD OPEN] [ARSHY MANN] Here’s what you need to understand about Shirley and Tracy: They both lived in Kitchener, one of the many mid-sized cities that dot Southern Ontario, and they met when Tracy started out helping Shirley with errands, like groceries and cleaning.    [TRACY ROWLEY] She was the type of person that she either liked you or she didn’t like you. And for some reason we just clicked from day one. And she was like, “No, you’re my daughter. You’re not my cleaning person, and you’re not this. You’re… You’re my family.”   [ARSHY]  That’s Tracy Rowley. And she says, that’s exactly what happened. She became Shirley Egerdeen’s family. She became her daughter.   [ROWLEY] So my mother and I, as… She called me her adopted mother, or surrogate mother. She never had any husband. She didn’t have children.    [ARSHY]  They saw each other all the time and did the things mothers and daughters do together.   [ROWLEY] We’re both Libras, so our birthdays are three days apart, so we would have Law & Order marathons for our birthday and eat Swiss Chalet. She’s very feisty.   [ARSHY]  But late last year, Shirley’s health took a turn for the worse.   [ROWLEY] So in December of last year, she got a really bad cold and the start of pneumonia. So she was put into our local hospital. And, at that time, she needed to recover a little more to be able to get back to the process of getting out of the bed into her wheelchair again, and she wasn’t strong enough from that. So the hospital said, “The best thing we could do right now is put her in long-term care.”   [ARSHY]  At first, Shirley was placed in a facility in Elmira, a nearby rural community. but she wanted to come back to town.   [ROWLEY] She said, what’s my best way of coming back to Kitchener? I want to be closer to my daughter. And the lady at the hospital said the quickest she’ll get back to Kitchener is to go to Forest Heights because they always have openings. And I never thought twice about it. I really didn’t.   [ARSHY]  It’s a decision Tracy regrets to this day.   [ROWLEY] But I understand now why so many seniors beg their kids, “Please don’t put me in a senior’s home. Please, please don’t.” Because I saw it firsthand, and if I had to do it over again, I would have done something. I would have found the room. I would have done something to make sure that she didn’t have to go there.   [ARSHY]  A month ago, Shirley Egerdeen became one of almost 50 people to die of COVID-19 at Forest Heights. Forest Heights is owned by Revera, one of the biggest for-profit long-term care providers in Canada. Tracy believes that Shirley didn’t have to die in this way. And today she’s one of the many people who have joined a class action against Revera and another for-profit chain.  I’m Arshy Mann and, from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   [PART ONE] [ARSHY]  When Shirley moved to Forest Heights, Tracy visited her constantly. And right away, the trouble began.   [ROWLEY] And I’d visit her every day and we watched TV. We’d still watch her Law & Order and everything else. Her bed was right beside the bathroom, which, you know, it happens. There’s four people in a room. Nobody really talks to each other. There’s a local dining room they could go to. But they didn’t.   [ARSHY]  More disturbingly, Shirley wasn’t bathed.   [ROWLEY] My mom never had a shower the whole time. So she said no, cause maybe she was having a bad day or whatever. They never asked her again or they didn’t come to me.    [ARSHY]  Shirley wasn’t eating well either.   [ROWLEY] And they would bring meals in. And if she was sleeping, they wouldn’t wake her up and then would she’d wake up, her food was cold. So she’d ask for it to be heated up, but they wouldn’t heat it. The potatoes would still feel like there was ice in the middle. So that’s why she wasn’t really eating.   [ARSHY]  Shirley soon became injured from just being there.   [ROWLEY] She also had a bedsore on her butt and or like a pressure sore. It was a very big one. So she was put on a waterbed. And then they said, “Well, you know, she’s not sitting in it right.” So they took her off of it, put her in a regular bed. And within a week, that sore on her bottom had now infected and got worse, that they now had to put the waterbed back in again. So, she went through pain that she didn’t need to.   [ARSHY]  If you’ve been listening to this series, you’ve heard similar stories already. You heard about Wyonne Somers, who died of improper wound care at McKenzie Towne, also a Revera facility, back in 2013. 22 people have died of COVID-19 at McKenzie Towne, making it the facility where more people have died than anywhere else in Alberta. At Forest Heights, where Shirley Egerdeen lived, the death toll is more than double that. In fact, over 160 people have died of COVID-19 in Revera homes since the pandemic began.  So what is Revera?   [SHERINA HARRIS] Revera is a privately owned long-term care home company. They are officially called Revera Inc. They also operate retirement homes.   [ARSHY]  That’s Sherina Harris, a reporter for HuffPost Canada.   [EMMA PALING] I believe there is about one hundred of their homes just in Ontario and dozens more in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.   [ARSHY]  And that’s Emma Paling, also a reporter for HuffPost Canada. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been digging into Revera’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including what happened to Shirley Egerdeen.   [PALING] Shirley lived in a ward, which meant that she shared a room with three other people and she shared a bathroom with those people. She was the first one in her room to test positive for COVID-19, and the staff at the home told Tracy that she wouldn’t be moved.    [ROWLEY] I asked, you know, would she be moved? Will she go to another room? What’s happening for isolation? And he said, “We’ve put a curtain around her.” I said, “There’s three other people in that room. How is that isolated?” And she’s also right beside the bathroom, so there’s always bacteria and germs coming from there from other people. And he said, “Well, you know, that’s what we’re doing. Her curtain’s around her. Within the week, the other people in her room were all infected with COVID-19.   [PALING] And all of the relatives told us similar things, that after their family member had contracted COVID-19, they weren’t really isolated from other people. And even before they contracted it, when there were already outbreaks, the residents were allowed to move around the buildings, continued to share bathrooms. People weren’t really being separated from each other and isolation wasn’t really being enforced. One of the other major concerns that we heard was that the company wasn’t communicating. They didn’t communicate a plan for how they were going to deal with the outbreak. They didn’t communicate how their relatives were going to be cared for or isolated, once they tested positive.   [ROWLEY] Even if you tried to call in during the outbreak, they wouldn’t answer the phone. So you couldn’t get updates. And in my case, it was always, “Well, her stats are good, so if anything changes, we’ll call you.” Some people could do window visits and they could do that. I couldn’t. She was in a wheelchair. For her to get out of bed, it would take people to get her out of bed. And they didn’t have the staff to do that. So I would never have had that opportunity and I would call in, and I would call in, and they wouldn’t answer or it would always be the same thing, “You know, well, her room oxygen’s fine, her temperature is fine and… Okay, I’ve got another call. I got to go.” I had paid for a phone for her to have in her own room. So if she didn’t answer it or that,  for a couple of days, I know obviously she wasn’t feeling well.   [PALING] She had obviously deteriorated since she caught COVID-19. Shirley wasn’t able to talk or answer her, but staff members put a phone on Shirley’s chest, so Tracy could at least kind of talk to her, be there for her. She didn’t realize, of course, that that would be the last time they spoke.    [ROWLEY] I guess I had this “mother” feeling myself in my stomach the night before she passed away. And I called in and asked if there’d be any way they could put a phone close to her so I could talk to her. And they put a phone in a glove and they put it on her chest, but she wasn’t responsive. I could hear her breathing and, um, I just talked to her for an hour. She’d call me “Toots” sometimes, so I’d be like, “Hey, Toots, are you sleeping on me? Am I that boring?” No one trying… Between my tears, to try and say nice things to her, and, um, we hung up about 11:00 that night. And then I got the call at 4:00 a.m. that she had passed. And I asked the lady, was she alone when she passed, and, um, the nurse said, “We went in to change her dressing at four o’clock, and she wasn’t breathing.” And I said, “Did you know how long that was for?” and I just got the same response: “We went in at four o’clock to change her dressing and she wasn’t breathing.” Therefore I don’t know how long she was lying in there, not breathing.    PART TWO [ARSHY]  Since late April, just over a month after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Revera has put out a handful of news releases. That includes an action plan for Forest Heights, the details of a new initiative to procure PPE, and responses to two class-action lawsuits against them: One in Alberta, and the one that Tracy is involved in in Ontario. But, by far, their most comprehensive statement is a five-page long release called “Let’s focus on the real changes needed in the long-term care sector.” And in it, Revera goes to great lengths to rebut the argument that for-profit homes are handling this pandemic worse than non-profit or public homes. We told you in the last episode about how the Toronto Star reported that people in for-profit homes are much more likely to die if there’s an outbreak than in non-profit and public homes. And here’s Revera’s response to that argument: “We are seeing more and more media stories attempting to draw a link between the ownership model for long-term care and the passing of residents from COVID-19. There are many variables and factors that have played a part in why COVID-19 spread in some homes and not others. However, objective data has not shown that ownership is one of them.” In that release, Revera does make some good points. They say that governments were too focused on hospitals early on and ignored long-term care, and that’s true. They say that they don’t get enough funding per resident, and I completely agree. But some of their other claims are disputable. For one, Revera cites something called the “Qindex.” The Qindex was introduced in 2018 and is a metric that is meant to track the overall quality of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes. But there’s a good reason to be skeptical of Qindex.   [ZAID NOORSUMAR] Quindex is an assessment tool created by the Ontario Long-Term Care Association that represents the for-profits.   [ARSHY] That’s Zaid Noorsumar. He’s a freelance journalist who covers labour issues, and for the last year he’s been investigating long-term care and home care in Ontario. And he told us that it’s essential to note where exactly this data is coming from.    [NOORSUMAR] The Qindex is a convenient way for the Long-term Care Association to say that for-profits deliver the similar quality of care as the non-profits and municipal homes.   [ARSHY] The index was created by the University of Toronto in partnership with the association that mostly represents the for-profit homes.   [NOORSUMAR] So, the metrics are not the best way to assess quality in long-term care. But if you, you know, examine where the research comes from, it comes from the association… which if you look at the board of directors, is all these big corporations on the board of directors. So, it’s–it’s really problematic. And it just so happens that Wendy Gilmour, Revera’s senior vice-president of long-term care, is on the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s board of directors. In that same five-page news release, Revera also said that they didn’t know about asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. And that’s true. Health officials were very much focused on people with symptoms. So even when employees tested positive for COVID-19, Revera admits that they did ask them, in some circumstances, to come into work.    [PALING] And the company defended that by saying, you know, they didn’t realize that COVID could spread if people didn’t have symptoms. And so they thought it would be safe.   [ARSHY] But at another Revera residence, Carling View Manor in Ottawa, Emma Paling says that something else happened.    [PALING] And what I heard from the employee at Carling View Manor was that they were taking temperatures of all the staff coming in and out at the beginning and end of their shift. And the first person who had a fever was asked to go home. But none of the people that he worked with, none of the residents that he had cared for that day, were isolated. They were still sharing dining rooms, sharing bathrooms, moving around the building.   [ARSHY] From the very beginning, health officials were clear that anyone who came into contact with someone with symptoms needed to go into isolation.   [PALING] There’s very specific steps that you are supposed to be taking if you had it. And yet Revera was letting asymptomatic employees, who tested positive, care for residents. And they were also letting people who had contact with symptomatic cases move around.   [ARSHY] Emma Paling says that Revera has not denied any of the allegations that she and Harris reported.  Revera also says in their statement that, because they’re a large chain, they had access to PPE throughout the pandemic. But employees say that they weren’t provided with proper protection.    [HARRIS] The source also raised some concerns that I think we’ve been seeing a lot in the news from other homes and other health care institutions as well: concerns about a lack of PPE. They said now they have enough, but, uh, that was more of an issue. And they found that when they would ask managers about it, they weren’t, uh, really given kind of a clear answer.   [ARSHY] I think this news release, and their public relations efforts during this pandemic, are indicative. Their evidence that for-profit homes believe that their very business model is under attack now, and they have an obligation to their shareholders to fight back And Revera is a particularly interesting case. It has deep political connections, like many of the other for-profit long-term care and retirement companies.    [PALING] Their Chief Elder Officer for Revera is Hazel McCallion, the famous “Hurricane Hazel,” former mayor of Mississauga, who is a good friend of Premier Doug Ford. And their Chair Emeritus of their board is Bill Davis, a former conservative premier of Ontario.   [ARSHY] But by far, their most interesting political connection is who owns them. Revera isn’t a publicly traded company. It’s entirely privately owned by the Canadian federal government.  The Public Sector Pension Fund, which manages the pensions for federal employees, the RCMP and the Canadian forces, bought Revera outright in 2006.   [PALING] I think that makes it even more interesting to see how the politicians respond and handle this. Especially because all the federal public servants are getting their pensions paid out by this company’s profits.   [ARSHY] The PSP Investment Board is managed at arm’s length from the federal government, but its members are appointed by the cabinet. And because this technically makes Revera a private company, we don’t have access to their financials.  But according to a recent Toronto Star investigation, we know that three of Revera’s competitors: Chartwell, Sienna and Extendicare, collectively paid out over $1.5 billion dollars in dividends to their shareholders over the last decade. So it’s reasonable to assume Revera had paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to federal pensions over the last 12 years. Of course, not all of that, by any means, was from long-term care. These companies have other businesses. But they made a lot of money for their shareholders over the years, including the federal government. And that was during a time when the long-term care crisis in Ontario and across Canada was getting worse. When investigations and inquiries were consistently calling for more staffing, for more investment.  What doesn’t show up on these balance sheets is the human cost of all this. What happens when we try to make caring for vulnerable people as efficient as possible so that we can eke out an extra few percentage points of profit.  I’ve been looking through the filings of the Public Service Pension fund, and in every annual report, there’s a section that talks about the percentage of their holdings that are real estate and, under that, you get a few mentions of Revera. And the thing that I’ve been feeling is that, in those reports, everything is so abstract. It’s so distanced from the reality on the ground. For the people who set up the framework for everything a company like Revera does, Tracy and Shirley don’t really figure into things. They’re a data point within a data point within a data point. But for Tracy and Shirley, nothing could be more important. Tracy called Shirley every Mother’s Day.    [ROWLEY] And then this Mother’s Day, it was… I couldn’t call her, I couldn’t come over and hug her. I couldn’t do any of that. It consisted of sitting at a cemetery and putting some flowers, and still putting a Mother’s Day card down there. But I didn’t get that hug. I didn’t get that personal contact. And I hadn’t for months from her. And I know how much she wanted that, because every call that we talked to before she passed was how much she missed me, and when was this gonna be over, so she could see me again?   I kept telling her that if I won the lottery, I was going to buy a big house and, um, I was gonna make sure she was with me all the time. The emotion and the feeling was, “I wish… I never I never put her there. I wish I found space somewhere for her. I wish that I could have taken better care of her, even if that meant changing her dressings or hiring someone or doing something,” because at least if she did pass on my care, she knew I loved her and she knew I took such good care of her. She… She wouldn’t have taken that last breath by herself. So I just wish I never… I never put her there.   OUTRO [ARSHY] The lawsuit that Tracy is involved in the largest COVID-19-related class action so far.   [PALING] It’s now one hundred million dollars in damages. And there were originally two representative plaintiffs who had both lost mothers. There are now six representative plaintiffs who have all lost a family member at a Revera home. Revera says that they’re currently reviewing the suit and will eventually respond. But that, right now, their focus is to prevent further illness and the loss of life.    [ARSHY] Tracy says that for her, it’s not about the money.   [ROWLEY] I want to be a voice for my mother, and I don’t want her to be a COVID status. I don’t want her to be a number. I want people to understand she was actually a person. She was a loving, caring person that was taken too soon, that wasn’t ready to go. At least I wasn’t ready for her to go.   [ARSHY] And she thinks that a lawsuit might be one of the only ways to change things.    [ROWLEY] So they’re forced to have something in place, if this happens for the second wave, that, you know, they’re not losing 50 people again. So families aren’t going through the death of their loved one, not being able to see them, not knowing if they’re OK. I don’t want people to go through that. I want seniors to have a voice.   END CREDITS That’s your episode of Commons for the week. If you want to support us, click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com This episode relied on reporting done by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris at HuffPost Canada, Marco Chown Oved, Kenyon Wallace and Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto Star, Geoffrey Stevens at the Waterloo Record and many, many others.  If you want to get in touch with us, you can tweet at us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by me and Jordan Cornish, with production help by Tiffany Lam. Our managing editor is Andréa Schmidt, and our music is by Nathan Burley.  If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND.   I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
March 21, 2017
71
Being Icky Is The Job
The Liberals, according to Conservative MP Scott Reid, are trying to "ram through whatever the f**** they want." In other, vaguely sexually-themed Conservative news, Brad Trost isn't down with the "the whole gay thing," while k.d. lang asks if Jason Kenney might be secretly fond of it. Kellie Leitch and Senator Lynn Beyak? Just crapping on Muslims and Indigenous peoples again, respectively. Nothing sexy there.
April 4, 2017
72
Commons Gets High
$5/month for-adree COMMONS by clicking here. Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada. Featured in this episode: Tracy Rowley, Sherina Harris (HuffPost Canada), Emma Paling (HuffPost Canada), Zaid Noorsumar  To learn more: “COVID-19 Has Killed 164 At Revera’s Care Homes. Their Families Want Answers” by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris in HuffPost Canada “Is it Time to Care Yet?” by Zaid Noorsumar in Rank and File “It is time to forget the profits and fix long-term care” by Geoffrey Stevens in The Waterloo Region Record This episode is sponsored by Freshbooks and The Jerry Cans Additional music from Audio Network   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 5 – “SHIRLEY AND TRACY”   [COLD OPEN] [ARSHY MANN] Here’s what you need to understand about Shirley and Tracy: They both lived in Kitchener, one of the many mid-sized cities that dot Southern Ontario, and they met when Tracy started out helping Shirley with errands, like groceries and cleaning.    [TRACY ROWLEY] She was the type of person that she either liked you or she didn’t like you. And for some reason we just clicked from day one. And she was like, “No, you’re my daughter. You’re not my cleaning person, and you’re not this. You’re… You’re my family.”   [ARSHY]  That’s Tracy Rowley. And she says, that’s exactly what happened. She became Shirley Egerdeen’s family. She became her daughter.   [ROWLEY] So my mother and I, as… She called me her adopted mother, or surrogate mother. She never had any husband. She didn’t have children.    [ARSHY]  They saw each other all the time and did the things mothers and daughters do together.   [ROWLEY] We’re both Libras, so our birthdays are three days apart, so we would have Law & Order marathons for our birthday and eat Swiss Chalet. She’s very feisty.   [ARSHY]  But late last year, Shirley’s health took a turn for the worse.   [ROWLEY] So in December of last year, she got a really bad cold and the start of pneumonia. So she was put into our local hospital. And, at that time, she needed to recover a little more to be able to get back to the process of getting out of the bed into her wheelchair again, and she wasn’t strong enough from that. So the hospital said, “The best thing we could do right now is put her in long-term care.”   [ARSHY]  At first, Shirley was placed in a facility in Elmira, a nearby rural community. but she wanted to come back to town.   [ROWLEY] She said, what’s my best way of coming back to Kitchener? I want to be closer to my daughter. And the lady at the hospital said the quickest she’ll get back to Kitchener is to go to Forest Heights because they always have openings. And I never thought twice about it. I really didn’t.   [ARSHY]  It’s a decision Tracy regrets to this day.   [ROWLEY] But I understand now why so many seniors beg their kids, “Please don’t put me in a senior’s home. Please, please don’t.” Because I saw it firsthand, and if I had to do it over again, I would have done something. I would have found the room. I would have done something to make sure that she didn’t have to go there.   [ARSHY]  A month ago, Shirley Egerdeen became one of almost 50 people to die of COVID-19 at Forest Heights. Forest Heights is owned by Revera, one of the biggest for-profit long-term care providers in Canada. Tracy believes that Shirley didn’t have to die in this way. And today she’s one of the many people who have joined a class action against Revera and another for-profit chain.  I’m Arshy Mann and, from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   [PART ONE] [ARSHY]  When Shirley moved to Forest Heights, Tracy visited her constantly. And right away, the trouble began.   [ROWLEY] And I’d visit her every day and we watched TV. We’d still watch her Law & Order and everything else. Her bed was right beside the bathroom, which, you know, it happens. There’s four people in a room. Nobody really talks to each other. There’s a local dining room they could go to. But they didn’t.   [ARSHY]  More disturbingly, Shirley wasn’t bathed.   [ROWLEY] My mom never had a shower the whole time. So she said no, cause maybe she was having a bad day or whatever. They never asked her again or they didn’t come to me.    [ARSHY]  Shirley wasn’t eating well either.   [ROWLEY] And they would bring meals in. And if she was sleeping, they wouldn’t wake her up and then would she’d wake up, her food was cold. So she’d ask for it to be heated up, but they wouldn’t heat it. The potatoes would still feel like there was ice in the middle. So that’s why she wasn’t really eating.   [ARSHY]  Shirley soon became injured from just being there.   [ROWLEY] She also had a bedsore on her butt and or like a pressure sore. It was a very big one. So she was put on a waterbed. And then they said, “Well, you know, she’s not sitting in it right.” So they took her off of it, put her in a regular bed. And within a week, that sore on her bottom had now infected and got worse, that they now had to put the waterbed back in again. So, she went through pain that she didn’t need to.   [ARSHY]  If you’ve been listening to this series, you’ve heard similar stories already. You heard about Wyonne Somers, who died of improper wound care at McKenzie Towne, also a Revera facility, back in 2013. 22 people have died of COVID-19 at McKenzie Towne, making it the facility where more people have died than anywhere else in Alberta. At Forest Heights, where Shirley Egerdeen lived, the death toll is more than double that. In fact, over 160 people have died of COVID-19 in Revera homes since the pandemic began.  So what is Revera?   [SHERINA HARRIS] Revera is a privately owned long-term care home company. They are officially called Revera Inc. They also operate retirement homes.   [ARSHY]  That’s Sherina Harris, a reporter for HuffPost Canada.   [EMMA PALING] I believe there is about one hundred of their homes just in Ontario and dozens more in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.   [ARSHY]  And that’s Emma Paling, also a reporter for HuffPost Canada. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been digging into Revera’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including what happened to Shirley Egerdeen.   [PALING] Shirley lived in a ward, which meant that she shared a room with three other people and she shared a bathroom with those people. She was the first one in her room to test positive for COVID-19, and the staff at the home told Tracy that she wouldn’t be moved.    [ROWLEY] I asked, you know, would she be moved? Will she go to another room? What’s happening for isolation? And he said, “We’ve put a curtain around her.” I said, “There’s three other people in that room. How is that isolated?” And she’s also right beside the bathroom, so there’s always bacteria and germs coming from there from other people. And he said, “Well, you know, that’s what we’re doing. Her curtain’s around her. Within the week, the other people in her room were all infected with COVID-19.   [PALING] And all of the relatives told us similar things, that after their family member had contracted COVID-19, they weren’t really isolated from other people. And even before they contracted it, when there were already outbreaks, the residents were allowed to move around the buildings, continued to share bathrooms. People weren’t really being separated from each other and isolation wasn’t really being enforced. One of the other major concerns that we heard was that the company wasn’t communicating. They didn’t communicate a plan for how they were going to deal with the outbreak. They didn’t communicate how their relatives were going to be cared for or isolated, once they tested positive.   [ROWLEY] Even if you tried to call in during the outbreak, they wouldn’t answer the phone. So you couldn’t get updates. And in my case, it was always, “Well, her stats are good, so if anything changes, we’ll call you.” Some people could do window visits and they could do that. I couldn’t. She was in a wheelchair. For her to get out of bed, it would take people to get her out of bed. And they didn’t have the staff to do that. So I would never have had that opportunity and I would call in, and I would call in, and they wouldn’t answer or it would always be the same thing, “You know, well, her room oxygen’s fine, her temperature is fine and… Okay, I’ve got another call. I got to go.” I had paid for a phone for her to have in her own room. So if she didn’t answer it or that,  for a couple of days, I know obviously she wasn’t feeling well.   [PALING] She had obviously deteriorated since she caught COVID-19. Shirley wasn’t able to talk or answer her, but staff members put a phone on Shirley’s chest, so Tracy could at least kind of talk to her, be there for her. She didn’t realize, of course, that that would be the last time they spoke.    [ROWLEY] I guess I had this “mother” feeling myself in my stomach the night before she passed away. And I called in and asked if there’d be any way they could put a phone close to her so I could talk to her. And they put a phone in a glove and they put it on her chest, but she wasn’t responsive. I could hear her breathing and, um, I just talked to her for an hour. She’d call me “Toots” sometimes, so I’d be like, “Hey, Toots, are you sleeping on me? Am I that boring?” No one trying… Between my tears, to try and say nice things to her, and, um, we hung up about 11:00 that night. And then I got the call at 4:00 a.m. that she had passed. And I asked the lady, was she alone when she passed, and, um, the nurse said, “We went in to change her dressing at four o’clock, and she wasn’t breathing.” And I said, “Did you know how long that was for?” and I just got the same response: “We went in at four o’clock to change her dressing and she wasn’t breathing.” Therefore I don’t know how long she was lying in there, not breathing.    PART TWO [ARSHY]  Since late April, just over a month after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Revera has put out a handful of news releases. That includes an action plan for Forest Heights, the details of a new initiative to procure PPE, and responses to two class-action lawsuits against them: One in Alberta, and the one that Tracy is involved in in Ontario. But, by far, their most comprehensive statement is a five-page long release called “Let’s focus on the real changes needed in the long-term care sector.” And in it, Revera goes to great lengths to rebut the argument that for-profit homes are handling this pandemic worse than non-profit or public homes. We told you in the last episode about how the Toronto Star reported that people in for-profit homes are much more likely to die if there’s an outbreak than in non-profit and public homes. And here’s Revera’s response to that argument: “We are seeing more and more media stories attempting to draw a link between the ownership model for long-term care and the passing of residents from COVID-19. There are many variables and factors that have played a part in why COVID-19 spread in some homes and not others. However, objective data has not shown that ownership is one of them.” In that release, Revera does make some good points. They say that governments were too focused on hospitals early on and ignored long-term care, and that’s true. They say that they don’t get enough funding per resident, and I completely agree. But some of their other claims are disputable. For one, Revera cites something called the “Qindex.” The Qindex was introduced in 2018 and is a metric that is meant to track the overall quality of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes. But there’s a good reason to be skeptical of Qindex.   [ZAID NOORSUMAR] Quindex is an assessment tool created by the Ontario Long-Term Care Association that represents the for-profits.   [ARSHY] That’s Zaid Noorsumar. He’s a freelance journalist who covers labour issues, and for the last year he’s been investigating long-term care and home care in Ontario. And he told us that it’s essential to note where exactly this data is coming from.    [NOORSUMAR] The Qindex is a convenient way for the Long-term Care Association to say that for-profits deliver the similar quality of care as the non-profits and municipal homes.   [ARSHY] The index was created by the University of Toronto in partnership with the association that mostly represents the for-profit homes.   [NOORSUMAR] So, the metrics are not the best way to assess quality in long-term care. But if you, you know, examine where the research comes from, it comes from the association… which if you look at the board of directors, is all these big corporations on the board of directors. So, it’s–it’s really problematic. And it just so happens that Wendy Gilmour, Revera’s senior vice-president of long-term care, is on the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s board of directors. In that same five-page news release, Revera also said that they didn’t know about asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. And that’s true. Health officials were very much focused on people with symptoms. So even when employees tested positive for COVID-19, Revera admits that they did ask them, in some circumstances, to come into work.    [PALING] And the company defended that by saying, you know, they didn’t realize that COVID could spread if people didn’t have symptoms. And so they thought it would be safe.   [ARSHY] But at another Revera residence, Carling View Manor in Ottawa, Emma Paling says that something else happened.    [PALING] And what I heard from the employee at Carling View Manor was that they were taking temperatures of all the staff coming in and out at the beginning and end of their shift. And the first person who had a fever was asked to go home. But none of the people that he worked with, none of the residents that he had cared for that day, were isolated. They were still sharing dining rooms, sharing bathrooms, moving around the building.   [ARSHY] From the very beginning, health officials were clear that anyone who came into contact with someone with symptoms needed to go into isolation.   [PALING] There’s very specific steps that you are supposed to be taking if you had it. And yet Revera was letting asymptomatic employees, who tested positive, care for residents. And they were also letting people who had contact with symptomatic cases move around.   [ARSHY] Emma Paling says that Revera has not denied any of the allegations that she and Harris reported.  Revera also says in their statement that, because they’re a large chain, they had access to PPE throughout the pandemic. But employees say that they weren’t provided with proper protection.    [HARRIS] The source also raised some concerns that I think we’ve been seeing a lot in the news from other homes and other health care institutions as well: concerns about a lack of PPE. They said now they have enough, but, uh, that was more of an issue. And they found that when they would ask managers about it, they weren’t, uh, really given kind of a clear answer.   [ARSHY] I think this news release, and their public relations efforts during this pandemic, are indicative. Their evidence that for-profit homes believe that their very business model is under attack now, and they have an obligation to their shareholders to fight back And Revera is a particularly interesting case. It has deep political connections, like many of the other for-profit long-term care and retirement companies.    [PALING] Their Chief Elder Officer for Revera is Hazel McCallion, the famous “Hurricane Hazel,” former mayor of Mississauga, who is a good friend of Premier Doug Ford. And their Chair Emeritus of their board is Bill Davis, a former conservative premier of Ontario.   [ARSHY] But by far, their most interesting political connection is who owns them. Revera isn’t a publicly traded company. It’s entirely privately owned by the Canadian federal government.  The Public Sector Pension Fund, which manages the pensions for federal employees, the RCMP and the Canadian forces, bought Revera outright in 2006.   [PALING] I think that makes it even more interesting to see how the politicians respond and handle this. Especially because all the federal public servants are getting their pensions paid out by this company’s profits.   [ARSHY] The PSP Investment Board is managed at arm’s length from the federal government, but its members are appointed by the cabinet. And because this technically makes Revera a private company, we don’t have access to their financials.  But according to a recent Toronto Star investigation, we know that three of Revera’s competitors: Chartwell, Sienna and Extendicare, collectively paid out over $1.5 billion dollars in dividends to their shareholders over the last decade. So it’s reasonable to assume Revera had paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to federal pensions over the last 12 years. Of course, not all of that, by any means, was from long-term care. These companies have other businesses. But they made a lot of money for their shareholders over the years, including the federal government. And that was during a time when the long-term care crisis in Ontario and across Canada was getting worse. When investigations and inquiries were consistently calling for more staffing, for more investment.  What doesn’t show up on these balance sheets is the human cost of all this. What happens when we try to make caring for vulnerable people as efficient as possible so that we can eke out an extra few percentage points of profit.  I’ve been looking through the filings of the Public Service Pension fund, and in every annual report, there’s a section that talks about the percentage of their holdings that are real estate and, under that, you get a few mentions of Revera. And the thing that I’ve been feeling is that, in those reports, everything is so abstract. It’s so distanced from the reality on the ground. For the people who set up the framework for everything a company like Revera does, Tracy and Shirley don’t really figure into things. They’re a data point within a data point within a data point. But for Tracy and Shirley, nothing could be more important. Tracy called Shirley every Mother’s Day.    [ROWLEY] And then this Mother’s Day, it was… I couldn’t call her, I couldn’t come over and hug her. I couldn’t do any of that. It consisted of sitting at a cemetery and putting some flowers, and still putting a Mother’s Day card down there. But I didn’t get that hug. I didn’t get that personal contact. And I hadn’t for months from her. And I know how much she wanted that, because every call that we talked to before she passed was how much she missed me, and when was this gonna be over, so she could see me again?   I kept telling her that if I won the lottery, I was going to buy a big house and, um, I was gonna make sure she was with me all the time. The emotion and the feeling was, “I wish… I never I never put her there. I wish I found space somewhere for her. I wish that I could have taken better care of her, even if that meant changing her dressings or hiring someone or doing something,” because at least if she did pass on my care, she knew I loved her and she knew I took such good care of her. She… She wouldn’t have taken that last breath by herself. So I just wish I never… I never put her there.   OUTRO [ARSHY] The lawsuit that Tracy is involved in the largest COVID-19-related class action so far.   [PALING] It’s now one hundred million dollars in damages. And there were originally two representative plaintiffs who had both lost mothers. There are now six representative plaintiffs who have all lost a family member at a Revera home. Revera says that they’re currently reviewing the suit and will eventually respond. But that, right now, their focus is to prevent further illness and the loss of life.    [ARSHY] Tracy says that for her, it’s not about the money.   [ROWLEY] I want to be a voice for my mother, and I don’t want her to be a COVID status. I don’t want her to be a number. I want people to understand she was actually a person. She was a loving, caring person that was taken too soon, that wasn’t ready to go. At least I wasn’t ready for her to go.   [ARSHY] And she thinks that a lawsuit might be one of the only ways to change things.    [ROWLEY] So they’re forced to have something in place, if this happens for the second wave, that, you know, they’re not losing 50 people again. So families aren’t going through the death of their loved one, not being able to see them, not knowing if they’re OK. I don’t want people to go through that. I want seniors to have a voice.   END CREDITS That’s your episode of Commons for the week. If you want to support us, click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com This episode relied on reporting done by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris at HuffPost Canada, Marco Chown Oved, Kenyon Wallace and Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto Star, Geoffrey Stevens at the Waterloo Record and many, many others.  If you want to get in touch with us, you can tweet at us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by me and Jordan Cornish, with production help by Tiffany Lam. Our managing editor is Andréa Schmidt, and our music is by Nathan Burley.  If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND.   I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
April 18, 2017
73
That’s Why We Live In A Democracy
$5/month for-adree COMMONS by clicking here. Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada. Featured in this episode: Tracy Rowley, Sherina Harris (HuffPost Canada), Emma Paling (HuffPost Canada), Zaid Noorsumar  To learn more: “COVID-19 Has Killed 164 At Revera’s Care Homes. Their Families Want Answers” by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris in HuffPost Canada “Is it Time to Care Yet?” by Zaid Noorsumar in Rank and File “It is time to forget the profits and fix long-term care” by Geoffrey Stevens in The Waterloo Region Record This episode is sponsored by Freshbooks and The Jerry Cans Additional music from Audio Network   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 5 – “SHIRLEY AND TRACY”   [COLD OPEN] [ARSHY MANN] Here’s what you need to understand about Shirley and Tracy: They both lived in Kitchener, one of the many mid-sized cities that dot Southern Ontario, and they met when Tracy started out helping Shirley with errands, like groceries and cleaning.    [TRACY ROWLEY] She was the type of person that she either liked you or she didn’t like you. And for some reason we just clicked from day one. And she was like, “No, you’re my daughter. You’re not my cleaning person, and you’re not this. You’re… You’re my family.”   [ARSHY]  That’s Tracy Rowley. And she says, that’s exactly what happened. She became Shirley Egerdeen’s family. She became her daughter.   [ROWLEY] So my mother and I, as… She called me her adopted mother, or surrogate mother. She never had any husband. She didn’t have children.    [ARSHY]  They saw each other all the time and did the things mothers and daughters do together.   [ROWLEY] We’re both Libras, so our birthdays are three days apart, so we would have Law & Order marathons for our birthday and eat Swiss Chalet. She’s very feisty.   [ARSHY]  But late last year, Shirley’s health took a turn for the worse.   [ROWLEY] So in December of last year, she got a really bad cold and the start of pneumonia. So she was put into our local hospital. And, at that time, she needed to recover a little more to be able to get back to the process of getting out of the bed into her wheelchair again, and she wasn’t strong enough from that. So the hospital said, “The best thing we could do right now is put her in long-term care.”   [ARSHY]  At first, Shirley was placed in a facility in Elmira, a nearby rural community. but she wanted to come back to town.   [ROWLEY] She said, what’s my best way of coming back to Kitchener? I want to be closer to my daughter. And the lady at the hospital said the quickest she’ll get back to Kitchener is to go to Forest Heights because they always have openings. And I never thought twice about it. I really didn’t.   [ARSHY]  It’s a decision Tracy regrets to this day.   [ROWLEY] But I understand now why so many seniors beg their kids, “Please don’t put me in a senior’s home. Please, please don’t.” Because I saw it firsthand, and if I had to do it over again, I would have done something. I would have found the room. I would have done something to make sure that she didn’t have to go there.   [ARSHY]  A month ago, Shirley Egerdeen became one of almost 50 people to die of COVID-19 at Forest Heights. Forest Heights is owned by Revera, one of the biggest for-profit long-term care providers in Canada. Tracy believes that Shirley didn’t have to die in this way. And today she’s one of the many people who have joined a class action against Revera and another for-profit chain.  I’m Arshy Mann and, from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   [PART ONE] [ARSHY]  When Shirley moved to Forest Heights, Tracy visited her constantly. And right away, the trouble began.   [ROWLEY] And I’d visit her every day and we watched TV. We’d still watch her Law & Order and everything else. Her bed was right beside the bathroom, which, you know, it happens. There’s four people in a room. Nobody really talks to each other. There’s a local dining room they could go to. But they didn’t.   [ARSHY]  More disturbingly, Shirley wasn’t bathed.   [ROWLEY] My mom never had a shower the whole time. So she said no, cause maybe she was having a bad day or whatever. They never asked her again or they didn’t come to me.    [ARSHY]  Shirley wasn’t eating well either.   [ROWLEY] And they would bring meals in. And if she was sleeping, they wouldn’t wake her up and then would she’d wake up, her food was cold. So she’d ask for it to be heated up, but they wouldn’t heat it. The potatoes would still feel like there was ice in the middle. So that’s why she wasn’t really eating.   [ARSHY]  Shirley soon became injured from just being there.   [ROWLEY] She also had a bedsore on her butt and or like a pressure sore. It was a very big one. So she was put on a waterbed. And then they said, “Well, you know, she’s not sitting in it right.” So they took her off of it, put her in a regular bed. And within a week, that sore on her bottom had now infected and got worse, that they now had to put the waterbed back in again. So, she went through pain that she didn’t need to.   [ARSHY]  If you’ve been listening to this series, you’ve heard similar stories already. You heard about Wyonne Somers, who died of improper wound care at McKenzie Towne, also a Revera facility, back in 2013. 22 people have died of COVID-19 at McKenzie Towne, making it the facility where more people have died than anywhere else in Alberta. At Forest Heights, where Shirley Egerdeen lived, the death toll is more than double that. In fact, over 160 people have died of COVID-19 in Revera homes since the pandemic began.  So what is Revera?   [SHERINA HARRIS] Revera is a privately owned long-term care home company. They are officially called Revera Inc. They also operate retirement homes.   [ARSHY]  That’s Sherina Harris, a reporter for HuffPost Canada.   [EMMA PALING] I believe there is about one hundred of their homes just in Ontario and dozens more in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.   [ARSHY]  And that’s Emma Paling, also a reporter for HuffPost Canada. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been digging into Revera’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including what happened to Shirley Egerdeen.   [PALING] Shirley lived in a ward, which meant that she shared a room with three other people and she shared a bathroom with those people. She was the first one in her room to test positive for COVID-19, and the staff at the home told Tracy that she wouldn’t be moved.    [ROWLEY] I asked, you know, would she be moved? Will she go to another room? What’s happening for isolation? And he said, “We’ve put a curtain around her.” I said, “There’s three other people in that room. How is that isolated?” And she’s also right beside the bathroom, so there’s always bacteria and germs coming from there from other people. And he said, “Well, you know, that’s what we’re doing. Her curtain’s around her. Within the week, the other people in her room were all infected with COVID-19.   [PALING] And all of the relatives told us similar things, that after their family member had contracted COVID-19, they weren’t really isolated from other people. And even before they contracted it, when there were already outbreaks, the residents were allowed to move around the buildings, continued to share bathrooms. People weren’t really being separated from each other and isolation wasn’t really being enforced. One of the other major concerns that we heard was that the company wasn’t communicating. They didn’t communicate a plan for how they were going to deal with the outbreak. They didn’t communicate how their relatives were going to be cared for or isolated, once they tested positive.   [ROWLEY] Even if you tried to call in during the outbreak, they wouldn’t answer the phone. So you couldn’t get updates. And in my case, it was always, “Well, her stats are good, so if anything changes, we’ll call you.” Some people could do window visits and they could do that. I couldn’t. She was in a wheelchair. For her to get out of bed, it would take people to get her out of bed. And they didn’t have the staff to do that. So I would never have had that opportunity and I would call in, and I would call in, and they wouldn’t answer or it would always be the same thing, “You know, well, her room oxygen’s fine, her temperature is fine and… Okay, I’ve got another call. I got to go.” I had paid for a phone for her to have in her own room. So if she didn’t answer it or that,  for a couple of days, I know obviously she wasn’t feeling well.   [PALING] She had obviously deteriorated since she caught COVID-19. Shirley wasn’t able to talk or answer her, but staff members put a phone on Shirley’s chest, so Tracy could at least kind of talk to her, be there for her. She didn’t realize, of course, that that would be the last time they spoke.    [ROWLEY] I guess I had this “mother” feeling myself in my stomach the night before she passed away. And I called in and asked if there’d be any way they could put a phone close to her so I could talk to her. And they put a phone in a glove and they put it on her chest, but she wasn’t responsive. I could hear her breathing and, um, I just talked to her for an hour. She’d call me “Toots” sometimes, so I’d be like, “Hey, Toots, are you sleeping on me? Am I that boring?” No one trying… Between my tears, to try and say nice things to her, and, um, we hung up about 11:00 that night. And then I got the call at 4:00 a.m. that she had passed. And I asked the lady, was she alone when she passed, and, um, the nurse said, “We went in to change her dressing at four o’clock, and she wasn’t breathing.” And I said, “Did you know how long that was for?” and I just got the same response: “We went in at four o’clock to change her dressing and she wasn’t breathing.” Therefore I don’t know how long she was lying in there, not breathing.    PART TWO [ARSHY]  Since late April, just over a month after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Revera has put out a handful of news releases. That includes an action plan for Forest Heights, the details of a new initiative to procure PPE, and responses to two class-action lawsuits against them: One in Alberta, and the one that Tracy is involved in in Ontario. But, by far, their most comprehensive statement is a five-page long release called “Let’s focus on the real changes needed in the long-term care sector.” And in it, Revera goes to great lengths to rebut the argument that for-profit homes are handling this pandemic worse than non-profit or public homes. We told you in the last episode about how the Toronto Star reported that people in for-profit homes are much more likely to die if there’s an outbreak than in non-profit and public homes. And here’s Revera’s response to that argument: “We are seeing more and more media stories attempting to draw a link between the ownership model for long-term care and the passing of residents from COVID-19. There are many variables and factors that have played a part in why COVID-19 spread in some homes and not others. However, objective data has not shown that ownership is one of them.” In that release, Revera does make some good points. They say that governments were too focused on hospitals early on and ignored long-term care, and that’s true. They say that they don’t get enough funding per resident, and I completely agree. But some of their other claims are disputable. For one, Revera cites something called the “Qindex.” The Qindex was introduced in 2018 and is a metric that is meant to track the overall quality of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes. But there’s a good reason to be skeptical of Qindex.   [ZAID NOORSUMAR] Quindex is an assessment tool created by the Ontario Long-Term Care Association that represents the for-profits.   [ARSHY] That’s Zaid Noorsumar. He’s a freelance journalist who covers labour issues, and for the last year he’s been investigating long-term care and home care in Ontario. And he told us that it’s essential to note where exactly this data is coming from.    [NOORSUMAR] The Qindex is a convenient way for the Long-term Care Association to say that for-profits deliver the similar quality of care as the non-profits and municipal homes.   [ARSHY] The index was created by the University of Toronto in partnership with the association that mostly represents the for-profit homes.   [NOORSUMAR] So, the metrics are not the best way to assess quality in long-term care. But if you, you know, examine where the research comes from, it comes from the association… which if you look at the board of directors, is all these big corporations on the board of directors. So, it’s–it’s really problematic. And it just so happens that Wendy Gilmour, Revera’s senior vice-president of long-term care, is on the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s board of directors. In that same five-page news release, Revera also said that they didn’t know about asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. And that’s true. Health officials were very much focused on people with symptoms. So even when employees tested positive for COVID-19, Revera admits that they did ask them, in some circumstances, to come into work.    [PALING] And the company defended that by saying, you know, they didn’t realize that COVID could spread if people didn’t have symptoms. And so they thought it would be safe.   [ARSHY] But at another Revera residence, Carling View Manor in Ottawa, Emma Paling says that something else happened.    [PALING] And what I heard from the employee at Carling View Manor was that they were taking temperatures of all the staff coming in and out at the beginning and end of their shift. And the first person who had a fever was asked to go home. But none of the people that he worked with, none of the residents that he had cared for that day, were isolated. They were still sharing dining rooms, sharing bathrooms, moving around the building.   [ARSHY] From the very beginning, health officials were clear that anyone who came into contact with someone with symptoms needed to go into isolation.   [PALING] There’s very specific steps that you are supposed to be taking if you had it. And yet Revera was letting asymptomatic employees, who tested positive, care for residents. And they were also letting people who had contact with symptomatic cases move around.   [ARSHY] Emma Paling says that Revera has not denied any of the allegations that she and Harris reported.  Revera also says in their statement that, because they’re a large chain, they had access to PPE throughout the pandemic. But employees say that they weren’t provided with proper protection.    [HARRIS] The source also raised some concerns that I think we’ve been seeing a lot in the news from other homes and other health care institutions as well: concerns about a lack of PPE. They said now they have enough, but, uh, that was more of an issue. And they found that when they would ask managers about it, they weren’t, uh, really given kind of a clear answer.   [ARSHY] I think this news release, and their public relations efforts during this pandemic, are indicative. Their evidence that for-profit homes believe that their very business model is under attack now, and they have an obligation to their shareholders to fight back And Revera is a particularly interesting case. It has deep political connections, like many of the other for-profit long-term care and retirement companies.    [PALING] Their Chief Elder Officer for Revera is Hazel McCallion, the famous “Hurricane Hazel,” former mayor of Mississauga, who is a good friend of Premier Doug Ford. And their Chair Emeritus of their board is Bill Davis, a former conservative premier of Ontario.   [ARSHY] But by far, their most interesting political connection is who owns them. Revera isn’t a publicly traded company. It’s entirely privately owned by the Canadian federal government.  The Public Sector Pension Fund, which manages the pensions for federal employees, the RCMP and the Canadian forces, bought Revera outright in 2006.   [PALING] I think that makes it even more interesting to see how the politicians respond and handle this. Especially because all the federal public servants are getting their pensions paid out by this company’s profits.   [ARSHY] The PSP Investment Board is managed at arm’s length from the federal government, but its members are appointed by the cabinet. And because this technically makes Revera a private company, we don’t have access to their financials.  But according to a recent Toronto Star investigation, we know that three of Revera’s competitors: Chartwell, Sienna and Extendicare, collectively paid out over $1.5 billion dollars in dividends to their shareholders over the last decade. So it’s reasonable to assume Revera had paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to federal pensions over the last 12 years. Of course, not all of that, by any means, was from long-term care. These companies have other businesses. But they made a lot of money for their shareholders over the years, including the federal government. And that was during a time when the long-term care crisis in Ontario and across Canada was getting worse. When investigations and inquiries were consistently calling for more staffing, for more investment.  What doesn’t show up on these balance sheets is the human cost of all this. What happens when we try to make caring for vulnerable people as efficient as possible so that we can eke out an extra few percentage points of profit.  I’ve been looking through the filings of the Public Service Pension fund, and in every annual report, there’s a section that talks about the percentage of their holdings that are real estate and, under that, you get a few mentions of Revera. And the thing that I’ve been feeling is that, in those reports, everything is so abstract. It’s so distanced from the reality on the ground. For the people who set up the framework for everything a company like Revera does, Tracy and Shirley don’t really figure into things. They’re a data point within a data point within a data point. But for Tracy and Shirley, nothing could be more important. Tracy called Shirley every Mother’s Day.    [ROWLEY] And then this Mother’s Day, it was… I couldn’t call her, I couldn’t come over and hug her. I couldn’t do any of that. It consisted of sitting at a cemetery and putting some flowers, and still putting a Mother’s Day card down there. But I didn’t get that hug. I didn’t get that personal contact. And I hadn’t for months from her. And I know how much she wanted that, because every call that we talked to before she passed was how much she missed me, and when was this gonna be over, so she could see me again?   I kept telling her that if I won the lottery, I was going to buy a big house and, um, I was gonna make sure she was with me all the time. The emotion and the feeling was, “I wish… I never I never put her there. I wish I found space somewhere for her. I wish that I could have taken better care of her, even if that meant changing her dressings or hiring someone or doing something,” because at least if she did pass on my care, she knew I loved her and she knew I took such good care of her. She… She wouldn’t have taken that last breath by herself. So I just wish I never… I never put her there.   OUTRO [ARSHY] The lawsuit that Tracy is involved in the largest COVID-19-related class action so far.   [PALING] It’s now one hundred million dollars in damages. And there were originally two representative plaintiffs who had both lost mothers. There are now six representative plaintiffs who have all lost a family member at a Revera home. Revera says that they’re currently reviewing the suit and will eventually respond. But that, right now, their focus is to prevent further illness and the loss of life.    [ARSHY] Tracy says that for her, it’s not about the money.   [ROWLEY] I want to be a voice for my mother, and I don’t want her to be a COVID status. I don’t want her to be a number. I want people to understand she was actually a person. She was a loving, caring person that was taken too soon, that wasn’t ready to go. At least I wasn’t ready for her to go.   [ARSHY] And she thinks that a lawsuit might be one of the only ways to change things.    [ROWLEY] So they’re forced to have something in place, if this happens for the second wave, that, you know, they’re not losing 50 people again. So families aren’t going through the death of their loved one, not being able to see them, not knowing if they’re OK. I don’t want people to go through that. I want seniors to have a voice.   END CREDITS That’s your episode of Commons for the week. If you want to support us, click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com This episode relied on reporting done by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris at HuffPost Canada, Marco Chown Oved, Kenyon Wallace and Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto Star, Geoffrey Stevens at the Waterloo Record and many, many others.  If you want to get in touch with us, you can tweet at us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by me and Jordan Cornish, with production help by Tiffany Lam. Our managing editor is Andréa Schmidt, and our music is by Nathan Burley.  If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND.   I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
May 2, 2017
74
Cultural Appropriation Is An Inherently Political Act
$5/month for-adree COMMONS by clicking here. Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada. Featured in this episode: Tracy Rowley, Sherina Harris (HuffPost Canada), Emma Paling (HuffPost Canada), Zaid Noorsumar  To learn more: “COVID-19 Has Killed 164 At Revera’s Care Homes. Their Families Want Answers” by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris in HuffPost Canada “Is it Time to Care Yet?” by Zaid Noorsumar in Rank and File “It is time to forget the profits and fix long-term care” by Geoffrey Stevens in The Waterloo Region Record This episode is sponsored by Freshbooks and The Jerry Cans Additional music from Audio Network   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 5 – “SHIRLEY AND TRACY”   [COLD OPEN] [ARSHY MANN] Here’s what you need to understand about Shirley and Tracy: They both lived in Kitchener, one of the many mid-sized cities that dot Southern Ontario, and they met when Tracy started out helping Shirley with errands, like groceries and cleaning.    [TRACY ROWLEY] She was the type of person that she either liked you or she didn’t like you. And for some reason we just clicked from day one. And she was like, “No, you’re my daughter. You’re not my cleaning person, and you’re not this. You’re… You’re my family.”   [ARSHY]  That’s Tracy Rowley. And she says, that’s exactly what happened. She became Shirley Egerdeen’s family. She became her daughter.   [ROWLEY] So my mother and I, as… She called me her adopted mother, or surrogate mother. She never had any husband. She didn’t have children.    [ARSHY]  They saw each other all the time and did the things mothers and daughters do together.   [ROWLEY] We’re both Libras, so our birthdays are three days apart, so we would have Law & Order marathons for our birthday and eat Swiss Chalet. She’s very feisty.   [ARSHY]  But late last year, Shirley’s health took a turn for the worse.   [ROWLEY] So in December of last year, she got a really bad cold and the start of pneumonia. So she was put into our local hospital. And, at that time, she needed to recover a little more to be able to get back to the process of getting out of the bed into her wheelchair again, and she wasn’t strong enough from that. So the hospital said, “The best thing we could do right now is put her in long-term care.”   [ARSHY]  At first, Shirley was placed in a facility in Elmira, a nearby rural community. but she wanted to come back to town.   [ROWLEY] She said, what’s my best way of coming back to Kitchener? I want to be closer to my daughter. And the lady at the hospital said the quickest she’ll get back to Kitchener is to go to Forest Heights because they always have openings. And I never thought twice about it. I really didn’t.   [ARSHY]  It’s a decision Tracy regrets to this day.   [ROWLEY] But I understand now why so many seniors beg their kids, “Please don’t put me in a senior’s home. Please, please don’t.” Because I saw it firsthand, and if I had to do it over again, I would have done something. I would have found the room. I would have done something to make sure that she didn’t have to go there.   [ARSHY]  A month ago, Shirley Egerdeen became one of almost 50 people to die of COVID-19 at Forest Heights. Forest Heights is owned by Revera, one of the biggest for-profit long-term care providers in Canada. Tracy believes that Shirley didn’t have to die in this way. And today she’s one of the many people who have joined a class action against Revera and another for-profit chain.  I’m Arshy Mann and, from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   [PART ONE] [ARSHY]  When Shirley moved to Forest Heights, Tracy visited her constantly. And right away, the trouble began.   [ROWLEY] And I’d visit her every day and we watched TV. We’d still watch her Law & Order and everything else. Her bed was right beside the bathroom, which, you know, it happens. There’s four people in a room. Nobody really talks to each other. There’s a local dining room they could go to. But they didn’t.   [ARSHY]  More disturbingly, Shirley wasn’t bathed.   [ROWLEY] My mom never had a shower the whole time. So she said no, cause maybe she was having a bad day or whatever. They never asked her again or they didn’t come to me.    [ARSHY]  Shirley wasn’t eating well either.   [ROWLEY] And they would bring meals in. And if she was sleeping, they wouldn’t wake her up and then would she’d wake up, her food was cold. So she’d ask for it to be heated up, but they wouldn’t heat it. The potatoes would still feel like there was ice in the middle. So that’s why she wasn’t really eating.   [ARSHY]  Shirley soon became injured from just being there.   [ROWLEY] She also had a bedsore on her butt and or like a pressure sore. It was a very big one. So she was put on a waterbed. And then they said, “Well, you know, she’s not sitting in it right.” So they took her off of it, put her in a regular bed. And within a week, that sore on her bottom had now infected and got worse, that they now had to put the waterbed back in again. So, she went through pain that she didn’t need to.   [ARSHY]  If you’ve been listening to this series, you’ve heard similar stories already. You heard about Wyonne Somers, who died of improper wound care at McKenzie Towne, also a Revera facility, back in 2013. 22 people have died of COVID-19 at McKenzie Towne, making it the facility where more people have died than anywhere else in Alberta. At Forest Heights, where Shirley Egerdeen lived, the death toll is more than double that. In fact, over 160 people have died of COVID-19 in Revera homes since the pandemic began.  So what is Revera?   [SHERINA HARRIS] Revera is a privately owned long-term care home company. They are officially called Revera Inc. They also operate retirement homes.   [ARSHY]  That’s Sherina Harris, a reporter for HuffPost Canada.   [EMMA PALING] I believe there is about one hundred of their homes just in Ontario and dozens more in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.   [ARSHY]  And that’s Emma Paling, also a reporter for HuffPost Canada. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been digging into Revera’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including what happened to Shirley Egerdeen.   [PALING] Shirley lived in a ward, which meant that she shared a room with three other people and she shared a bathroom with those people. She was the first one in her room to test positive for COVID-19, and the staff at the home told Tracy that she wouldn’t be moved.    [ROWLEY] I asked, you know, would she be moved? Will she go to another room? What’s happening for isolation? And he said, “We’ve put a curtain around her.” I said, “There’s three other people in that room. How is that isolated?” And she’s also right beside the bathroom, so there’s always bacteria and germs coming from there from other people. And he said, “Well, you know, that’s what we’re doing. Her curtain’s around her. Within the week, the other people in her room were all infected with COVID-19.   [PALING] And all of the relatives told us similar things, that after their family member had contracted COVID-19, they weren’t really isolated from other people. And even before they contracted it, when there were already outbreaks, the residents were allowed to move around the buildings, continued to share bathrooms. People weren’t really being separated from each other and isolation wasn’t really being enforced. One of the other major concerns that we heard was that the company wasn’t communicating. They didn’t communicate a plan for how they were going to deal with the outbreak. They didn’t communicate how their relatives were going to be cared for or isolated, once they tested positive.   [ROWLEY] Even if you tried to call in during the outbreak, they wouldn’t answer the phone. So you couldn’t get updates. And in my case, it was always, “Well, her stats are good, so if anything changes, we’ll call you.” Some people could do window visits and they could do that. I couldn’t. She was in a wheelchair. For her to get out of bed, it would take people to get her out of bed. And they didn’t have the staff to do that. So I would never have had that opportunity and I would call in, and I would call in, and they wouldn’t answer or it would always be the same thing, “You know, well, her room oxygen’s fine, her temperature is fine and… Okay, I’ve got another call. I got to go.” I had paid for a phone for her to have in her own room. So if she didn’t answer it or that,  for a couple of days, I know obviously she wasn’t feeling well.   [PALING] She had obviously deteriorated since she caught COVID-19. Shirley wasn’t able to talk or answer her, but staff members put a phone on Shirley’s chest, so Tracy could at least kind of talk to her, be there for her. She didn’t realize, of course, that that would be the last time they spoke.    [ROWLEY] I guess I had this “mother” feeling myself in my stomach the night before she passed away. And I called in and asked if there’d be any way they could put a phone close to her so I could talk to her. And they put a phone in a glove and they put it on her chest, but she wasn’t responsive. I could hear her breathing and, um, I just talked to her for an hour. She’d call me “Toots” sometimes, so I’d be like, “Hey, Toots, are you sleeping on me? Am I that boring?” No one trying… Between my tears, to try and say nice things to her, and, um, we hung up about 11:00 that night. And then I got the call at 4:00 a.m. that she had passed. And I asked the lady, was she alone when she passed, and, um, the nurse said, “We went in to change her dressing at four o’clock, and she wasn’t breathing.” And I said, “Did you know how long that was for?” and I just got the same response: “We went in at four o’clock to change her dressing and she wasn’t breathing.” Therefore I don’t know how long she was lying in there, not breathing.    PART TWO [ARSHY]  Since late April, just over a month after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Revera has put out a handful of news releases. That includes an action plan for Forest Heights, the details of a new initiative to procure PPE, and responses to two class-action lawsuits against them: One in Alberta, and the one that Tracy is involved in in Ontario. But, by far, their most comprehensive statement is a five-page long release called “Let’s focus on the real changes needed in the long-term care sector.” And in it, Revera goes to great lengths to rebut the argument that for-profit homes are handling this pandemic worse than non-profit or public homes. We told you in the last episode about how the Toronto Star reported that people in for-profit homes are much more likely to die if there’s an outbreak than in non-profit and public homes. And here’s Revera’s response to that argument: “We are seeing more and more media stories attempting to draw a link between the ownership model for long-term care and the passing of residents from COVID-19. There are many variables and factors that have played a part in why COVID-19 spread in some homes and not others. However, objective data has not shown that ownership is one of them.” In that release, Revera does make some good points. They say that governments were too focused on hospitals early on and ignored long-term care, and that’s true. They say that they don’t get enough funding per resident, and I completely agree. But some of their other claims are disputable. For one, Revera cites something called the “Qindex.” The Qindex was introduced in 2018 and is a metric that is meant to track the overall quality of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes. But there’s a good reason to be skeptical of Qindex.   [ZAID NOORSUMAR] Quindex is an assessment tool created by the Ontario Long-Term Care Association that represents the for-profits.   [ARSHY] That’s Zaid Noorsumar. He’s a freelance journalist who covers labour issues, and for the last year he’s been investigating long-term care and home care in Ontario. And he told us that it’s essential to note where exactly this data is coming from.    [NOORSUMAR] The Qindex is a convenient way for the Long-term Care Association to say that for-profits deliver the similar quality of care as the non-profits and municipal homes.   [ARSHY] The index was created by the University of Toronto in partnership with the association that mostly represents the for-profit homes.   [NOORSUMAR] So, the metrics are not the best way to assess quality in long-term care. But if you, you know, examine where the research comes from, it comes from the association… which if you look at the board of directors, is all these big corporations on the board of directors. So, it’s–it’s really problematic. And it just so happens that Wendy Gilmour, Revera’s senior vice-president of long-term care, is on the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s board of directors. In that same five-page news release, Revera also said that they didn’t know about asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. And that’s true. Health officials were very much focused on people with symptoms. So even when employees tested positive for COVID-19, Revera admits that they did ask them, in some circumstances, to come into work.    [PALING] And the company defended that by saying, you know, they didn’t realize that COVID could spread if people didn’t have symptoms. And so they thought it would be safe.   [ARSHY] But at another Revera residence, Carling View Manor in Ottawa, Emma Paling says that something else happened.    [PALING] And what I heard from the employee at Carling View Manor was that they were taking temperatures of all the staff coming in and out at the beginning and end of their shift. And the first person who had a fever was asked to go home. But none of the people that he worked with, none of the residents that he had cared for that day, were isolated. They were still sharing dining rooms, sharing bathrooms, moving around the building.   [ARSHY] From the very beginning, health officials were clear that anyone who came into contact with someone with symptoms needed to go into isolation.   [PALING] There’s very specific steps that you are supposed to be taking if you had it. And yet Revera was letting asymptomatic employees, who tested positive, care for residents. And they were also letting people who had contact with symptomatic cases move around.   [ARSHY] Emma Paling says that Revera has not denied any of the allegations that she and Harris reported.  Revera also says in their statement that, because they’re a large chain, they had access to PPE throughout the pandemic. But employees say that they weren’t provided with proper protection.    [HARRIS] The source also raised some concerns that I think we’ve been seeing a lot in the news from other homes and other health care institutions as well: concerns about a lack of PPE. They said now they have enough, but, uh, that was more of an issue. And they found that when they would ask managers about it, they weren’t, uh, really given kind of a clear answer.   [ARSHY] I think this news release, and their public relations efforts during this pandemic, are indicative. Their evidence that for-profit homes believe that their very business model is under attack now, and they have an obligation to their shareholders to fight back And Revera is a particularly interesting case. It has deep political connections, like many of the other for-profit long-term care and retirement companies.    [PALING] Their Chief Elder Officer for Revera is Hazel McCallion, the famous “Hurricane Hazel,” former mayor of Mississauga, who is a good friend of Premier Doug Ford. And their Chair Emeritus of their board is Bill Davis, a former conservative premier of Ontario.   [ARSHY] But by far, their most interesting political connection is who owns them. Revera isn’t a publicly traded company. It’s entirely privately owned by the Canadian federal government.  The Public Sector Pension Fund, which manages the pensions for federal employees, the RCMP and the Canadian forces, bought Revera outright in 2006.   [PALING] I think that makes it even more interesting to see how the politicians respond and handle this. Especially because all the federal public servants are getting their pensions paid out by this company’s profits.   [ARSHY] The PSP Investment Board is managed at arm’s length from the federal government, but its members are appointed by the cabinet. And because this technically makes Revera a private company, we don’t have access to their financials.  But according to a recent Toronto Star investigation, we know that three of Revera’s competitors: Chartwell, Sienna and Extendicare, collectively paid out over $1.5 billion dollars in dividends to their shareholders over the last decade. So it’s reasonable to assume Revera had paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to federal pensions over the last 12 years. Of course, not all of that, by any means, was from long-term care. These companies have other businesses. But they made a lot of money for their shareholders over the years, including the federal government. And that was during a time when the long-term care crisis in Ontario and across Canada was getting worse. When investigations and inquiries were consistently calling for more staffing, for more investment.  What doesn’t show up on these balance sheets is the human cost of all this. What happens when we try to make caring for vulnerable people as efficient as possible so that we can eke out an extra few percentage points of profit.  I’ve been looking through the filings of the Public Service Pension fund, and in every annual report, there’s a section that talks about the percentage of their holdings that are real estate and, under that, you get a few mentions of Revera. And the thing that I’ve been feeling is that, in those reports, everything is so abstract. It’s so distanced from the reality on the ground. For the people who set up the framework for everything a company like Revera does, Tracy and Shirley don’t really figure into things. They’re a data point within a data point within a data point. But for Tracy and Shirley, nothing could be more important. Tracy called Shirley every Mother’s Day.    [ROWLEY] And then this Mother’s Day, it was… I couldn’t call her, I couldn’t come over and hug her. I couldn’t do any of that. It consisted of sitting at a cemetery and putting some flowers, and still putting a Mother’s Day card down there. But I didn’t get that hug. I didn’t get that personal contact. And I hadn’t for months from her. And I know how much she wanted that, because every call that we talked to before she passed was how much she missed me, and when was this gonna be over, so she could see me again?   I kept telling her that if I won the lottery, I was going to buy a big house and, um, I was gonna make sure she was with me all the time. The emotion and the feeling was, “I wish… I never I never put her there. I wish I found space somewhere for her. I wish that I could have taken better care of her, even if that meant changing her dressings or hiring someone or doing something,” because at least if she did pass on my care, she knew I loved her and she knew I took such good care of her. She… She wouldn’t have taken that last breath by herself. So I just wish I never… I never put her there.   OUTRO [ARSHY] The lawsuit that Tracy is involved in the largest COVID-19-related class action so far.   [PALING] It’s now one hundred million dollars in damages. And there were originally two representative plaintiffs who had both lost mothers. There are now six representative plaintiffs who have all lost a family member at a Revera home. Revera says that they’re currently reviewing the suit and will eventually respond. But that, right now, their focus is to prevent further illness and the loss of life.    [ARSHY] Tracy says that for her, it’s not about the money.   [ROWLEY] I want to be a voice for my mother, and I don’t want her to be a COVID status. I don’t want her to be a number. I want people to understand she was actually a person. She was a loving, caring person that was taken too soon, that wasn’t ready to go. At least I wasn’t ready for her to go.   [ARSHY] And she thinks that a lawsuit might be one of the only ways to change things.    [ROWLEY] So they’re forced to have something in place, if this happens for the second wave, that, you know, they’re not losing 50 people again. So families aren’t going through the death of their loved one, not being able to see them, not knowing if they’re OK. I don’t want people to go through that. I want seniors to have a voice.   END CREDITS That’s your episode of Commons for the week. If you want to support us, click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com This episode relied on reporting done by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris at HuffPost Canada, Marco Chown Oved, Kenyon Wallace and Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto Star, Geoffrey Stevens at the Waterloo Record and many, many others.  If you want to get in touch with us, you can tweet at us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by me and Jordan Cornish, with production help by Tiffany Lam. Our managing editor is Andréa Schmidt, and our music is by Nathan Burley.  If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND.   I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
May 16, 2017
75
Drink Like A Conservative
$5/month for-adree COMMONS by clicking here. Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada. Featured in this episode: Tracy Rowley, Sherina Harris (HuffPost Canada), Emma Paling (HuffPost Canada), Zaid Noorsumar  To learn more: “COVID-19 Has Killed 164 At Revera’s Care Homes. Their Families Want Answers” by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris in HuffPost Canada “Is it Time to Care Yet?” by Zaid Noorsumar in Rank and File “It is time to forget the profits and fix long-term care” by Geoffrey Stevens in The Waterloo Region Record This episode is sponsored by Freshbooks and The Jerry Cans Additional music from Audio Network   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 5 – “SHIRLEY AND TRACY”   [COLD OPEN] [ARSHY MANN] Here’s what you need to understand about Shirley and Tracy: They both lived in Kitchener, one of the many mid-sized cities that dot Southern Ontario, and they met when Tracy started out helping Shirley with errands, like groceries and cleaning.    [TRACY ROWLEY] She was the type of person that she either liked you or she didn’t like you. And for some reason we just clicked from day one. And she was like, “No, you’re my daughter. You’re not my cleaning person, and you’re not this. You’re… You’re my family.”   [ARSHY]  That’s Tracy Rowley. And she says, that’s exactly what happened. She became Shirley Egerdeen’s family. She became her daughter.   [ROWLEY] So my mother and I, as… She called me her adopted mother, or surrogate mother. She never had any husband. She didn’t have children.    [ARSHY]  They saw each other all the time and did the things mothers and daughters do together.   [ROWLEY] We’re both Libras, so our birthdays are three days apart, so we would have Law & Order marathons for our birthday and eat Swiss Chalet. She’s very feisty.   [ARSHY]  But late last year, Shirley’s health took a turn for the worse.   [ROWLEY] So in December of last year, she got a really bad cold and the start of pneumonia. So she was put into our local hospital. And, at that time, she needed to recover a little more to be able to get back to the process of getting out of the bed into her wheelchair again, and she wasn’t strong enough from that. So the hospital said, “The best thing we could do right now is put her in long-term care.”   [ARSHY]  At first, Shirley was placed in a facility in Elmira, a nearby rural community. but she wanted to come back to town.   [ROWLEY] She said, what’s my best way of coming back to Kitchener? I want to be closer to my daughter. And the lady at the hospital said the quickest she’ll get back to Kitchener is to go to Forest Heights because they always have openings. And I never thought twice about it. I really didn’t.   [ARSHY]  It’s a decision Tracy regrets to this day.   [ROWLEY] But I understand now why so many seniors beg their kids, “Please don’t put me in a senior’s home. Please, please don’t.” Because I saw it firsthand, and if I had to do it over again, I would have done something. I would have found the room. I would have done something to make sure that she didn’t have to go there.   [ARSHY]  A month ago, Shirley Egerdeen became one of almost 50 people to die of COVID-19 at Forest Heights. Forest Heights is owned by Revera, one of the biggest for-profit long-term care providers in Canada. Tracy believes that Shirley didn’t have to die in this way. And today she’s one of the many people who have joined a class action against Revera and another for-profit chain.  I’m Arshy Mann and, from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   [PART ONE] [ARSHY]  When Shirley moved to Forest Heights, Tracy visited her constantly. And right away, the trouble began.   [ROWLEY] And I’d visit her every day and we watched TV. We’d still watch her Law & Order and everything else. Her bed was right beside the bathroom, which, you know, it happens. There’s four people in a room. Nobody really talks to each other. There’s a local dining room they could go to. But they didn’t.   [ARSHY]  More disturbingly, Shirley wasn’t bathed.   [ROWLEY] My mom never had a shower the whole time. So she said no, cause maybe she was having a bad day or whatever. They never asked her again or they didn’t come to me.    [ARSHY]  Shirley wasn’t eating well either.   [ROWLEY] And they would bring meals in. And if she was sleeping, they wouldn’t wake her up and then would she’d wake up, her food was cold. So she’d ask for it to be heated up, but they wouldn’t heat it. The potatoes would still feel like there was ice in the middle. So that’s why she wasn’t really eating.   [ARSHY]  Shirley soon became injured from just being there.   [ROWLEY] She also had a bedsore on her butt and or like a pressure sore. It was a very big one. So she was put on a waterbed. And then they said, “Well, you know, she’s not sitting in it right.” So they took her off of it, put her in a regular bed. And within a week, that sore on her bottom had now infected and got worse, that they now had to put the waterbed back in again. So, she went through pain that she didn’t need to.   [ARSHY]  If you’ve been listening to this series, you’ve heard similar stories already. You heard about Wyonne Somers, who died of improper wound care at McKenzie Towne, also a Revera facility, back in 2013. 22 people have died of COVID-19 at McKenzie Towne, making it the facility where more people have died than anywhere else in Alberta. At Forest Heights, where Shirley Egerdeen lived, the death toll is more than double that. In fact, over 160 people have died of COVID-19 in Revera homes since the pandemic began.  So what is Revera?   [SHERINA HARRIS] Revera is a privately owned long-term care home company. They are officially called Revera Inc. They also operate retirement homes.   [ARSHY]  That’s Sherina Harris, a reporter for HuffPost Canada.   [EMMA PALING] I believe there is about one hundred of their homes just in Ontario and dozens more in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.   [ARSHY]  And that’s Emma Paling, also a reporter for HuffPost Canada. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been digging into Revera’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including what happened to Shirley Egerdeen.   [PALING] Shirley lived in a ward, which meant that she shared a room with three other people and she shared a bathroom with those people. She was the first one in her room to test positive for COVID-19, and the staff at the home told Tracy that she wouldn’t be moved.    [ROWLEY] I asked, you know, would she be moved? Will she go to another room? What’s happening for isolation? And he said, “We’ve put a curtain around her.” I said, “There’s three other people in that room. How is that isolated?” And she’s also right beside the bathroom, so there’s always bacteria and germs coming from there from other people. And he said, “Well, you know, that’s what we’re doing. Her curtain’s around her. Within the week, the other people in her room were all infected with COVID-19.   [PALING] And all of the relatives told us similar things, that after their family member had contracted COVID-19, they weren’t really isolated from other people. And even before they contracted it, when there were already outbreaks, the residents were allowed to move around the buildings, continued to share bathrooms. People weren’t really being separated from each other and isolation wasn’t really being enforced. One of the other major concerns that we heard was that the company wasn’t communicating. They didn’t communicate a plan for how they were going to deal with the outbreak. They didn’t communicate how their relatives were going to be cared for or isolated, once they tested positive.   [ROWLEY] Even if you tried to call in during the outbreak, they wouldn’t answer the phone. So you couldn’t get updates. And in my case, it was always, “Well, her stats are good, so if anything changes, we’ll call you.” Some people could do window visits and they could do that. I couldn’t. She was in a wheelchair. For her to get out of bed, it would take people to get her out of bed. And they didn’t have the staff to do that. So I would never have had that opportunity and I would call in, and I would call in, and they wouldn’t answer or it would always be the same thing, “You know, well, her room oxygen’s fine, her temperature is fine and… Okay, I’ve got another call. I got to go.” I had paid for a phone for her to have in her own room. So if she didn’t answer it or that,  for a couple of days, I know obviously she wasn’t feeling well.   [PALING] She had obviously deteriorated since she caught COVID-19. Shirley wasn’t able to talk or answer her, but staff members put a phone on Shirley’s chest, so Tracy could at least kind of talk to her, be there for her. She didn’t realize, of course, that that would be the last time they spoke.    [ROWLEY] I guess I had this “mother” feeling myself in my stomach the night before she passed away. And I called in and asked if there’d be any way they could put a phone close to her so I could talk to her. And they put a phone in a glove and they put it on her chest, but she wasn’t responsive. I could hear her breathing and, um, I just talked to her for an hour. She’d call me “Toots” sometimes, so I’d be like, “Hey, Toots, are you sleeping on me? Am I that boring?” No one trying… Between my tears, to try and say nice things to her, and, um, we hung up about 11:00 that night. And then I got the call at 4:00 a.m. that she had passed. And I asked the lady, was she alone when she passed, and, um, the nurse said, “We went in to change her dressing at four o’clock, and she wasn’t breathing.” And I said, “Did you know how long that was for?” and I just got the same response: “We went in at four o’clock to change her dressing and she wasn’t breathing.” Therefore I don’t know how long she was lying in there, not breathing.    PART TWO [ARSHY]  Since late April, just over a month after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Revera has put out a handful of news releases. That includes an action plan for Forest Heights, the details of a new initiative to procure PPE, and responses to two class-action lawsuits against them: One in Alberta, and the one that Tracy is involved in in Ontario. But, by far, their most comprehensive statement is a five-page long release called “Let’s focus on the real changes needed in the long-term care sector.” And in it, Revera goes to great lengths to rebut the argument that for-profit homes are handling this pandemic worse than non-profit or public homes. We told you in the last episode about how the Toronto Star reported that people in for-profit homes are much more likely to die if there’s an outbreak than in non-profit and public homes. And here’s Revera’s response to that argument: “We are seeing more and more media stories attempting to draw a link between the ownership model for long-term care and the passing of residents from COVID-19. There are many variables and factors that have played a part in why COVID-19 spread in some homes and not others. However, objective data has not shown that ownership is one of them.” In that release, Revera does make some good points. They say that governments were too focused on hospitals early on and ignored long-term care, and that’s true. They say that they don’t get enough funding per resident, and I completely agree. But some of their other claims are disputable. For one, Revera cites something called the “Qindex.” The Qindex was introduced in 2018 and is a metric that is meant to track the overall quality of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes. But there’s a good reason to be skeptical of Qindex.   [ZAID NOORSUMAR] Quindex is an assessment tool created by the Ontario Long-Term Care Association that represents the for-profits.   [ARSHY] That’s Zaid Noorsumar. He’s a freelance journalist who covers labour issues, and for the last year he’s been investigating long-term care and home care in Ontario. And he told us that it’s essential to note where exactly this data is coming from.    [NOORSUMAR] The Qindex is a convenient way for the Long-term Care Association to say that for-profits deliver the similar quality of care as the non-profits and municipal homes.   [ARSHY] The index was created by the University of Toronto in partnership with the association that mostly represents the for-profit homes.   [NOORSUMAR] So, the metrics are not the best way to assess quality in long-term care. But if you, you know, examine where the research comes from, it comes from the association… which if you look at the board of directors, is all these big corporations on the board of directors. So, it’s–it’s really problematic. And it just so happens that Wendy Gilmour, Revera’s senior vice-president of long-term care, is on the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s board of directors. In that same five-page news release, Revera also said that they didn’t know about asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. And that’s true. Health officials were very much focused on people with symptoms. So even when employees tested positive for COVID-19, Revera admits that they did ask them, in some circumstances, to come into work.    [PALING] And the company defended that by saying, you know, they didn’t realize that COVID could spread if people didn’t have symptoms. And so they thought it would be safe.   [ARSHY] But at another Revera residence, Carling View Manor in Ottawa, Emma Paling says that something else happened.    [PALING] And what I heard from the employee at Carling View Manor was that they were taking temperatures of all the staff coming in and out at the beginning and end of their shift. And the first person who had a fever was asked to go home. But none of the people that he worked with, none of the residents that he had cared for that day, were isolated. They were still sharing dining rooms, sharing bathrooms, moving around the building.   [ARSHY] From the very beginning, health officials were clear that anyone who came into contact with someone with symptoms needed to go into isolation.   [PALING] There’s very specific steps that you are supposed to be taking if you had it. And yet Revera was letting asymptomatic employees, who tested positive, care for residents. And they were also letting people who had contact with symptomatic cases move around.   [ARSHY] Emma Paling says that Revera has not denied any of the allegations that she and Harris reported.  Revera also says in their statement that, because they’re a large chain, they had access to PPE throughout the pandemic. But employees say that they weren’t provided with proper protection.    [HARRIS] The source also raised some concerns that I think we’ve been seeing a lot in the news from other homes and other health care institutions as well: concerns about a lack of PPE. They said now they have enough, but, uh, that was more of an issue. And they found that when they would ask managers about it, they weren’t, uh, really given kind of a clear answer.   [ARSHY] I think this news release, and their public relations efforts during this pandemic, are indicative. Their evidence that for-profit homes believe that their very business model is under attack now, and they have an obligation to their shareholders to fight back And Revera is a particularly interesting case. It has deep political connections, like many of the other for-profit long-term care and retirement companies.    [PALING] Their Chief Elder Officer for Revera is Hazel McCallion, the famous “Hurricane Hazel,” former mayor of Mississauga, who is a good friend of Premier Doug Ford. And their Chair Emeritus of their board is Bill Davis, a former conservative premier of Ontario.   [ARSHY] But by far, their most interesting political connection is who owns them. Revera isn’t a publicly traded company. It’s entirely privately owned by the Canadian federal government.  The Public Sector Pension Fund, which manages the pensions for federal employees, the RCMP and the Canadian forces, bought Revera outright in 2006.   [PALING] I think that makes it even more interesting to see how the politicians respond and handle this. Especially because all the federal public servants are getting their pensions paid out by this company’s profits.   [ARSHY] The PSP Investment Board is managed at arm’s length from the federal government, but its members are appointed by the cabinet. And because this technically makes Revera a private company, we don’t have access to their financials.  But according to a recent Toronto Star investigation, we know that three of Revera’s competitors: Chartwell, Sienna and Extendicare, collectively paid out over $1.5 billion dollars in dividends to their shareholders over the last decade. So it’s reasonable to assume Revera had paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to federal pensions over the last 12 years. Of course, not all of that, by any means, was from long-term care. These companies have other businesses. But they made a lot of money for their shareholders over the years, including the federal government. And that was during a time when the long-term care crisis in Ontario and across Canada was getting worse. When investigations and inquiries were consistently calling for more staffing, for more investment.  What doesn’t show up on these balance sheets is the human cost of all this. What happens when we try to make caring for vulnerable people as efficient as possible so that we can eke out an extra few percentage points of profit.  I’ve been looking through the filings of the Public Service Pension fund, and in every annual report, there’s a section that talks about the percentage of their holdings that are real estate and, under that, you get a few mentions of Revera. And the thing that I’ve been feeling is that, in those reports, everything is so abstract. It’s so distanced from the reality on the ground. For the people who set up the framework for everything a company like Revera does, Tracy and Shirley don’t really figure into things. They’re a data point within a data point within a data point. But for Tracy and Shirley, nothing could be more important. Tracy called Shirley every Mother’s Day.    [ROWLEY] And then this Mother’s Day, it was… I couldn’t call her, I couldn’t come over and hug her. I couldn’t do any of that. It consisted of sitting at a cemetery and putting some flowers, and still putting a Mother’s Day card down there. But I didn’t get that hug. I didn’t get that personal contact. And I hadn’t for months from her. And I know how much she wanted that, because every call that we talked to before she passed was how much she missed me, and when was this gonna be over, so she could see me again?   I kept telling her that if I won the lottery, I was going to buy a big house and, um, I was gonna make sure she was with me all the time. The emotion and the feeling was, “I wish… I never I never put her there. I wish I found space somewhere for her. I wish that I could have taken better care of her, even if that meant changing her dressings or hiring someone or doing something,” because at least if she did pass on my care, she knew I loved her and she knew I took such good care of her. She… She wouldn’t have taken that last breath by herself. So I just wish I never… I never put her there.   OUTRO [ARSHY] The lawsuit that Tracy is involved in the largest COVID-19-related class action so far.   [PALING] It’s now one hundred million dollars in damages. And there were originally two representative plaintiffs who had both lost mothers. There are now six representative plaintiffs who have all lost a family member at a Revera home. Revera says that they’re currently reviewing the suit and will eventually respond. But that, right now, their focus is to prevent further illness and the loss of life.    [ARSHY] Tracy says that for her, it’s not about the money.   [ROWLEY] I want to be a voice for my mother, and I don’t want her to be a COVID status. I don’t want her to be a number. I want people to understand she was actually a person. She was a loving, caring person that was taken too soon, that wasn’t ready to go. At least I wasn’t ready for her to go.   [ARSHY] And she thinks that a lawsuit might be one of the only ways to change things.    [ROWLEY] So they’re forced to have something in place, if this happens for the second wave, that, you know, they’re not losing 50 people again. So families aren’t going through the death of their loved one, not being able to see them, not knowing if they’re OK. I don’t want people to go through that. I want seniors to have a voice.   END CREDITS That’s your episode of Commons for the week. If you want to support us, click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com This episode relied on reporting done by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris at HuffPost Canada, Marco Chown Oved, Kenyon Wallace and Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto Star, Geoffrey Stevens at the Waterloo Record and many, many others.  If you want to get in touch with us, you can tweet at us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by me and Jordan Cornish, with production help by Tiffany Lam. Our managing editor is Andréa Schmidt, and our music is by Nathan Burley.  If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND.   I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
May 30, 2017
76
Amy Goodman/The Constitutional Clusterf**k
$5/month for-adree COMMONS by clicking here. Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada. Featured in this episode: Tracy Rowley, Sherina Harris (HuffPost Canada), Emma Paling (HuffPost Canada), Zaid Noorsumar  To learn more: “COVID-19 Has Killed 164 At Revera’s Care Homes. Their Families Want Answers” by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris in HuffPost Canada “Is it Time to Care Yet?” by Zaid Noorsumar in Rank and File “It is time to forget the profits and fix long-term care” by Geoffrey Stevens in The Waterloo Region Record This episode is sponsored by Freshbooks and The Jerry Cans Additional music from Audio Network   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 5 – “SHIRLEY AND TRACY”   [COLD OPEN] [ARSHY MANN] Here’s what you need to understand about Shirley and Tracy: They both lived in Kitchener, one of the many mid-sized cities that dot Southern Ontario, and they met when Tracy started out helping Shirley with errands, like groceries and cleaning.    [TRACY ROWLEY] She was the type of person that she either liked you or she didn’t like you. And for some reason we just clicked from day one. And she was like, “No, you’re my daughter. You’re not my cleaning person, and you’re not this. You’re… You’re my family.”   [ARSHY]  That’s Tracy Rowley. And she says, that’s exactly what happened. She became Shirley Egerdeen’s family. She became her daughter.   [ROWLEY] So my mother and I, as… She called me her adopted mother, or surrogate mother. She never had any husband. She didn’t have children.    [ARSHY]  They saw each other all the time and did the things mothers and daughters do together.   [ROWLEY] We’re both Libras, so our birthdays are three days apart, so we would have Law & Order marathons for our birthday and eat Swiss Chalet. She’s very feisty.   [ARSHY]  But late last year, Shirley’s health took a turn for the worse.   [ROWLEY] So in December of last year, she got a really bad cold and the start of pneumonia. So she was put into our local hospital. And, at that time, she needed to recover a little more to be able to get back to the process of getting out of the bed into her wheelchair again, and she wasn’t strong enough from that. So the hospital said, “The best thing we could do right now is put her in long-term care.”   [ARSHY]  At first, Shirley was placed in a facility in Elmira, a nearby rural community. but she wanted to come back to town.   [ROWLEY] She said, what’s my best way of coming back to Kitchener? I want to be closer to my daughter. And the lady at the hospital said the quickest she’ll get back to Kitchener is to go to Forest Heights because they always have openings. And I never thought twice about it. I really didn’t.   [ARSHY]  It’s a decision Tracy regrets to this day.   [ROWLEY] But I understand now why so many seniors beg their kids, “Please don’t put me in a senior’s home. Please, please don’t.” Because I saw it firsthand, and if I had to do it over again, I would have done something. I would have found the room. I would have done something to make sure that she didn’t have to go there.   [ARSHY]  A month ago, Shirley Egerdeen became one of almost 50 people to die of COVID-19 at Forest Heights. Forest Heights is owned by Revera, one of the biggest for-profit long-term care providers in Canada. Tracy believes that Shirley didn’t have to die in this way. And today she’s one of the many people who have joined a class action against Revera and another for-profit chain.  I’m Arshy Mann and, from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   [PART ONE] [ARSHY]  When Shirley moved to Forest Heights, Tracy visited her constantly. And right away, the trouble began.   [ROWLEY] And I’d visit her every day and we watched TV. We’d still watch her Law & Order and everything else. Her bed was right beside the bathroom, which, you know, it happens. There’s four people in a room. Nobody really talks to each other. There’s a local dining room they could go to. But they didn’t.   [ARSHY]  More disturbingly, Shirley wasn’t bathed.   [ROWLEY] My mom never had a shower the whole time. So she said no, cause maybe she was having a bad day or whatever. They never asked her again or they didn’t come to me.    [ARSHY]  Shirley wasn’t eating well either.   [ROWLEY] And they would bring meals in. And if she was sleeping, they wouldn’t wake her up and then would she’d wake up, her food was cold. So she’d ask for it to be heated up, but they wouldn’t heat it. The potatoes would still feel like there was ice in the middle. So that’s why she wasn’t really eating.   [ARSHY]  Shirley soon became injured from just being there.   [ROWLEY] She also had a bedsore on her butt and or like a pressure sore. It was a very big one. So she was put on a waterbed. And then they said, “Well, you know, she’s not sitting in it right.” So they took her off of it, put her in a regular bed. And within a week, that sore on her bottom had now infected and got worse, that they now had to put the waterbed back in again. So, she went through pain that she didn’t need to.   [ARSHY]  If you’ve been listening to this series, you’ve heard similar stories already. You heard about Wyonne Somers, who died of improper wound care at McKenzie Towne, also a Revera facility, back in 2013. 22 people have died of COVID-19 at McKenzie Towne, making it the facility where more people have died than anywhere else in Alberta. At Forest Heights, where Shirley Egerdeen lived, the death toll is more than double that. In fact, over 160 people have died of COVID-19 in Revera homes since the pandemic began.  So what is Revera?   [SHERINA HARRIS] Revera is a privately owned long-term care home company. They are officially called Revera Inc. They also operate retirement homes.   [ARSHY]  That’s Sherina Harris, a reporter for HuffPost Canada.   [EMMA PALING] I believe there is about one hundred of their homes just in Ontario and dozens more in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.   [ARSHY]  And that’s Emma Paling, also a reporter for HuffPost Canada. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been digging into Revera’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including what happened to Shirley Egerdeen.   [PALING] Shirley lived in a ward, which meant that she shared a room with three other people and she shared a bathroom with those people. She was the first one in her room to test positive for COVID-19, and the staff at the home told Tracy that she wouldn’t be moved.    [ROWLEY] I asked, you know, would she be moved? Will she go to another room? What’s happening for isolation? And he said, “We’ve put a curtain around her.” I said, “There’s three other people in that room. How is that isolated?” And she’s also right beside the bathroom, so there’s always bacteria and germs coming from there from other people. And he said, “Well, you know, that’s what we’re doing. Her curtain’s around her. Within the week, the other people in her room were all infected with COVID-19.   [PALING] And all of the relatives told us similar things, that after their family member had contracted COVID-19, they weren’t really isolated from other people. And even before they contracted it, when there were already outbreaks, the residents were allowed to move around the buildings, continued to share bathrooms. People weren’t really being separated from each other and isolation wasn’t really being enforced. One of the other major concerns that we heard was that the company wasn’t communicating. They didn’t communicate a plan for how they were going to deal with the outbreak. They didn’t communicate how their relatives were going to be cared for or isolated, once they tested positive.   [ROWLEY] Even if you tried to call in during the outbreak, they wouldn’t answer the phone. So you couldn’t get updates. And in my case, it was always, “Well, her stats are good, so if anything changes, we’ll call you.” Some people could do window visits and they could do that. I couldn’t. She was in a wheelchair. For her to get out of bed, it would take people to get her out of bed. And they didn’t have the staff to do that. So I would never have had that opportunity and I would call in, and I would call in, and they wouldn’t answer or it would always be the same thing, “You know, well, her room oxygen’s fine, her temperature is fine and… Okay, I’ve got another call. I got to go.” I had paid for a phone for her to have in her own room. So if she didn’t answer it or that,  for a couple of days, I know obviously she wasn’t feeling well.   [PALING] She had obviously deteriorated since she caught COVID-19. Shirley wasn’t able to talk or answer her, but staff members put a phone on Shirley’s chest, so Tracy could at least kind of talk to her, be there for her. She didn’t realize, of course, that that would be the last time they spoke.    [ROWLEY] I guess I had this “mother” feeling myself in my stomach the night before she passed away. And I called in and asked if there’d be any way they could put a phone close to her so I could talk to her. And they put a phone in a glove and they put it on her chest, but she wasn’t responsive. I could hear her breathing and, um, I just talked to her for an hour. She’d call me “Toots” sometimes, so I’d be like, “Hey, Toots, are you sleeping on me? Am I that boring?” No one trying… Between my tears, to try and say nice things to her, and, um, we hung up about 11:00 that night. And then I got the call at 4:00 a.m. that she had passed. And I asked the lady, was she alone when she passed, and, um, the nurse said, “We went in to change her dressing at four o’clock, and she wasn’t breathing.” And I said, “Did you know how long that was for?” and I just got the same response: “We went in at four o’clock to change her dressing and she wasn’t breathing.” Therefore I don’t know how long she was lying in there, not breathing.    PART TWO [ARSHY]  Since late April, just over a month after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Revera has put out a handful of news releases. That includes an action plan for Forest Heights, the details of a new initiative to procure PPE, and responses to two class-action lawsuits against them: One in Alberta, and the one that Tracy is involved in in Ontario. But, by far, their most comprehensive statement is a five-page long release called “Let’s focus on the real changes needed in the long-term care sector.” And in it, Revera goes to great lengths to rebut the argument that for-profit homes are handling this pandemic worse than non-profit or public homes. We told you in the last episode about how the Toronto Star reported that people in for-profit homes are much more likely to die if there’s an outbreak than in non-profit and public homes. And here’s Revera’s response to that argument: “We are seeing more and more media stories attempting to draw a link between the ownership model for long-term care and the passing of residents from COVID-19. There are many variables and factors that have played a part in why COVID-19 spread in some homes and not others. However, objective data has not shown that ownership is one of them.” In that release, Revera does make some good points. They say that governments were too focused on hospitals early on and ignored long-term care, and that’s true. They say that they don’t get enough funding per resident, and I completely agree. But some of their other claims are disputable. For one, Revera cites something called the “Qindex.” The Qindex was introduced in 2018 and is a metric that is meant to track the overall quality of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes. But there’s a good reason to be skeptical of Qindex.   [ZAID NOORSUMAR] Quindex is an assessment tool created by the Ontario Long-Term Care Association that represents the for-profits.   [ARSHY] That’s Zaid Noorsumar. He’s a freelance journalist who covers labour issues, and for the last year he’s been investigating long-term care and home care in Ontario. And he told us that it’s essential to note where exactly this data is coming from.    [NOORSUMAR] The Qindex is a convenient way for the Long-term Care Association to say that for-profits deliver the similar quality of care as the non-profits and municipal homes.   [ARSHY] The index was created by the University of Toronto in partnership with the association that mostly represents the for-profit homes.   [NOORSUMAR] So, the metrics are not the best way to assess quality in long-term care. But if you, you know, examine where the research comes from, it comes from the association… which if you look at the board of directors, is all these big corporations on the board of directors. So, it’s–it’s really problematic. And it just so happens that Wendy Gilmour, Revera’s senior vice-president of long-term care, is on the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s board of directors. In that same five-page news release, Revera also said that they didn’t know about asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. And that’s true. Health officials were very much focused on people with symptoms. So even when employees tested positive for COVID-19, Revera admits that they did ask them, in some circumstances, to come into work.    [PALING] And the company defended that by saying, you know, they didn’t realize that COVID could spread if people didn’t have symptoms. And so they thought it would be safe.   [ARSHY] But at another Revera residence, Carling View Manor in Ottawa, Emma Paling says that something else happened.    [PALING] And what I heard from the employee at Carling View Manor was that they were taking temperatures of all the staff coming in and out at the beginning and end of their shift. And the first person who had a fever was asked to go home. But none of the people that he worked with, none of the residents that he had cared for that day, were isolated. They were still sharing dining rooms, sharing bathrooms, moving around the building.   [ARSHY] From the very beginning, health officials were clear that anyone who came into contact with someone with symptoms needed to go into isolation.   [PALING] There’s very specific steps that you are supposed to be taking if you had it. And yet Revera was letting asymptomatic employees, who tested positive, care for residents. And they were also letting people who had contact with symptomatic cases move around.   [ARSHY] Emma Paling says that Revera has not denied any of the allegations that she and Harris reported.  Revera also says in their statement that, because they’re a large chain, they had access to PPE throughout the pandemic. But employees say that they weren’t provided with proper protection.    [HARRIS] The source also raised some concerns that I think we’ve been seeing a lot in the news from other homes and other health care institutions as well: concerns about a lack of PPE. They said now they have enough, but, uh, that was more of an issue. And they found that when they would ask managers about it, they weren’t, uh, really given kind of a clear answer.   [ARSHY] I think this news release, and their public relations efforts during this pandemic, are indicative. Their evidence that for-profit homes believe that their very business model is under attack now, and they have an obligation to their shareholders to fight back And Revera is a particularly interesting case. It has deep political connections, like many of the other for-profit long-term care and retirement companies.    [PALING] Their Chief Elder Officer for Revera is Hazel McCallion, the famous “Hurricane Hazel,” former mayor of Mississauga, who is a good friend of Premier Doug Ford. And their Chair Emeritus of their board is Bill Davis, a former conservative premier of Ontario.   [ARSHY] But by far, their most interesting political connection is who owns them. Revera isn’t a publicly traded company. It’s entirely privately owned by the Canadian federal government.  The Public Sector Pension Fund, which manages the pensions for federal employees, the RCMP and the Canadian forces, bought Revera outright in 2006.   [PALING] I think that makes it even more interesting to see how the politicians respond and handle this. Especially because all the federal public servants are getting their pensions paid out by this company’s profits.   [ARSHY] The PSP Investment Board is managed at arm’s length from the federal government, but its members are appointed by the cabinet. And because this technically makes Revera a private company, we don’t have access to their financials.  But according to a recent Toronto Star investigation, we know that three of Revera’s competitors: Chartwell, Sienna and Extendicare, collectively paid out over $1.5 billion dollars in dividends to their shareholders over the last decade. So it’s reasonable to assume Revera had paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to federal pensions over the last 12 years. Of course, not all of that, by any means, was from long-term care. These companies have other businesses. But they made a lot of money for their shareholders over the years, including the federal government. And that was during a time when the long-term care crisis in Ontario and across Canada was getting worse. When investigations and inquiries were consistently calling for more staffing, for more investment.  What doesn’t show up on these balance sheets is the human cost of all this. What happens when we try to make caring for vulnerable people as efficient as possible so that we can eke out an extra few percentage points of profit.  I’ve been looking through the filings of the Public Service Pension fund, and in every annual report, there’s a section that talks about the percentage of their holdings that are real estate and, under that, you get a few mentions of Revera. And the thing that I’ve been feeling is that, in those reports, everything is so abstract. It’s so distanced from the reality on the ground. For the people who set up the framework for everything a company like Revera does, Tracy and Shirley don’t really figure into things. They’re a data point within a data point within a data point. But for Tracy and Shirley, nothing could be more important. Tracy called Shirley every Mother’s Day.    [ROWLEY] And then this Mother’s Day, it was… I couldn’t call her, I couldn’t come over and hug her. I couldn’t do any of that. It consisted of sitting at a cemetery and putting some flowers, and still putting a Mother’s Day card down there. But I didn’t get that hug. I didn’t get that personal contact. And I hadn’t for months from her. And I know how much she wanted that, because every call that we talked to before she passed was how much she missed me, and when was this gonna be over, so she could see me again?   I kept telling her that if I won the lottery, I was going to buy a big house and, um, I was gonna make sure she was with me all the time. The emotion and the feeling was, “I wish… I never I never put her there. I wish I found space somewhere for her. I wish that I could have taken better care of her, even if that meant changing her dressings or hiring someone or doing something,” because at least if she did pass on my care, she knew I loved her and she knew I took such good care of her. She… She wouldn’t have taken that last breath by herself. So I just wish I never… I never put her there.   OUTRO [ARSHY] The lawsuit that Tracy is involved in the largest COVID-19-related class action so far.   [PALING] It’s now one hundred million dollars in damages. And there were originally two representative plaintiffs who had both lost mothers. There are now six representative plaintiffs who have all lost a family member at a Revera home. Revera says that they’re currently reviewing the suit and will eventually respond. But that, right now, their focus is to prevent further illness and the loss of life.    [ARSHY] Tracy says that for her, it’s not about the money.   [ROWLEY] I want to be a voice for my mother, and I don’t want her to be a COVID status. I don’t want her to be a number. I want people to understand she was actually a person. She was a loving, caring person that was taken too soon, that wasn’t ready to go. At least I wasn’t ready for her to go.   [ARSHY] And she thinks that a lawsuit might be one of the only ways to change things.    [ROWLEY] So they’re forced to have something in place, if this happens for the second wave, that, you know, they’re not losing 50 people again. So families aren’t going through the death of their loved one, not being able to see them, not knowing if they’re OK. I don’t want people to go through that. I want seniors to have a voice.   END CREDITS That’s your episode of Commons for the week. If you want to support us, click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com This episode relied on reporting done by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris at HuffPost Canada, Marco Chown Oved, Kenyon Wallace and Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto Star, Geoffrey Stevens at the Waterloo Record and many, many others.  If you want to get in touch with us, you can tweet at us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by me and Jordan Cornish, with production help by Tiffany Lam. Our managing editor is Andréa Schmidt, and our music is by Nathan Burley.  If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND.   I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
June 13, 2017
77
The Rise Of The Right
$5/month for-adree COMMONS by clicking here. Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada. Featured in this episode: Tracy Rowley, Sherina Harris (HuffPost Canada), Emma Paling (HuffPost Canada), Zaid Noorsumar  To learn more: “COVID-19 Has Killed 164 At Revera’s Care Homes. Their Families Want Answers” by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris in HuffPost Canada “Is it Time to Care Yet?” by Zaid Noorsumar in Rank and File “It is time to forget the profits and fix long-term care” by Geoffrey Stevens in The Waterloo Region Record This episode is sponsored by Freshbooks and The Jerry Cans Additional music from Audio Network   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 5 – “SHIRLEY AND TRACY”   [COLD OPEN] [ARSHY MANN] Here’s what you need to understand about Shirley and Tracy: They both lived in Kitchener, one of the many mid-sized cities that dot Southern Ontario, and they met when Tracy started out helping Shirley with errands, like groceries and cleaning.    [TRACY ROWLEY] She was the type of person that she either liked you or she didn’t like you. And for some reason we just clicked from day one. And she was like, “No, you’re my daughter. You’re not my cleaning person, and you’re not this. You’re… You’re my family.”   [ARSHY]  That’s Tracy Rowley. And she says, that’s exactly what happened. She became Shirley Egerdeen’s family. She became her daughter.   [ROWLEY] So my mother and I, as… She called me her adopted mother, or surrogate mother. She never had any husband. She didn’t have children.    [ARSHY]  They saw each other all the time and did the things mothers and daughters do together.   [ROWLEY] We’re both Libras, so our birthdays are three days apart, so we would have Law & Order marathons for our birthday and eat Swiss Chalet. She’s very feisty.   [ARSHY]  But late last year, Shirley’s health took a turn for the worse.   [ROWLEY] So in December of last year, she got a really bad cold and the start of pneumonia. So she was put into our local hospital. And, at that time, she needed to recover a little more to be able to get back to the process of getting out of the bed into her wheelchair again, and she wasn’t strong enough from that. So the hospital said, “The best thing we could do right now is put her in long-term care.”   [ARSHY]  At first, Shirley was placed in a facility in Elmira, a nearby rural community. but she wanted to come back to town.   [ROWLEY] She said, what’s my best way of coming back to Kitchener? I want to be closer to my daughter. And the lady at the hospital said the quickest she’ll get back to Kitchener is to go to Forest Heights because they always have openings. And I never thought twice about it. I really didn’t.   [ARSHY]  It’s a decision Tracy regrets to this day.   [ROWLEY] But I understand now why so many seniors beg their kids, “Please don’t put me in a senior’s home. Please, please don’t.” Because I saw it firsthand, and if I had to do it over again, I would have done something. I would have found the room. I would have done something to make sure that she didn’t have to go there.   [ARSHY]  A month ago, Shirley Egerdeen became one of almost 50 people to die of COVID-19 at Forest Heights. Forest Heights is owned by Revera, one of the biggest for-profit long-term care providers in Canada. Tracy believes that Shirley didn’t have to die in this way. And today she’s one of the many people who have joined a class action against Revera and another for-profit chain.  I’m Arshy Mann and, from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   [PART ONE] [ARSHY]  When Shirley moved to Forest Heights, Tracy visited her constantly. And right away, the trouble began.   [ROWLEY] And I’d visit her every day and we watched TV. We’d still watch her Law & Order and everything else. Her bed was right beside the bathroom, which, you know, it happens. There’s four people in a room. Nobody really talks to each other. There’s a local dining room they could go to. But they didn’t.   [ARSHY]  More disturbingly, Shirley wasn’t bathed.   [ROWLEY] My mom never had a shower the whole time. So she said no, cause maybe she was having a bad day or whatever. They never asked her again or they didn’t come to me.    [ARSHY]  Shirley wasn’t eating well either.   [ROWLEY] And they would bring meals in. And if she was sleeping, they wouldn’t wake her up and then would she’d wake up, her food was cold. So she’d ask for it to be heated up, but they wouldn’t heat it. The potatoes would still feel like there was ice in the middle. So that’s why she wasn’t really eating.   [ARSHY]  Shirley soon became injured from just being there.   [ROWLEY] She also had a bedsore on her butt and or like a pressure sore. It was a very big one. So she was put on a waterbed. And then they said, “Well, you know, she’s not sitting in it right.” So they took her off of it, put her in a regular bed. And within a week, that sore on her bottom had now infected and got worse, that they now had to put the waterbed back in again. So, she went through pain that she didn’t need to.   [ARSHY]  If you’ve been listening to this series, you’ve heard similar stories already. You heard about Wyonne Somers, who died of improper wound care at McKenzie Towne, also a Revera facility, back in 2013. 22 people have died of COVID-19 at McKenzie Towne, making it the facility where more people have died than anywhere else in Alberta. At Forest Heights, where Shirley Egerdeen lived, the death toll is more than double that. In fact, over 160 people have died of COVID-19 in Revera homes since the pandemic began.  So what is Revera?   [SHERINA HARRIS] Revera is a privately owned long-term care home company. They are officially called Revera Inc. They also operate retirement homes.   [ARSHY]  That’s Sherina Harris, a reporter for HuffPost Canada.   [EMMA PALING] I believe there is about one hundred of their homes just in Ontario and dozens more in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.   [ARSHY]  And that’s Emma Paling, also a reporter for HuffPost Canada. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been digging into Revera’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including what happened to Shirley Egerdeen.   [PALING] Shirley lived in a ward, which meant that she shared a room with three other people and she shared a bathroom with those people. She was the first one in her room to test positive for COVID-19, and the staff at the home told Tracy that she wouldn’t be moved.    [ROWLEY] I asked, you know, would she be moved? Will she go to another room? What’s happening for isolation? And he said, “We’ve put a curtain around her.” I said, “There’s three other people in that room. How is that isolated?” And she’s also right beside the bathroom, so there’s always bacteria and germs coming from there from other people. And he said, “Well, you know, that’s what we’re doing. Her curtain’s around her. Within the week, the other people in her room were all infected with COVID-19.   [PALING] And all of the relatives told us similar things, that after their family member had contracted COVID-19, they weren’t really isolated from other people. And even before they contracted it, when there were already outbreaks, the residents were allowed to move around the buildings, continued to share bathrooms. People weren’t really being separated from each other and isolation wasn’t really being enforced. One of the other major concerns that we heard was that the company wasn’t communicating. They didn’t communicate a plan for how they were going to deal with the outbreak. They didn’t communicate how their relatives were going to be cared for or isolated, once they tested positive.   [ROWLEY] Even if you tried to call in during the outbreak, they wouldn’t answer the phone. So you couldn’t get updates. And in my case, it was always, “Well, her stats are good, so if anything changes, we’ll call you.” Some people could do window visits and they could do that. I couldn’t. She was in a wheelchair. For her to get out of bed, it would take people to get her out of bed. And they didn’t have the staff to do that. So I would never have had that opportunity and I would call in, and I would call in, and they wouldn’t answer or it would always be the same thing, “You know, well, her room oxygen’s fine, her temperature is fine and… Okay, I’ve got another call. I got to go.” I had paid for a phone for her to have in her own room. So if she didn’t answer it or that,  for a couple of days, I know obviously she wasn’t feeling well.   [PALING] She had obviously deteriorated since she caught COVID-19. Shirley wasn’t able to talk or answer her, but staff members put a phone on Shirley’s chest, so Tracy could at least kind of talk to her, be there for her. She didn’t realize, of course, that that would be the last time they spoke.    [ROWLEY] I guess I had this “mother” feeling myself in my stomach the night before she passed away. And I called in and asked if there’d be any way they could put a phone close to her so I could talk to her. And they put a phone in a glove and they put it on her chest, but she wasn’t responsive. I could hear her breathing and, um, I just talked to her for an hour. She’d call me “Toots” sometimes, so I’d be like, “Hey, Toots, are you sleeping on me? Am I that boring?” No one trying… Between my tears, to try and say nice things to her, and, um, we hung up about 11:00 that night. And then I got the call at 4:00 a.m. that she had passed. And I asked the lady, was she alone when she passed, and, um, the nurse said, “We went in to change her dressing at four o’clock, and she wasn’t breathing.” And I said, “Did you know how long that was for?” and I just got the same response: “We went in at four o’clock to change her dressing and she wasn’t breathing.” Therefore I don’t know how long she was lying in there, not breathing.    PART TWO [ARSHY]  Since late April, just over a month after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Revera has put out a handful of news releases. That includes an action plan for Forest Heights, the details of a new initiative to procure PPE, and responses to two class-action lawsuits against them: One in Alberta, and the one that Tracy is involved in in Ontario. But, by far, their most comprehensive statement is a five-page long release called “Let’s focus on the real changes needed in the long-term care sector.” And in it, Revera goes to great lengths to rebut the argument that for-profit homes are handling this pandemic worse than non-profit or public homes. We told you in the last episode about how the Toronto Star reported that people in for-profit homes are much more likely to die if there’s an outbreak than in non-profit and public homes. And here’s Revera’s response to that argument: “We are seeing more and more media stories attempting to draw a link between the ownership model for long-term care and the passing of residents from COVID-19. There are many variables and factors that have played a part in why COVID-19 spread in some homes and not others. However, objective data has not shown that ownership is one of them.” In that release, Revera does make some good points. They say that governments were too focused on hospitals early on and ignored long-term care, and that’s true. They say that they don’t get enough funding per resident, and I completely agree. But some of their other claims are disputable. For one, Revera cites something called the “Qindex.” The Qindex was introduced in 2018 and is a metric that is meant to track the overall quality of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes. But there’s a good reason to be skeptical of Qindex.   [ZAID NOORSUMAR] Quindex is an assessment tool created by the Ontario Long-Term Care Association that represents the for-profits.   [ARSHY] That’s Zaid Noorsumar. He’s a freelance journalist who covers labour issues, and for the last year he’s been investigating long-term care and home care in Ontario. And he told us that it’s essential to note where exactly this data is coming from.    [NOORSUMAR] The Qindex is a convenient way for the Long-term Care Association to say that for-profits deliver the similar quality of care as the non-profits and municipal homes.   [ARSHY] The index was created by the University of Toronto in partnership with the association that mostly represents the for-profit homes.   [NOORSUMAR] So, the metrics are not the best way to assess quality in long-term care. But if you, you know, examine where the research comes from, it comes from the association… which if you look at the board of directors, is all these big corporations on the board of directors. So, it’s–it’s really problematic. And it just so happens that Wendy Gilmour, Revera’s senior vice-president of long-term care, is on the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s board of directors. In that same five-page news release, Revera also said that they didn’t know about asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. And that’s true. Health officials were very much focused on people with symptoms. So even when employees tested positive for COVID-19, Revera admits that they did ask them, in some circumstances, to come into work.    [PALING] And the company defended that by saying, you know, they didn’t realize that COVID could spread if people didn’t have symptoms. And so they thought it would be safe.   [ARSHY] But at another Revera residence, Carling View Manor in Ottawa, Emma Paling says that something else happened.    [PALING] And what I heard from the employee at Carling View Manor was that they were taking temperatures of all the staff coming in and out at the beginning and end of their shift. And the first person who had a fever was asked to go home. But none of the people that he worked with, none of the residents that he had cared for that day, were isolated. They were still sharing dining rooms, sharing bathrooms, moving around the building.   [ARSHY] From the very beginning, health officials were clear that anyone who came into contact with someone with symptoms needed to go into isolation.   [PALING] There’s very specific steps that you are supposed to be taking if you had it. And yet Revera was letting asymptomatic employees, who tested positive, care for residents. And they were also letting people who had contact with symptomatic cases move around.   [ARSHY] Emma Paling says that Revera has not denied any of the allegations that she and Harris reported.  Revera also says in their statement that, because they’re a large chain, they had access to PPE throughout the pandemic. But employees say that they weren’t provided with proper protection.    [HARRIS] The source also raised some concerns that I think we’ve been seeing a lot in the news from other homes and other health care institutions as well: concerns about a lack of PPE. They said now they have enough, but, uh, that was more of an issue. And they found that when they would ask managers about it, they weren’t, uh, really given kind of a clear answer.   [ARSHY] I think this news release, and their public relations efforts during this pandemic, are indicative. Their evidence that for-profit homes believe that their very business model is under attack now, and they have an obligation to their shareholders to fight back And Revera is a particularly interesting case. It has deep political connections, like many of the other for-profit long-term care and retirement companies.    [PALING] Their Chief Elder Officer for Revera is Hazel McCallion, the famous “Hurricane Hazel,” former mayor of Mississauga, who is a good friend of Premier Doug Ford. And their Chair Emeritus of their board is Bill Davis, a former conservative premier of Ontario.   [ARSHY] But by far, their most interesting political connection is who owns them. Revera isn’t a publicly traded company. It’s entirely privately owned by the Canadian federal government.  The Public Sector Pension Fund, which manages the pensions for federal employees, the RCMP and the Canadian forces, bought Revera outright in 2006.   [PALING] I think that makes it even more interesting to see how the politicians respond and handle this. Especially because all the federal public servants are getting their pensions paid out by this company’s profits.   [ARSHY] The PSP Investment Board is managed at arm’s length from the federal government, but its members are appointed by the cabinet. And because this technically makes Revera a private company, we don’t have access to their financials.  But according to a recent Toronto Star investigation, we know that three of Revera’s competitors: Chartwell, Sienna and Extendicare, collectively paid out over $1.5 billion dollars in dividends to their shareholders over the last decade. So it’s reasonable to assume Revera had paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to federal pensions over the last 12 years. Of course, not all of that, by any means, was from long-term care. These companies have other businesses. But they made a lot of money for their shareholders over the years, including the federal government. And that was during a time when the long-term care crisis in Ontario and across Canada was getting worse. When investigations and inquiries were consistently calling for more staffing, for more investment.  What doesn’t show up on these balance sheets is the human cost of all this. What happens when we try to make caring for vulnerable people as efficient as possible so that we can eke out an extra few percentage points of profit.  I’ve been looking through the filings of the Public Service Pension fund, and in every annual report, there’s a section that talks about the percentage of their holdings that are real estate and, under that, you get a few mentions of Revera. And the thing that I’ve been feeling is that, in those reports, everything is so abstract. It’s so distanced from the reality on the ground. For the people who set up the framework for everything a company like Revera does, Tracy and Shirley don’t really figure into things. They’re a data point within a data point within a data point. But for Tracy and Shirley, nothing could be more important. Tracy called Shirley every Mother’s Day.    [ROWLEY] And then this Mother’s Day, it was… I couldn’t call her, I couldn’t come over and hug her. I couldn’t do any of that. It consisted of sitting at a cemetery and putting some flowers, and still putting a Mother’s Day card down there. But I didn’t get that hug. I didn’t get that personal contact. And I hadn’t for months from her. And I know how much she wanted that, because every call that we talked to before she passed was how much she missed me, and when was this gonna be over, so she could see me again?   I kept telling her that if I won the lottery, I was going to buy a big house and, um, I was gonna make sure she was with me all the time. The emotion and the feeling was, “I wish… I never I never put her there. I wish I found space somewhere for her. I wish that I could have taken better care of her, even if that meant changing her dressings or hiring someone or doing something,” because at least if she did pass on my care, she knew I loved her and she knew I took such good care of her. She… She wouldn’t have taken that last breath by herself. So I just wish I never… I never put her there.   OUTRO [ARSHY] The lawsuit that Tracy is involved in the largest COVID-19-related class action so far.   [PALING] It’s now one hundred million dollars in damages. And there were originally two representative plaintiffs who had both lost mothers. There are now six representative plaintiffs who have all lost a family member at a Revera home. Revera says that they’re currently reviewing the suit and will eventually respond. But that, right now, their focus is to prevent further illness and the loss of life.    [ARSHY] Tracy says that for her, it’s not about the money.   [ROWLEY] I want to be a voice for my mother, and I don’t want her to be a COVID status. I don’t want her to be a number. I want people to understand she was actually a person. She was a loving, caring person that was taken too soon, that wasn’t ready to go. At least I wasn’t ready for her to go.   [ARSHY] And she thinks that a lawsuit might be one of the only ways to change things.    [ROWLEY] So they’re forced to have something in place, if this happens for the second wave, that, you know, they’re not losing 50 people again. So families aren’t going through the death of their loved one, not being able to see them, not knowing if they’re OK. I don’t want people to go through that. I want seniors to have a voice.   END CREDITS That’s your episode of Commons for the week. If you want to support us, click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com This episode relied on reporting done by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris at HuffPost Canada, Marco Chown Oved, Kenyon Wallace and Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto Star, Geoffrey Stevens at the Waterloo Record and many, many others.  If you want to get in touch with us, you can tweet at us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by me and Jordan Cornish, with production help by Tiffany Lam. Our managing editor is Andréa Schmidt, and our music is by Nathan Burley.  If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND.   I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
July 4, 2017
78
Guy Caron, Guaranteed Income And Climate Refugees
$5/month for-adree COMMONS by clicking here. Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada. Featured in this episode: Tracy Rowley, Sherina Harris (HuffPost Canada), Emma Paling (HuffPost Canada), Zaid Noorsumar  To learn more: “COVID-19 Has Killed 164 At Revera’s Care Homes. Their Families Want Answers” by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris in HuffPost Canada “Is it Time to Care Yet?” by Zaid Noorsumar in Rank and File “It is time to forget the profits and fix long-term care” by Geoffrey Stevens in The Waterloo Region Record This episode is sponsored by Freshbooks and The Jerry Cans Additional music from Audio Network   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 5 – “SHIRLEY AND TRACY”   [COLD OPEN] [ARSHY MANN] Here’s what you need to understand about Shirley and Tracy: They both lived in Kitchener, one of the many mid-sized cities that dot Southern Ontario, and they met when Tracy started out helping Shirley with errands, like groceries and cleaning.    [TRACY ROWLEY] She was the type of person that she either liked you or she didn’t like you. And for some reason we just clicked from day one. And she was like, “No, you’re my daughter. You’re not my cleaning person, and you’re not this. You’re… You’re my family.”   [ARSHY]  That’s Tracy Rowley. And she says, that’s exactly what happened. She became Shirley Egerdeen’s family. She became her daughter.   [ROWLEY] So my mother and I, as… She called me her adopted mother, or surrogate mother. She never had any husband. She didn’t have children.    [ARSHY]  They saw each other all the time and did the things mothers and daughters do together.   [ROWLEY] We’re both Libras, so our birthdays are three days apart, so we would have Law & Order marathons for our birthday and eat Swiss Chalet. She’s very feisty.   [ARSHY]  But late last year, Shirley’s health took a turn for the worse.   [ROWLEY] So in December of last year, she got a really bad cold and the start of pneumonia. So she was put into our local hospital. And, at that time, she needed to recover a little more to be able to get back to the process of getting out of the bed into her wheelchair again, and she wasn’t strong enough from that. So the hospital said, “The best thing we could do right now is put her in long-term care.”   [ARSHY]  At first, Shirley was placed in a facility in Elmira, a nearby rural community. but she wanted to come back to town.   [ROWLEY] She said, what’s my best way of coming back to Kitchener? I want to be closer to my daughter. And the lady at the hospital said the quickest she’ll get back to Kitchener is to go to Forest Heights because they always have openings. And I never thought twice about it. I really didn’t.   [ARSHY]  It’s a decision Tracy regrets to this day.   [ROWLEY] But I understand now why so many seniors beg their kids, “Please don’t put me in a senior’s home. Please, please don’t.” Because I saw it firsthand, and if I had to do it over again, I would have done something. I would have found the room. I would have done something to make sure that she didn’t have to go there.   [ARSHY]  A month ago, Shirley Egerdeen became one of almost 50 people to die of COVID-19 at Forest Heights. Forest Heights is owned by Revera, one of the biggest for-profit long-term care providers in Canada. Tracy believes that Shirley didn’t have to die in this way. And today she’s one of the many people who have joined a class action against Revera and another for-profit chain.  I’m Arshy Mann and, from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   [PART ONE] [ARSHY]  When Shirley moved to Forest Heights, Tracy visited her constantly. And right away, the trouble began.   [ROWLEY] And I’d visit her every day and we watched TV. We’d still watch her Law & Order and everything else. Her bed was right beside the bathroom, which, you know, it happens. There’s four people in a room. Nobody really talks to each other. There’s a local dining room they could go to. But they didn’t.   [ARSHY]  More disturbingly, Shirley wasn’t bathed.   [ROWLEY] My mom never had a shower the whole time. So she said no, cause maybe she was having a bad day or whatever. They never asked her again or they didn’t come to me.    [ARSHY]  Shirley wasn’t eating well either.   [ROWLEY] And they would bring meals in. And if she was sleeping, they wouldn’t wake her up and then would she’d wake up, her food was cold. So she’d ask for it to be heated up, but they wouldn’t heat it. The potatoes would still feel like there was ice in the middle. So that’s why she wasn’t really eating.   [ARSHY]  Shirley soon became injured from just being there.   [ROWLEY] She also had a bedsore on her butt and or like a pressure sore. It was a very big one. So she was put on a waterbed. And then they said, “Well, you know, she’s not sitting in it right.” So they took her off of it, put her in a regular bed. And within a week, that sore on her bottom had now infected and got worse, that they now had to put the waterbed back in again. So, she went through pain that she didn’t need to.   [ARSHY]  If you’ve been listening to this series, you’ve heard similar stories already. You heard about Wyonne Somers, who died of improper wound care at McKenzie Towne, also a Revera facility, back in 2013. 22 people have died of COVID-19 at McKenzie Towne, making it the facility where more people have died than anywhere else in Alberta. At Forest Heights, where Shirley Egerdeen lived, the death toll is more than double that. In fact, over 160 people have died of COVID-19 in Revera homes since the pandemic began.  So what is Revera?   [SHERINA HARRIS] Revera is a privately owned long-term care home company. They are officially called Revera Inc. They also operate retirement homes.   [ARSHY]  That’s Sherina Harris, a reporter for HuffPost Canada.   [EMMA PALING] I believe there is about one hundred of their homes just in Ontario and dozens more in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.   [ARSHY]  And that’s Emma Paling, also a reporter for HuffPost Canada. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been digging into Revera’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including what happened to Shirley Egerdeen.   [PALING] Shirley lived in a ward, which meant that she shared a room with three other people and she shared a bathroom with those people. She was the first one in her room to test positive for COVID-19, and the staff at the home told Tracy that she wouldn’t be moved.    [ROWLEY] I asked, you know, would she be moved? Will she go to another room? What’s happening for isolation? And he said, “We’ve put a curtain around her.” I said, “There’s three other people in that room. How is that isolated?” And she’s also right beside the bathroom, so there’s always bacteria and germs coming from there from other people. And he said, “Well, you know, that’s what we’re doing. Her curtain’s around her. Within the week, the other people in her room were all infected with COVID-19.   [PALING] And all of the relatives told us similar things, that after their family member had contracted COVID-19, they weren’t really isolated from other people. And even before they contracted it, when there were already outbreaks, the residents were allowed to move around the buildings, continued to share bathrooms. People weren’t really being separated from each other and isolation wasn’t really being enforced. One of the other major concerns that we heard was that the company wasn’t communicating. They didn’t communicate a plan for how they were going to deal with the outbreak. They didn’t communicate how their relatives were going to be cared for or isolated, once they tested positive.   [ROWLEY] Even if you tried to call in during the outbreak, they wouldn’t answer the phone. So you couldn’t get updates. And in my case, it was always, “Well, her stats are good, so if anything changes, we’ll call you.” Some people could do window visits and they could do that. I couldn’t. She was in a wheelchair. For her to get out of bed, it would take people to get her out of bed. And they didn’t have the staff to do that. So I would never have had that opportunity and I would call in, and I would call in, and they wouldn’t answer or it would always be the same thing, “You know, well, her room oxygen’s fine, her temperature is fine and… Okay, I’ve got another call. I got to go.” I had paid for a phone for her to have in her own room. So if she didn’t answer it or that,  for a couple of days, I know obviously she wasn’t feeling well.   [PALING] She had obviously deteriorated since she caught COVID-19. Shirley wasn’t able to talk or answer her, but staff members put a phone on Shirley’s chest, so Tracy could at least kind of talk to her, be there for her. She didn’t realize, of course, that that would be the last time they spoke.    [ROWLEY] I guess I had this “mother” feeling myself in my stomach the night before she passed away. And I called in and asked if there’d be any way they could put a phone close to her so I could talk to her. And they put a phone in a glove and they put it on her chest, but she wasn’t responsive. I could hear her breathing and, um, I just talked to her for an hour. She’d call me “Toots” sometimes, so I’d be like, “Hey, Toots, are you sleeping on me? Am I that boring?” No one trying… Between my tears, to try and say nice things to her, and, um, we hung up about 11:00 that night. And then I got the call at 4:00 a.m. that she had passed. And I asked the lady, was she alone when she passed, and, um, the nurse said, “We went in to change her dressing at four o’clock, and she wasn’t breathing.” And I said, “Did you know how long that was for?” and I just got the same response: “We went in at four o’clock to change her dressing and she wasn’t breathing.” Therefore I don’t know how long she was lying in there, not breathing.    PART TWO [ARSHY]  Since late April, just over a month after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Revera has put out a handful of news releases. That includes an action plan for Forest Heights, the details of a new initiative to procure PPE, and responses to two class-action lawsuits against them: One in Alberta, and the one that Tracy is involved in in Ontario. But, by far, their most comprehensive statement is a five-page long release called “Let’s focus on the real changes needed in the long-term care sector.” And in it, Revera goes to great lengths to rebut the argument that for-profit homes are handling this pandemic worse than non-profit or public homes. We told you in the last episode about how the Toronto Star reported that people in for-profit homes are much more likely to die if there’s an outbreak than in non-profit and public homes. And here’s Revera’s response to that argument: “We are seeing more and more media stories attempting to draw a link between the ownership model for long-term care and the passing of residents from COVID-19. There are many variables and factors that have played a part in why COVID-19 spread in some homes and not others. However, objective data has not shown that ownership is one of them.” In that release, Revera does make some good points. They say that governments were too focused on hospitals early on and ignored long-term care, and that’s true. They say that they don’t get enough funding per resident, and I completely agree. But some of their other claims are disputable. For one, Revera cites something called the “Qindex.” The Qindex was introduced in 2018 and is a metric that is meant to track the overall quality of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes. But there’s a good reason to be skeptical of Qindex.   [ZAID NOORSUMAR] Quindex is an assessment tool created by the Ontario Long-Term Care Association that represents the for-profits.   [ARSHY] That’s Zaid Noorsumar. He’s a freelance journalist who covers labour issues, and for the last year he’s been investigating long-term care and home care in Ontario. And he told us that it’s essential to note where exactly this data is coming from.    [NOORSUMAR] The Qindex is a convenient way for the Long-term Care Association to say that for-profits deliver the similar quality of care as the non-profits and municipal homes.   [ARSHY] The index was created by the University of Toronto in partnership with the association that mostly represents the for-profit homes.   [NOORSUMAR] So, the metrics are not the best way to assess quality in long-term care. But if you, you know, examine where the research comes from, it comes from the association… which if you look at the board of directors, is all these big corporations on the board of directors. So, it’s–it’s really problematic. And it just so happens that Wendy Gilmour, Revera’s senior vice-president of long-term care, is on the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s board of directors. In that same five-page news release, Revera also said that they didn’t know about asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. And that’s true. Health officials were very much focused on people with symptoms. So even when employees tested positive for COVID-19, Revera admits that they did ask them, in some circumstances, to come into work.    [PALING] And the company defended that by saying, you know, they didn’t realize that COVID could spread if people didn’t have symptoms. And so they thought it would be safe.   [ARSHY] But at another Revera residence, Carling View Manor in Ottawa, Emma Paling says that something else happened.    [PALING] And what I heard from the employee at Carling View Manor was that they were taking temperatures of all the staff coming in and out at the beginning and end of their shift. And the first person who had a fever was asked to go home. But none of the people that he worked with, none of the residents that he had cared for that day, were isolated. They were still sharing dining rooms, sharing bathrooms, moving around the building.   [ARSHY] From the very beginning, health officials were clear that anyone who came into contact with someone with symptoms needed to go into isolation.   [PALING] There’s very specific steps that you are supposed to be taking if you had it. And yet Revera was letting asymptomatic employees, who tested positive, care for residents. And they were also letting people who had contact with symptomatic cases move around.   [ARSHY] Emma Paling says that Revera has not denied any of the allegations that she and Harris reported.  Revera also says in their statement that, because they’re a large chain, they had access to PPE throughout the pandemic. But employees say that they weren’t provided with proper protection.    [HARRIS] The source also raised some concerns that I think we’ve been seeing a lot in the news from other homes and other health care institutions as well: concerns about a lack of PPE. They said now they have enough, but, uh, that was more of an issue. And they found that when they would ask managers about it, they weren’t, uh, really given kind of a clear answer.   [ARSHY] I think this news release, and their public relations efforts during this pandemic, are indicative. Their evidence that for-profit homes believe that their very business model is under attack now, and they have an obligation to their shareholders to fight back And Revera is a particularly interesting case. It has deep political connections, like many of the other for-profit long-term care and retirement companies.    [PALING] Their Chief Elder Officer for Revera is Hazel McCallion, the famous “Hurricane Hazel,” former mayor of Mississauga, who is a good friend of Premier Doug Ford. And their Chair Emeritus of their board is Bill Davis, a former conservative premier of Ontario.   [ARSHY] But by far, their most interesting political connection is who owns them. Revera isn’t a publicly traded company. It’s entirely privately owned by the Canadian federal government.  The Public Sector Pension Fund, which manages the pensions for federal employees, the RCMP and the Canadian forces, bought Revera outright in 2006.   [PALING] I think that makes it even more interesting to see how the politicians respond and handle this. Especially because all the federal public servants are getting their pensions paid out by this company’s profits.   [ARSHY] The PSP Investment Board is managed at arm’s length from the federal government, but its members are appointed by the cabinet. And because this technically makes Revera a private company, we don’t have access to their financials.  But according to a recent Toronto Star investigation, we know that three of Revera’s competitors: Chartwell, Sienna and Extendicare, collectively paid out over $1.5 billion dollars in dividends to their shareholders over the last decade. So it’s reasonable to assume Revera had paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to federal pensions over the last 12 years. Of course, not all of that, by any means, was from long-term care. These companies have other businesses. But they made a lot of money for their shareholders over the years, including the federal government. And that was during a time when the long-term care crisis in Ontario and across Canada was getting worse. When investigations and inquiries were consistently calling for more staffing, for more investment.  What doesn’t show up on these balance sheets is the human cost of all this. What happens when we try to make caring for vulnerable people as efficient as possible so that we can eke out an extra few percentage points of profit.  I’ve been looking through the filings of the Public Service Pension fund, and in every annual report, there’s a section that talks about the percentage of their holdings that are real estate and, under that, you get a few mentions of Revera. And the thing that I’ve been feeling is that, in those reports, everything is so abstract. It’s so distanced from the reality on the ground. For the people who set up the framework for everything a company like Revera does, Tracy and Shirley don’t really figure into things. They’re a data point within a data point within a data point. But for Tracy and Shirley, nothing could be more important. Tracy called Shirley every Mother’s Day.    [ROWLEY] And then this Mother’s Day, it was… I couldn’t call her, I couldn’t come over and hug her. I couldn’t do any of that. It consisted of sitting at a cemetery and putting some flowers, and still putting a Mother’s Day card down there. But I didn’t get that hug. I didn’t get that personal contact. And I hadn’t for months from her. And I know how much she wanted that, because every call that we talked to before she passed was how much she missed me, and when was this gonna be over, so she could see me again?   I kept telling her that if I won the lottery, I was going to buy a big house and, um, I was gonna make sure she was with me all the time. The emotion and the feeling was, “I wish… I never I never put her there. I wish I found space somewhere for her. I wish that I could have taken better care of her, even if that meant changing her dressings or hiring someone or doing something,” because at least if she did pass on my care, she knew I loved her and she knew I took such good care of her. She… She wouldn’t have taken that last breath by herself. So I just wish I never… I never put her there.   OUTRO [ARSHY] The lawsuit that Tracy is involved in the largest COVID-19-related class action so far.   [PALING] It’s now one hundred million dollars in damages. And there were originally two representative plaintiffs who had both lost mothers. There are now six representative plaintiffs who have all lost a family member at a Revera home. Revera says that they’re currently reviewing the suit and will eventually respond. But that, right now, their focus is to prevent further illness and the loss of life.    [ARSHY] Tracy says that for her, it’s not about the money.   [ROWLEY] I want to be a voice for my mother, and I don’t want her to be a COVID status. I don’t want her to be a number. I want people to understand she was actually a person. She was a loving, caring person that was taken too soon, that wasn’t ready to go. At least I wasn’t ready for her to go.   [ARSHY] And she thinks that a lawsuit might be one of the only ways to change things.    [ROWLEY] So they’re forced to have something in place, if this happens for the second wave, that, you know, they’re not losing 50 people again. So families aren’t going through the death of their loved one, not being able to see them, not knowing if they’re OK. I don’t want people to go through that. I want seniors to have a voice.   END CREDITS That’s your episode of Commons for the week. If you want to support us, click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com This episode relied on reporting done by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris at HuffPost Canada, Marco Chown Oved, Kenyon Wallace and Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto Star, Geoffrey Stevens at the Waterloo Record and many, many others.  If you want to get in touch with us, you can tweet at us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by me and Jordan Cornish, with production help by Tiffany Lam. Our managing editor is Andréa Schmidt, and our music is by Nathan Burley.  If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND.   I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
September 12, 2017
79
Ashton, Angus & Singh – Oh My!
$5/month for-adree COMMONS by clicking here. Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada. Featured in this episode: Tracy Rowley, Sherina Harris (HuffPost Canada), Emma Paling (HuffPost Canada), Zaid Noorsumar  To learn more: “COVID-19 Has Killed 164 At Revera’s Care Homes. Their Families Want Answers” by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris in HuffPost Canada “Is it Time to Care Yet?” by Zaid Noorsumar in Rank and File “It is time to forget the profits and fix long-term care” by Geoffrey Stevens in The Waterloo Region Record This episode is sponsored by Freshbooks and The Jerry Cans Additional music from Audio Network   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 5 – “SHIRLEY AND TRACY”   [COLD OPEN] [ARSHY MANN] Here’s what you need to understand about Shirley and Tracy: They both lived in Kitchener, one of the many mid-sized cities that dot Southern Ontario, and they met when Tracy started out helping Shirley with errands, like groceries and cleaning.    [TRACY ROWLEY] She was the type of person that she either liked you or she didn’t like you. And for some reason we just clicked from day one. And she was like, “No, you’re my daughter. You’re not my cleaning person, and you’re not this. You’re… You’re my family.”   [ARSHY]  That’s Tracy Rowley. And she says, that’s exactly what happened. She became Shirley Egerdeen’s family. She became her daughter.   [ROWLEY] So my mother and I, as… She called me her adopted mother, or surrogate mother. She never had any husband. She didn’t have children.    [ARSHY]  They saw each other all the time and did the things mothers and daughters do together.   [ROWLEY] We’re both Libras, so our birthdays are three days apart, so we would have Law & Order marathons for our birthday and eat Swiss Chalet. She’s very feisty.   [ARSHY]  But late last year, Shirley’s health took a turn for the worse.   [ROWLEY] So in December of last year, she got a really bad cold and the start of pneumonia. So she was put into our local hospital. And, at that time, she needed to recover a little more to be able to get back to the process of getting out of the bed into her wheelchair again, and she wasn’t strong enough from that. So the hospital said, “The best thing we could do right now is put her in long-term care.”   [ARSHY]  At first, Shirley was placed in a facility in Elmira, a nearby rural community. but she wanted to come back to town.   [ROWLEY] She said, what’s my best way of coming back to Kitchener? I want to be closer to my daughter. And the lady at the hospital said the quickest she’ll get back to Kitchener is to go to Forest Heights because they always have openings. And I never thought twice about it. I really didn’t.   [ARSHY]  It’s a decision Tracy regrets to this day.   [ROWLEY] But I understand now why so many seniors beg their kids, “Please don’t put me in a senior’s home. Please, please don’t.” Because I saw it firsthand, and if I had to do it over again, I would have done something. I would have found the room. I would have done something to make sure that she didn’t have to go there.   [ARSHY]  A month ago, Shirley Egerdeen became one of almost 50 people to die of COVID-19 at Forest Heights. Forest Heights is owned by Revera, one of the biggest for-profit long-term care providers in Canada. Tracy believes that Shirley didn’t have to die in this way. And today she’s one of the many people who have joined a class action against Revera and another for-profit chain.  I’m Arshy Mann and, from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   [PART ONE] [ARSHY]  When Shirley moved to Forest Heights, Tracy visited her constantly. And right away, the trouble began.   [ROWLEY] And I’d visit her every day and we watched TV. We’d still watch her Law & Order and everything else. Her bed was right beside the bathroom, which, you know, it happens. There’s four people in a room. Nobody really talks to each other. There’s a local dining room they could go to. But they didn’t.   [ARSHY]  More disturbingly, Shirley wasn’t bathed.   [ROWLEY] My mom never had a shower the whole time. So she said no, cause maybe she was having a bad day or whatever. They never asked her again or they didn’t come to me.    [ARSHY]  Shirley wasn’t eating well either.   [ROWLEY] And they would bring meals in. And if she was sleeping, they wouldn’t wake her up and then would she’d wake up, her food was cold. So she’d ask for it to be heated up, but they wouldn’t heat it. The potatoes would still feel like there was ice in the middle. So that’s why she wasn’t really eating.   [ARSHY]  Shirley soon became injured from just being there.   [ROWLEY] She also had a bedsore on her butt and or like a pressure sore. It was a very big one. So she was put on a waterbed. And then they said, “Well, you know, she’s not sitting in it right.” So they took her off of it, put her in a regular bed. And within a week, that sore on her bottom had now infected and got worse, that they now had to put the waterbed back in again. So, she went through pain that she didn’t need to.   [ARSHY]  If you’ve been listening to this series, you’ve heard similar stories already. You heard about Wyonne Somers, who died of improper wound care at McKenzie Towne, also a Revera facility, back in 2013. 22 people have died of COVID-19 at McKenzie Towne, making it the facility where more people have died than anywhere else in Alberta. At Forest Heights, where Shirley Egerdeen lived, the death toll is more than double that. In fact, over 160 people have died of COVID-19 in Revera homes since the pandemic began.  So what is Revera?   [SHERINA HARRIS] Revera is a privately owned long-term care home company. They are officially called Revera Inc. They also operate retirement homes.   [ARSHY]  That’s Sherina Harris, a reporter for HuffPost Canada.   [EMMA PALING] I believe there is about one hundred of their homes just in Ontario and dozens more in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.   [ARSHY]  And that’s Emma Paling, also a reporter for HuffPost Canada. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been digging into Revera’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including what happened to Shirley Egerdeen.   [PALING] Shirley lived in a ward, which meant that she shared a room with three other people and she shared a bathroom with those people. She was the first one in her room to test positive for COVID-19, and the staff at the home told Tracy that she wouldn’t be moved.    [ROWLEY] I asked, you know, would she be moved? Will she go to another room? What’s happening for isolation? And he said, “We’ve put a curtain around her.” I said, “There’s three other people in that room. How is that isolated?” And she’s also right beside the bathroom, so there’s always bacteria and germs coming from there from other people. And he said, “Well, you know, that’s what we’re doing. Her curtain’s around her. Within the week, the other people in her room were all infected with COVID-19.   [PALING] And all of the relatives told us similar things, that after their family member had contracted COVID-19, they weren’t really isolated from other people. And even before they contracted it, when there were already outbreaks, the residents were allowed to move around the buildings, continued to share bathrooms. People weren’t really being separated from each other and isolation wasn’t really being enforced. One of the other major concerns that we heard was that the company wasn’t communicating. They didn’t communicate a plan for how they were going to deal with the outbreak. They didn’t communicate how their relatives were going to be cared for or isolated, once they tested positive.   [ROWLEY] Even if you tried to call in during the outbreak, they wouldn’t answer the phone. So you couldn’t get updates. And in my case, it was always, “Well, her stats are good, so if anything changes, we’ll call you.” Some people could do window visits and they could do that. I couldn’t. She was in a wheelchair. For her to get out of bed, it would take people to get her out of bed. And they didn’t have the staff to do that. So I would never have had that opportunity and I would call in, and I would call in, and they wouldn’t answer or it would always be the same thing, “You know, well, her room oxygen’s fine, her temperature is fine and… Okay, I’ve got another call. I got to go.” I had paid for a phone for her to have in her own room. So if she didn’t answer it or that,  for a couple of days, I know obviously she wasn’t feeling well.   [PALING] She had obviously deteriorated since she caught COVID-19. Shirley wasn’t able to talk or answer her, but staff members put a phone on Shirley’s chest, so Tracy could at least kind of talk to her, be there for her. She didn’t realize, of course, that that would be the last time they spoke.    [ROWLEY] I guess I had this “mother” feeling myself in my stomach the night before she passed away. And I called in and asked if there’d be any way they could put a phone close to her so I could talk to her. And they put a phone in a glove and they put it on her chest, but she wasn’t responsive. I could hear her breathing and, um, I just talked to her for an hour. She’d call me “Toots” sometimes, so I’d be like, “Hey, Toots, are you sleeping on me? Am I that boring?” No one trying… Between my tears, to try and say nice things to her, and, um, we hung up about 11:00 that night. And then I got the call at 4:00 a.m. that she had passed. And I asked the lady, was she alone when she passed, and, um, the nurse said, “We went in to change her dressing at four o’clock, and she wasn’t breathing.” And I said, “Did you know how long that was for?” and I just got the same response: “We went in at four o’clock to change her dressing and she wasn’t breathing.” Therefore I don’t know how long she was lying in there, not breathing.    PART TWO [ARSHY]  Since late April, just over a month after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Revera has put out a handful of news releases. That includes an action plan for Forest Heights, the details of a new initiative to procure PPE, and responses to two class-action lawsuits against them: One in Alberta, and the one that Tracy is involved in in Ontario. But, by far, their most comprehensive statement is a five-page long release called “Let’s focus on the real changes needed in the long-term care sector.” And in it, Revera goes to great lengths to rebut the argument that for-profit homes are handling this pandemic worse than non-profit or public homes. We told you in the last episode about how the Toronto Star reported that people in for-profit homes are much more likely to die if there’s an outbreak than in non-profit and public homes. And here’s Revera’s response to that argument: “We are seeing more and more media stories attempting to draw a link between the ownership model for long-term care and the passing of residents from COVID-19. There are many variables and factors that have played a part in why COVID-19 spread in some homes and not others. However, objective data has not shown that ownership is one of them.” In that release, Revera does make some good points. They say that governments were too focused on hospitals early on and ignored long-term care, and that’s true. They say that they don’t get enough funding per resident, and I completely agree. But some of their other claims are disputable. For one, Revera cites something called the “Qindex.” The Qindex was introduced in 2018 and is a metric that is meant to track the overall quality of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes. But there’s a good reason to be skeptical of Qindex.   [ZAID NOORSUMAR] Quindex is an assessment tool created by the Ontario Long-Term Care Association that represents the for-profits.   [ARSHY] That’s Zaid Noorsumar. He’s a freelance journalist who covers labour issues, and for the last year he’s been investigating long-term care and home care in Ontario. And he told us that it’s essential to note where exactly this data is coming from.    [NOORSUMAR] The Qindex is a convenient way for the Long-term Care Association to say that for-profits deliver the similar quality of care as the non-profits and municipal homes.   [ARSHY] The index was created by the University of Toronto in partnership with the association that mostly represents the for-profit homes.   [NOORSUMAR] So, the metrics are not the best way to assess quality in long-term care. But if you, you know, examine where the research comes from, it comes from the association… which if you look at the board of directors, is all these big corporations on the board of directors. So, it’s–it’s really problematic. And it just so happens that Wendy Gilmour, Revera’s senior vice-president of long-term care, is on the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s board of directors. In that same five-page news release, Revera also said that they didn’t know about asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. And that’s true. Health officials were very much focused on people with symptoms. So even when employees tested positive for COVID-19, Revera admits that they did ask them, in some circumstances, to come into work.    [PALING] And the company defended that by saying, you know, they didn’t realize that COVID could spread if people didn’t have symptoms. And so they thought it would be safe.   [ARSHY] But at another Revera residence, Carling View Manor in Ottawa, Emma Paling says that something else happened.    [PALING] And what I heard from the employee at Carling View Manor was that they were taking temperatures of all the staff coming in and out at the beginning and end of their shift. And the first person who had a fever was asked to go home. But none of the people that he worked with, none of the residents that he had cared for that day, were isolated. They were still sharing dining rooms, sharing bathrooms, moving around the building.   [ARSHY] From the very beginning, health officials were clear that anyone who came into contact with someone with symptoms needed to go into isolation.   [PALING] There’s very specific steps that you are supposed to be taking if you had it. And yet Revera was letting asymptomatic employees, who tested positive, care for residents. And they were also letting people who had contact with symptomatic cases move around.   [ARSHY] Emma Paling says that Revera has not denied any of the allegations that she and Harris reported.  Revera also says in their statement that, because they’re a large chain, they had access to PPE throughout the pandemic. But employees say that they weren’t provided with proper protection.    [HARRIS] The source also raised some concerns that I think we’ve been seeing a lot in the news from other homes and other health care institutions as well: concerns about a lack of PPE. They said now they have enough, but, uh, that was more of an issue. And they found that when they would ask managers about it, they weren’t, uh, really given kind of a clear answer.   [ARSHY] I think this news release, and their public relations efforts during this pandemic, are indicative. Their evidence that for-profit homes believe that their very business model is under attack now, and they have an obligation to their shareholders to fight back And Revera is a particularly interesting case. It has deep political connections, like many of the other for-profit long-term care and retirement companies.    [PALING] Their Chief Elder Officer for Revera is Hazel McCallion, the famous “Hurricane Hazel,” former mayor of Mississauga, who is a good friend of Premier Doug Ford. And their Chair Emeritus of their board is Bill Davis, a former conservative premier of Ontario.   [ARSHY] But by far, their most interesting political connection is who owns them. Revera isn’t a publicly traded company. It’s entirely privately owned by the Canadian federal government.  The Public Sector Pension Fund, which manages the pensions for federal employees, the RCMP and the Canadian forces, bought Revera outright in 2006.   [PALING] I think that makes it even more interesting to see how the politicians respond and handle this. Especially because all the federal public servants are getting their pensions paid out by this company’s profits.   [ARSHY] The PSP Investment Board is managed at arm’s length from the federal government, but its members are appointed by the cabinet. And because this technically makes Revera a private company, we don’t have access to their financials.  But according to a recent Toronto Star investigation, we know that three of Revera’s competitors: Chartwell, Sienna and Extendicare, collectively paid out over $1.5 billion dollars in dividends to their shareholders over the last decade. So it’s reasonable to assume Revera had paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to federal pensions over the last 12 years. Of course, not all of that, by any means, was from long-term care. These companies have other businesses. But they made a lot of money for their shareholders over the years, including the federal government. And that was during a time when the long-term care crisis in Ontario and across Canada was getting worse. When investigations and inquiries were consistently calling for more staffing, for more investment.  What doesn’t show up on these balance sheets is the human cost of all this. What happens when we try to make caring for vulnerable people as efficient as possible so that we can eke out an extra few percentage points of profit.  I’ve been looking through the filings of the Public Service Pension fund, and in every annual report, there’s a section that talks about the percentage of their holdings that are real estate and, under that, you get a few mentions of Revera. And the thing that I’ve been feeling is that, in those reports, everything is so abstract. It’s so distanced from the reality on the ground. For the people who set up the framework for everything a company like Revera does, Tracy and Shirley don’t really figure into things. They’re a data point within a data point within a data point. But for Tracy and Shirley, nothing could be more important. Tracy called Shirley every Mother’s Day.    [ROWLEY] And then this Mother’s Day, it was… I couldn’t call her, I couldn’t come over and hug her. I couldn’t do any of that. It consisted of sitting at a cemetery and putting some flowers, and still putting a Mother’s Day card down there. But I didn’t get that hug. I didn’t get that personal contact. And I hadn’t for months from her. And I know how much she wanted that, because every call that we talked to before she passed was how much she missed me, and when was this gonna be over, so she could see me again?   I kept telling her that if I won the lottery, I was going to buy a big house and, um, I was gonna make sure she was with me all the time. The emotion and the feeling was, “I wish… I never I never put her there. I wish I found space somewhere for her. I wish that I could have taken better care of her, even if that meant changing her dressings or hiring someone or doing something,” because at least if she did pass on my care, she knew I loved her and she knew I took such good care of her. She… She wouldn’t have taken that last breath by herself. So I just wish I never… I never put her there.   OUTRO [ARSHY] The lawsuit that Tracy is involved in the largest COVID-19-related class action so far.   [PALING] It’s now one hundred million dollars in damages. And there were originally two representative plaintiffs who had both lost mothers. There are now six representative plaintiffs who have all lost a family member at a Revera home. Revera says that they’re currently reviewing the suit and will eventually respond. But that, right now, their focus is to prevent further illness and the loss of life.    [ARSHY] Tracy says that for her, it’s not about the money.   [ROWLEY] I want to be a voice for my mother, and I don’t want her to be a COVID status. I don’t want her to be a number. I want people to understand she was actually a person. She was a loving, caring person that was taken too soon, that wasn’t ready to go. At least I wasn’t ready for her to go.   [ARSHY] And she thinks that a lawsuit might be one of the only ways to change things.    [ROWLEY] So they’re forced to have something in place, if this happens for the second wave, that, you know, they’re not losing 50 people again. So families aren’t going through the death of their loved one, not being able to see them, not knowing if they’re OK. I don’t want people to go through that. I want seniors to have a voice.   END CREDITS That’s your episode of Commons for the week. If you want to support us, click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com This episode relied on reporting done by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris at HuffPost Canada, Marco Chown Oved, Kenyon Wallace and Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto Star, Geoffrey Stevens at the Waterloo Record and many, many others.  If you want to get in touch with us, you can tweet at us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by me and Jordan Cornish, with production help by Tiffany Lam. Our managing editor is Andréa Schmidt, and our music is by Nathan Burley.  If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND.   I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
September 26, 2017
80
Why We Need Higher Taxes, A Canadian Mt. Rushmore And A Population Of 100 Million
$5/month for-adree COMMONS by clicking here. Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada. Featured in this episode: Tracy Rowley, Sherina Harris (HuffPost Canada), Emma Paling (HuffPost Canada), Zaid Noorsumar  To learn more: “COVID-19 Has Killed 164 At Revera’s Care Homes. Their Families Want Answers” by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris in HuffPost Canada “Is it Time to Care Yet?” by Zaid Noorsumar in Rank and File “It is time to forget the profits and fix long-term care” by Geoffrey Stevens in The Waterloo Region Record This episode is sponsored by Freshbooks and The Jerry Cans Additional music from Audio Network   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 5 – “SHIRLEY AND TRACY”   [COLD OPEN] [ARSHY MANN] Here’s what you need to understand about Shirley and Tracy: They both lived in Kitchener, one of the many mid-sized cities that dot Southern Ontario, and they met when Tracy started out helping Shirley with errands, like groceries and cleaning.    [TRACY ROWLEY] She was the type of person that she either liked you or she didn’t like you. And for some reason we just clicked from day one. And she was like, “No, you’re my daughter. You’re not my cleaning person, and you’re not this. You’re… You’re my family.”   [ARSHY]  That’s Tracy Rowley. And she says, that’s exactly what happened. She became Shirley Egerdeen’s family. She became her daughter.   [ROWLEY] So my mother and I, as… She called me her adopted mother, or surrogate mother. She never had any husband. She didn’t have children.    [ARSHY]  They saw each other all the time and did the things mothers and daughters do together.   [ROWLEY] We’re both Libras, so our birthdays are three days apart, so we would have Law & Order marathons for our birthday and eat Swiss Chalet. She’s very feisty.   [ARSHY]  But late last year, Shirley’s health took a turn for the worse.   [ROWLEY] So in December of last year, she got a really bad cold and the start of pneumonia. So she was put into our local hospital. And, at that time, she needed to recover a little more to be able to get back to the process of getting out of the bed into her wheelchair again, and she wasn’t strong enough from that. So the hospital said, “The best thing we could do right now is put her in long-term care.”   [ARSHY]  At first, Shirley was placed in a facility in Elmira, a nearby rural community. but she wanted to come back to town.   [ROWLEY] She said, what’s my best way of coming back to Kitchener? I want to be closer to my daughter. And the lady at the hospital said the quickest she’ll get back to Kitchener is to go to Forest Heights because they always have openings. And I never thought twice about it. I really didn’t.   [ARSHY]  It’s a decision Tracy regrets to this day.   [ROWLEY] But I understand now why so many seniors beg their kids, “Please don’t put me in a senior’s home. Please, please don’t.” Because I saw it firsthand, and if I had to do it over again, I would have done something. I would have found the room. I would have done something to make sure that she didn’t have to go there.   [ARSHY]  A month ago, Shirley Egerdeen became one of almost 50 people to die of COVID-19 at Forest Heights. Forest Heights is owned by Revera, one of the biggest for-profit long-term care providers in Canada. Tracy believes that Shirley didn’t have to die in this way. And today she’s one of the many people who have joined a class action against Revera and another for-profit chain.  I’m Arshy Mann and, from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   [PART ONE] [ARSHY]  When Shirley moved to Forest Heights, Tracy visited her constantly. And right away, the trouble began.   [ROWLEY] And I’d visit her every day and we watched TV. We’d still watch her Law & Order and everything else. Her bed was right beside the bathroom, which, you know, it happens. There’s four people in a room. Nobody really talks to each other. There’s a local dining room they could go to. But they didn’t.   [ARSHY]  More disturbingly, Shirley wasn’t bathed.   [ROWLEY] My mom never had a shower the whole time. So she said no, cause maybe she was having a bad day or whatever. They never asked her again or they didn’t come to me.    [ARSHY]  Shirley wasn’t eating well either.   [ROWLEY] And they would bring meals in. And if she was sleeping, they wouldn’t wake her up and then would she’d wake up, her food was cold. So she’d ask for it to be heated up, but they wouldn’t heat it. The potatoes would still feel like there was ice in the middle. So that’s why she wasn’t really eating.   [ARSHY]  Shirley soon became injured from just being there.   [ROWLEY] She also had a bedsore on her butt and or like a pressure sore. It was a very big one. So she was put on a waterbed. And then they said, “Well, you know, she’s not sitting in it right.” So they took her off of it, put her in a regular bed. And within a week, that sore on her bottom had now infected and got worse, that they now had to put the waterbed back in again. So, she went through pain that she didn’t need to.   [ARSHY]  If you’ve been listening to this series, you’ve heard similar stories already. You heard about Wyonne Somers, who died of improper wound care at McKenzie Towne, also a Revera facility, back in 2013. 22 people have died of COVID-19 at McKenzie Towne, making it the facility where more people have died than anywhere else in Alberta. At Forest Heights, where Shirley Egerdeen lived, the death toll is more than double that. In fact, over 160 people have died of COVID-19 in Revera homes since the pandemic began.  So what is Revera?   [SHERINA HARRIS] Revera is a privately owned long-term care home company. They are officially called Revera Inc. They also operate retirement homes.   [ARSHY]  That’s Sherina Harris, a reporter for HuffPost Canada.   [EMMA PALING] I believe there is about one hundred of their homes just in Ontario and dozens more in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.   [ARSHY]  And that’s Emma Paling, also a reporter for HuffPost Canada. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been digging into Revera’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including what happened to Shirley Egerdeen.   [PALING] Shirley lived in a ward, which meant that she shared a room with three other people and she shared a bathroom with those people. She was the first one in her room to test positive for COVID-19, and the staff at the home told Tracy that she wouldn’t be moved.    [ROWLEY] I asked, you know, would she be moved? Will she go to another room? What’s happening for isolation? And he said, “We’ve put a curtain around her.” I said, “There’s three other people in that room. How is that isolated?” And she’s also right beside the bathroom, so there’s always bacteria and germs coming from there from other people. And he said, “Well, you know, that’s what we’re doing. Her curtain’s around her. Within the week, the other people in her room were all infected with COVID-19.   [PALING] And all of the relatives told us similar things, that after their family member had contracted COVID-19, they weren’t really isolated from other people. And even before they contracted it, when there were already outbreaks, the residents were allowed to move around the buildings, continued to share bathrooms. People weren’t really being separated from each other and isolation wasn’t really being enforced. One of the other major concerns that we heard was that the company wasn’t communicating. They didn’t communicate a plan for how they were going to deal with the outbreak. They didn’t communicate how their relatives were going to be cared for or isolated, once they tested positive.   [ROWLEY] Even if you tried to call in during the outbreak, they wouldn’t answer the phone. So you couldn’t get updates. And in my case, it was always, “Well, her stats are good, so if anything changes, we’ll call you.” Some people could do window visits and they could do that. I couldn’t. She was in a wheelchair. For her to get out of bed, it would take people to get her out of bed. And they didn’t have the staff to do that. So I would never have had that opportunity and I would call in, and I would call in, and they wouldn’t answer or it would always be the same thing, “You know, well, her room oxygen’s fine, her temperature is fine and… Okay, I’ve got another call. I got to go.” I had paid for a phone for her to have in her own room. So if she didn’t answer it or that,  for a couple of days, I know obviously she wasn’t feeling well.   [PALING] She had obviously deteriorated since she caught COVID-19. Shirley wasn’t able to talk or answer her, but staff members put a phone on Shirley’s chest, so Tracy could at least kind of talk to her, be there for her. She didn’t realize, of course, that that would be the last time they spoke.    [ROWLEY] I guess I had this “mother” feeling myself in my stomach the night before she passed away. And I called in and asked if there’d be any way they could put a phone close to her so I could talk to her. And they put a phone in a glove and they put it on her chest, but she wasn’t responsive. I could hear her breathing and, um, I just talked to her for an hour. She’d call me “Toots” sometimes, so I’d be like, “Hey, Toots, are you sleeping on me? Am I that boring?” No one trying… Between my tears, to try and say nice things to her, and, um, we hung up about 11:00 that night. And then I got the call at 4:00 a.m. that she had passed. And I asked the lady, was she alone when she passed, and, um, the nurse said, “We went in to change her dressing at four o’clock, and she wasn’t breathing.” And I said, “Did you know how long that was for?” and I just got the same response: “We went in at four o’clock to change her dressing and she wasn’t breathing.” Therefore I don’t know how long she was lying in there, not breathing.    PART TWO [ARSHY]  Since late April, just over a month after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Revera has put out a handful of news releases. That includes an action plan for Forest Heights, the details of a new initiative to procure PPE, and responses to two class-action lawsuits against them: One in Alberta, and the one that Tracy is involved in in Ontario. But, by far, their most comprehensive statement is a five-page long release called “Let’s focus on the real changes needed in the long-term care sector.” And in it, Revera goes to great lengths to rebut the argument that for-profit homes are handling this pandemic worse than non-profit or public homes. We told you in the last episode about how the Toronto Star reported that people in for-profit homes are much more likely to die if there’s an outbreak than in non-profit and public homes. And here’s Revera’s response to that argument: “We are seeing more and more media stories attempting to draw a link between the ownership model for long-term care and the passing of residents from COVID-19. There are many variables and factors that have played a part in why COVID-19 spread in some homes and not others. However, objective data has not shown that ownership is one of them.” In that release, Revera does make some good points. They say that governments were too focused on hospitals early on and ignored long-term care, and that’s true. They say that they don’t get enough funding per resident, and I completely agree. But some of their other claims are disputable. For one, Revera cites something called the “Qindex.” The Qindex was introduced in 2018 and is a metric that is meant to track the overall quality of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes. But there’s a good reason to be skeptical of Qindex.   [ZAID NOORSUMAR] Quindex is an assessment tool created by the Ontario Long-Term Care Association that represents the for-profits.   [ARSHY] That’s Zaid Noorsumar. He’s a freelance journalist who covers labour issues, and for the last year he’s been investigating long-term care and home care in Ontario. And he told us that it’s essential to note where exactly this data is coming from.    [NOORSUMAR] The Qindex is a convenient way for the Long-term Care Association to say that for-profits deliver the similar quality of care as the non-profits and municipal homes.   [ARSHY] The index was created by the University of Toronto in partnership with the association that mostly represents the for-profit homes.   [NOORSUMAR] So, the metrics are not the best way to assess quality in long-term care. But if you, you know, examine where the research comes from, it comes from the association… which if you look at the board of directors, is all these big corporations on the board of directors. So, it’s–it’s really problematic. And it just so happens that Wendy Gilmour, Revera’s senior vice-president of long-term care, is on the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s board of directors. In that same five-page news release, Revera also said that they didn’t know about asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. And that’s true. Health officials were very much focused on people with symptoms. So even when employees tested positive for COVID-19, Revera admits that they did ask them, in some circumstances, to come into work.    [PALING] And the company defended that by saying, you know, they didn’t realize that COVID could spread if people didn’t have symptoms. And so they thought it would be safe.   [ARSHY] But at another Revera residence, Carling View Manor in Ottawa, Emma Paling says that something else happened.    [PALING] And what I heard from the employee at Carling View Manor was that they were taking temperatures of all the staff coming in and out at the beginning and end of their shift. And the first person who had a fever was asked to go home. But none of the people that he worked with, none of the residents that he had cared for that day, were isolated. They were still sharing dining rooms, sharing bathrooms, moving around the building.   [ARSHY] From the very beginning, health officials were clear that anyone who came into contact with someone with symptoms needed to go into isolation.   [PALING] There’s very specific steps that you are supposed to be taking if you had it. And yet Revera was letting asymptomatic employees, who tested positive, care for residents. And they were also letting people who had contact with symptomatic cases move around.   [ARSHY] Emma Paling says that Revera has not denied any of the allegations that she and Harris reported.  Revera also says in their statement that, because they’re a large chain, they had access to PPE throughout the pandemic. But employees say that they weren’t provided with proper protection.    [HARRIS] The source also raised some concerns that I think we’ve been seeing a lot in the news from other homes and other health care institutions as well: concerns about a lack of PPE. They said now they have enough, but, uh, that was more of an issue. And they found that when they would ask managers about it, they weren’t, uh, really given kind of a clear answer.   [ARSHY] I think this news release, and their public relations efforts during this pandemic, are indicative. Their evidence that for-profit homes believe that their very business model is under attack now, and they have an obligation to their shareholders to fight back And Revera is a particularly interesting case. It has deep political connections, like many of the other for-profit long-term care and retirement companies.    [PALING] Their Chief Elder Officer for Revera is Hazel McCallion, the famous “Hurricane Hazel,” former mayor of Mississauga, who is a good friend of Premier Doug Ford. And their Chair Emeritus of their board is Bill Davis, a former conservative premier of Ontario.   [ARSHY] But by far, their most interesting political connection is who owns them. Revera isn’t a publicly traded company. It’s entirely privately owned by the Canadian federal government.  The Public Sector Pension Fund, which manages the pensions for federal employees, the RCMP and the Canadian forces, bought Revera outright in 2006.   [PALING] I think that makes it even more interesting to see how the politicians respond and handle this. Especially because all the federal public servants are getting their pensions paid out by this company’s profits.   [ARSHY] The PSP Investment Board is managed at arm’s length from the federal government, but its members are appointed by the cabinet. And because this technically makes Revera a private company, we don’t have access to their financials.  But according to a recent Toronto Star investigation, we know that three of Revera’s competitors: Chartwell, Sienna and Extendicare, collectively paid out over $1.5 billion dollars in dividends to their shareholders over the last decade. So it’s reasonable to assume Revera had paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to federal pensions over the last 12 years. Of course, not all of that, by any means, was from long-term care. These companies have other businesses. But they made a lot of money for their shareholders over the years, including the federal government. And that was during a time when the long-term care crisis in Ontario and across Canada was getting worse. When investigations and inquiries were consistently calling for more staffing, for more investment.  What doesn’t show up on these balance sheets is the human cost of all this. What happens when we try to make caring for vulnerable people as efficient as possible so that we can eke out an extra few percentage points of profit.  I’ve been looking through the filings of the Public Service Pension fund, and in every annual report, there’s a section that talks about the percentage of their holdings that are real estate and, under that, you get a few mentions of Revera. And the thing that I’ve been feeling is that, in those reports, everything is so abstract. It’s so distanced from the reality on the ground. For the people who set up the framework for everything a company like Revera does, Tracy and Shirley don’t really figure into things. They’re a data point within a data point within a data point. But for Tracy and Shirley, nothing could be more important. Tracy called Shirley every Mother’s Day.    [ROWLEY] And then this Mother’s Day, it was… I couldn’t call her, I couldn’t come over and hug her. I couldn’t do any of that. It consisted of sitting at a cemetery and putting some flowers, and still putting a Mother’s Day card down there. But I didn’t get that hug. I didn’t get that personal contact. And I hadn’t for months from her. And I know how much she wanted that, because every call that we talked to before she passed was how much she missed me, and when was this gonna be over, so she could see me again?   I kept telling her that if I won the lottery, I was going to buy a big house and, um, I was gonna make sure she was with me all the time. The emotion and the feeling was, “I wish… I never I never put her there. I wish I found space somewhere for her. I wish that I could have taken better care of her, even if that meant changing her dressings or hiring someone or doing something,” because at least if she did pass on my care, she knew I loved her and she knew I took such good care of her. She… She wouldn’t have taken that last breath by herself. So I just wish I never… I never put her there.   OUTRO [ARSHY] The lawsuit that Tracy is involved in the largest COVID-19-related class action so far.   [PALING] It’s now one hundred million dollars in damages. And there were originally two representative plaintiffs who had both lost mothers. There are now six representative plaintiffs who have all lost a family member at a Revera home. Revera says that they’re currently reviewing the suit and will eventually respond. But that, right now, their focus is to prevent further illness and the loss of life.    [ARSHY] Tracy says that for her, it’s not about the money.   [ROWLEY] I want to be a voice for my mother, and I don’t want her to be a COVID status. I don’t want her to be a number. I want people to understand she was actually a person. She was a loving, caring person that was taken too soon, that wasn’t ready to go. At least I wasn’t ready for her to go.   [ARSHY] And she thinks that a lawsuit might be one of the only ways to change things.    [ROWLEY] So they’re forced to have something in place, if this happens for the second wave, that, you know, they’re not losing 50 people again. So families aren’t going through the death of their loved one, not being able to see them, not knowing if they’re OK. I don’t want people to go through that. I want seniors to have a voice.   END CREDITS That’s your episode of Commons for the week. If you want to support us, click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com This episode relied on reporting done by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris at HuffPost Canada, Marco Chown Oved, Kenyon Wallace and Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto Star, Geoffrey Stevens at the Waterloo Record and many, many others.  If you want to get in touch with us, you can tweet at us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by me and Jordan Cornish, with production help by Tiffany Lam. Our managing editor is Andréa Schmidt, and our music is by Nathan Burley.  If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND.   I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
October 10, 2017
81
Niqabs & Nafta
$5/month for-adree COMMONS by clicking here. Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada. Featured in this episode: Tracy Rowley, Sherina Harris (HuffPost Canada), Emma Paling (HuffPost Canada), Zaid Noorsumar  To learn more: “COVID-19 Has Killed 164 At Revera’s Care Homes. Their Families Want Answers” by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris in HuffPost Canada “Is it Time to Care Yet?” by Zaid Noorsumar in Rank and File “It is time to forget the profits and fix long-term care” by Geoffrey Stevens in The Waterloo Region Record This episode is sponsored by Freshbooks and The Jerry Cans Additional music from Audio Network   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 5 – “SHIRLEY AND TRACY”   [COLD OPEN] [ARSHY MANN] Here’s what you need to understand about Shirley and Tracy: They both lived in Kitchener, one of the many mid-sized cities that dot Southern Ontario, and they met when Tracy started out helping Shirley with errands, like groceries and cleaning.    [TRACY ROWLEY] She was the type of person that she either liked you or she didn’t like you. And for some reason we just clicked from day one. And she was like, “No, you’re my daughter. You’re not my cleaning person, and you’re not this. You’re… You’re my family.”   [ARSHY]  That’s Tracy Rowley. And she says, that’s exactly what happened. She became Shirley Egerdeen’s family. She became her daughter.   [ROWLEY] So my mother and I, as… She called me her adopted mother, or surrogate mother. She never had any husband. She didn’t have children.    [ARSHY]  They saw each other all the time and did the things mothers and daughters do together.   [ROWLEY] We’re both Libras, so our birthdays are three days apart, so we would have Law & Order marathons for our birthday and eat Swiss Chalet. She’s very feisty.   [ARSHY]  But late last year, Shirley’s health took a turn for the worse.   [ROWLEY] So in December of last year, she got a really bad cold and the start of pneumonia. So she was put into our local hospital. And, at that time, she needed to recover a little more to be able to get back to the process of getting out of the bed into her wheelchair again, and she wasn’t strong enough from that. So the hospital said, “The best thing we could do right now is put her in long-term care.”   [ARSHY]  At first, Shirley was placed in a facility in Elmira, a nearby rural community. but she wanted to come back to town.   [ROWLEY] She said, what’s my best way of coming back to Kitchener? I want to be closer to my daughter. And the lady at the hospital said the quickest she’ll get back to Kitchener is to go to Forest Heights because they always have openings. And I never thought twice about it. I really didn’t.   [ARSHY]  It’s a decision Tracy regrets to this day.   [ROWLEY] But I understand now why so many seniors beg their kids, “Please don’t put me in a senior’s home. Please, please don’t.” Because I saw it firsthand, and if I had to do it over again, I would have done something. I would have found the room. I would have done something to make sure that she didn’t have to go there.   [ARSHY]  A month ago, Shirley Egerdeen became one of almost 50 people to die of COVID-19 at Forest Heights. Forest Heights is owned by Revera, one of the biggest for-profit long-term care providers in Canada. Tracy believes that Shirley didn’t have to die in this way. And today she’s one of the many people who have joined a class action against Revera and another for-profit chain.  I’m Arshy Mann and, from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   [PART ONE] [ARSHY]  When Shirley moved to Forest Heights, Tracy visited her constantly. And right away, the trouble began.   [ROWLEY] And I’d visit her every day and we watched TV. We’d still watch her Law & Order and everything else. Her bed was right beside the bathroom, which, you know, it happens. There’s four people in a room. Nobody really talks to each other. There’s a local dining room they could go to. But they didn’t.   [ARSHY]  More disturbingly, Shirley wasn’t bathed.   [ROWLEY] My mom never had a shower the whole time. So she said no, cause maybe she was having a bad day or whatever. They never asked her again or they didn’t come to me.    [ARSHY]  Shirley wasn’t eating well either.   [ROWLEY] And they would bring meals in. And if she was sleeping, they wouldn’t wake her up and then would she’d wake up, her food was cold. So she’d ask for it to be heated up, but they wouldn’t heat it. The potatoes would still feel like there was ice in the middle. So that’s why she wasn’t really eating.   [ARSHY]  Shirley soon became injured from just being there.   [ROWLEY] She also had a bedsore on her butt and or like a pressure sore. It was a very big one. So she was put on a waterbed. And then they said, “Well, you know, she’s not sitting in it right.” So they took her off of it, put her in a regular bed. And within a week, that sore on her bottom had now infected and got worse, that they now had to put the waterbed back in again. So, she went through pain that she didn’t need to.   [ARSHY]  If you’ve been listening to this series, you’ve heard similar stories already. You heard about Wyonne Somers, who died of improper wound care at McKenzie Towne, also a Revera facility, back in 2013. 22 people have died of COVID-19 at McKenzie Towne, making it the facility where more people have died than anywhere else in Alberta. At Forest Heights, where Shirley Egerdeen lived, the death toll is more than double that. In fact, over 160 people have died of COVID-19 in Revera homes since the pandemic began.  So what is Revera?   [SHERINA HARRIS] Revera is a privately owned long-term care home company. They are officially called Revera Inc. They also operate retirement homes.   [ARSHY]  That’s Sherina Harris, a reporter for HuffPost Canada.   [EMMA PALING] I believe there is about one hundred of their homes just in Ontario and dozens more in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.   [ARSHY]  And that’s Emma Paling, also a reporter for HuffPost Canada. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been digging into Revera’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including what happened to Shirley Egerdeen.   [PALING] Shirley lived in a ward, which meant that she shared a room with three other people and she shared a bathroom with those people. She was the first one in her room to test positive for COVID-19, and the staff at the home told Tracy that she wouldn’t be moved.    [ROWLEY] I asked, you know, would she be moved? Will she go to another room? What’s happening for isolation? And he said, “We’ve put a curtain around her.” I said, “There’s three other people in that room. How is that isolated?” And she’s also right beside the bathroom, so there’s always bacteria and germs coming from there from other people. And he said, “Well, you know, that’s what we’re doing. Her curtain’s around her. Within the week, the other people in her room were all infected with COVID-19.   [PALING] And all of the relatives told us similar things, that after their family member had contracted COVID-19, they weren’t really isolated from other people. And even before they contracted it, when there were already outbreaks, the residents were allowed to move around the buildings, continued to share bathrooms. People weren’t really being separated from each other and isolation wasn’t really being enforced. One of the other major concerns that we heard was that the company wasn’t communicating. They didn’t communicate a plan for how they were going to deal with the outbreak. They didn’t communicate how their relatives were going to be cared for or isolated, once they tested positive.   [ROWLEY] Even if you tried to call in during the outbreak, they wouldn’t answer the phone. So you couldn’t get updates. And in my case, it was always, “Well, her stats are good, so if anything changes, we’ll call you.” Some people could do window visits and they could do that. I couldn’t. She was in a wheelchair. For her to get out of bed, it would take people to get her out of bed. And they didn’t have the staff to do that. So I would never have had that opportunity and I would call in, and I would call in, and they wouldn’t answer or it would always be the same thing, “You know, well, her room oxygen’s fine, her temperature is fine and… Okay, I’ve got another call. I got to go.” I had paid for a phone for her to have in her own room. So if she didn’t answer it or that,  for a couple of days, I know obviously she wasn’t feeling well.   [PALING] She had obviously deteriorated since she caught COVID-19. Shirley wasn’t able to talk or answer her, but staff members put a phone on Shirley’s chest, so Tracy could at least kind of talk to her, be there for her. She didn’t realize, of course, that that would be the last time they spoke.    [ROWLEY] I guess I had this “mother” feeling myself in my stomach the night before she passed away. And I called in and asked if there’d be any way they could put a phone close to her so I could talk to her. And they put a phone in a glove and they put it on her chest, but she wasn’t responsive. I could hear her breathing and, um, I just talked to her for an hour. She’d call me “Toots” sometimes, so I’d be like, “Hey, Toots, are you sleeping on me? Am I that boring?” No one trying… Between my tears, to try and say nice things to her, and, um, we hung up about 11:00 that night. And then I got the call at 4:00 a.m. that she had passed. And I asked the lady, was she alone when she passed, and, um, the nurse said, “We went in to change her dressing at four o’clock, and she wasn’t breathing.” And I said, “Did you know how long that was for?” and I just got the same response: “We went in at four o’clock to change her dressing and she wasn’t breathing.” Therefore I don’t know how long she was lying in there, not breathing.    PART TWO [ARSHY]  Since late April, just over a month after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Revera has put out a handful of news releases. That includes an action plan for Forest Heights, the details of a new initiative to procure PPE, and responses to two class-action lawsuits against them: One in Alberta, and the one that Tracy is involved in in Ontario. But, by far, their most comprehensive statement is a five-page long release called “Let’s focus on the real changes needed in the long-term care sector.” And in it, Revera goes to great lengths to rebut the argument that for-profit homes are handling this pandemic worse than non-profit or public homes. We told you in the last episode about how the Toronto Star reported that people in for-profit homes are much more likely to die if there’s an outbreak than in non-profit and public homes. And here’s Revera’s response to that argument: “We are seeing more and more media stories attempting to draw a link between the ownership model for long-term care and the passing of residents from COVID-19. There are many variables and factors that have played a part in why COVID-19 spread in some homes and not others. However, objective data has not shown that ownership is one of them.” In that release, Revera does make some good points. They say that governments were too focused on hospitals early on and ignored long-term care, and that’s true. They say that they don’t get enough funding per resident, and I completely agree. But some of their other claims are disputable. For one, Revera cites something called the “Qindex.” The Qindex was introduced in 2018 and is a metric that is meant to track the overall quality of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes. But there’s a good reason to be skeptical of Qindex.   [ZAID NOORSUMAR] Quindex is an assessment tool created by the Ontario Long-Term Care Association that represents the for-profits.   [ARSHY] That’s Zaid Noorsumar. He’s a freelance journalist who covers labour issues, and for the last year he’s been investigating long-term care and home care in Ontario. And he told us that it’s essential to note where exactly this data is coming from.    [NOORSUMAR] The Qindex is a convenient way for the Long-term Care Association to say that for-profits deliver the similar quality of care as the non-profits and municipal homes.   [ARSHY] The index was created by the University of Toronto in partnership with the association that mostly represents the for-profit homes.   [NOORSUMAR] So, the metrics are not the best way to assess quality in long-term care. But if you, you know, examine where the research comes from, it comes from the association… which if you look at the board of directors, is all these big corporations on the board of directors. So, it’s–it’s really problematic. And it just so happens that Wendy Gilmour, Revera’s senior vice-president of long-term care, is on the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s board of directors. In that same five-page news release, Revera also said that they didn’t know about asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. And that’s true. Health officials were very much focused on people with symptoms. So even when employees tested positive for COVID-19, Revera admits that they did ask them, in some circumstances, to come into work.    [PALING] And the company defended that by saying, you know, they didn’t realize that COVID could spread if people didn’t have symptoms. And so they thought it would be safe.   [ARSHY] But at another Revera residence, Carling View Manor in Ottawa, Emma Paling says that something else happened.    [PALING] And what I heard from the employee at Carling View Manor was that they were taking temperatures of all the staff coming in and out at the beginning and end of their shift. And the first person who had a fever was asked to go home. But none of the people that he worked with, none of the residents that he had cared for that day, were isolated. They were still sharing dining rooms, sharing bathrooms, moving around the building.   [ARSHY] From the very beginning, health officials were clear that anyone who came into contact with someone with symptoms needed to go into isolation.   [PALING] There’s very specific steps that you are supposed to be taking if you had it. And yet Revera was letting asymptomatic employees, who tested positive, care for residents. And they were also letting people who had contact with symptomatic cases move around.   [ARSHY] Emma Paling says that Revera has not denied any of the allegations that she and Harris reported.  Revera also says in their statement that, because they’re a large chain, they had access to PPE throughout the pandemic. But employees say that they weren’t provided with proper protection.    [HARRIS] The source also raised some concerns that I think we’ve been seeing a lot in the news from other homes and other health care institutions as well: concerns about a lack of PPE. They said now they have enough, but, uh, that was more of an issue. And they found that when they would ask managers about it, they weren’t, uh, really given kind of a clear answer.   [ARSHY] I think this news release, and their public relations efforts during this pandemic, are indicative. Their evidence that for-profit homes believe that their very business model is under attack now, and they have an obligation to their shareholders to fight back And Revera is a particularly interesting case. It has deep political connections, like many of the other for-profit long-term care and retirement companies.    [PALING] Their Chief Elder Officer for Revera is Hazel McCallion, the famous “Hurricane Hazel,” former mayor of Mississauga, who is a good friend of Premier Doug Ford. And their Chair Emeritus of their board is Bill Davis, a former conservative premier of Ontario.   [ARSHY] But by far, their most interesting political connection is who owns them. Revera isn’t a publicly traded company. It’s entirely privately owned by the Canadian federal government.  The Public Sector Pension Fund, which manages the pensions for federal employees, the RCMP and the Canadian forces, bought Revera outright in 2006.   [PALING] I think that makes it even more interesting to see how the politicians respond and handle this. Especially because all the federal public servants are getting their pensions paid out by this company’s profits.   [ARSHY] The PSP Investment Board is managed at arm’s length from the federal government, but its members are appointed by the cabinet. And because this technically makes Revera a private company, we don’t have access to their financials.  But according to a recent Toronto Star investigation, we know that three of Revera’s competitors: Chartwell, Sienna and Extendicare, collectively paid out over $1.5 billion dollars in dividends to their shareholders over the last decade. So it’s reasonable to assume Revera had paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to federal pensions over the last 12 years. Of course, not all of that, by any means, was from long-term care. These companies have other businesses. But they made a lot of money for their shareholders over the years, including the federal government. And that was during a time when the long-term care crisis in Ontario and across Canada was getting worse. When investigations and inquiries were consistently calling for more staffing, for more investment.  What doesn’t show up on these balance sheets is the human cost of all this. What happens when we try to make caring for vulnerable people as efficient as possible so that we can eke out an extra few percentage points of profit.  I’ve been looking through the filings of the Public Service Pension fund, and in every annual report, there’s a section that talks about the percentage of their holdings that are real estate and, under that, you get a few mentions of Revera. And the thing that I’ve been feeling is that, in those reports, everything is so abstract. It’s so distanced from the reality on the ground. For the people who set up the framework for everything a company like Revera does, Tracy and Shirley don’t really figure into things. They’re a data point within a data point within a data point. But for Tracy and Shirley, nothing could be more important. Tracy called Shirley every Mother’s Day.    [ROWLEY] And then this Mother’s Day, it was… I couldn’t call her, I couldn’t come over and hug her. I couldn’t do any of that. It consisted of sitting at a cemetery and putting some flowers, and still putting a Mother’s Day card down there. But I didn’t get that hug. I didn’t get that personal contact. And I hadn’t for months from her. And I know how much she wanted that, because every call that we talked to before she passed was how much she missed me, and when was this gonna be over, so she could see me again?   I kept telling her that if I won the lottery, I was going to buy a big house and, um, I was gonna make sure she was with me all the time. The emotion and the feeling was, “I wish… I never I never put her there. I wish I found space somewhere for her. I wish that I could have taken better care of her, even if that meant changing her dressings or hiring someone or doing something,” because at least if she did pass on my care, she knew I loved her and she knew I took such good care of her. She… She wouldn’t have taken that last breath by herself. So I just wish I never… I never put her there.   OUTRO [ARSHY] The lawsuit that Tracy is involved in the largest COVID-19-related class action so far.   [PALING] It’s now one hundred million dollars in damages. And there were originally two representative plaintiffs who had both lost mothers. There are now six representative plaintiffs who have all lost a family member at a Revera home. Revera says that they’re currently reviewing the suit and will eventually respond. But that, right now, their focus is to prevent further illness and the loss of life.    [ARSHY] Tracy says that for her, it’s not about the money.   [ROWLEY] I want to be a voice for my mother, and I don’t want her to be a COVID status. I don’t want her to be a number. I want people to understand she was actually a person. She was a loving, caring person that was taken too soon, that wasn’t ready to go. At least I wasn’t ready for her to go.   [ARSHY] And she thinks that a lawsuit might be one of the only ways to change things.    [ROWLEY] So they’re forced to have something in place, if this happens for the second wave, that, you know, they’re not losing 50 people again. So families aren’t going through the death of their loved one, not being able to see them, not knowing if they’re OK. I don’t want people to go through that. I want seniors to have a voice.   END CREDITS That’s your episode of Commons for the week. If you want to support us, click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com This episode relied on reporting done by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris at HuffPost Canada, Marco Chown Oved, Kenyon Wallace and Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto Star, Geoffrey Stevens at the Waterloo Record and many, many others.  If you want to get in touch with us, you can tweet at us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by me and Jordan Cornish, with production help by Tiffany Lam. Our managing editor is Andréa Schmidt, and our music is by Nathan Burley.  If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND.   I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
October 24, 2017
82
As If They Were Pets: The Sixties Scoop
$5/month for-adree COMMONS by clicking here. Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada. Featured in this episode: Tracy Rowley, Sherina Harris (HuffPost Canada), Emma Paling (HuffPost Canada), Zaid Noorsumar  To learn more: “COVID-19 Has Killed 164 At Revera’s Care Homes. Their Families Want Answers” by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris in HuffPost Canada “Is it Time to Care Yet?” by Zaid Noorsumar in Rank and File “It is time to forget the profits and fix long-term care” by Geoffrey Stevens in The Waterloo Region Record This episode is sponsored by Freshbooks and The Jerry Cans Additional music from Audio Network   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 5 – “SHIRLEY AND TRACY”   [COLD OPEN] [ARSHY MANN] Here’s what you need to understand about Shirley and Tracy: They both lived in Kitchener, one of the many mid-sized cities that dot Southern Ontario, and they met when Tracy started out helping Shirley with errands, like groceries and cleaning.    [TRACY ROWLEY] She was the type of person that she either liked you or she didn’t like you. And for some reason we just clicked from day one. And she was like, “No, you’re my daughter. You’re not my cleaning person, and you’re not this. You’re… You’re my family.”   [ARSHY]  That’s Tracy Rowley. And she says, that’s exactly what happened. She became Shirley Egerdeen’s family. She became her daughter.   [ROWLEY] So my mother and I, as… She called me her adopted mother, or surrogate mother. She never had any husband. She didn’t have children.    [ARSHY]  They saw each other all the time and did the things mothers and daughters do together.   [ROWLEY] We’re both Libras, so our birthdays are three days apart, so we would have Law & Order marathons for our birthday and eat Swiss Chalet. She’s very feisty.   [ARSHY]  But late last year, Shirley’s health took a turn for the worse.   [ROWLEY] So in December of last year, she got a really bad cold and the start of pneumonia. So she was put into our local hospital. And, at that time, she needed to recover a little more to be able to get back to the process of getting out of the bed into her wheelchair again, and she wasn’t strong enough from that. So the hospital said, “The best thing we could do right now is put her in long-term care.”   [ARSHY]  At first, Shirley was placed in a facility in Elmira, a nearby rural community. but she wanted to come back to town.   [ROWLEY] She said, what’s my best way of coming back to Kitchener? I want to be closer to my daughter. And the lady at the hospital said the quickest she’ll get back to Kitchener is to go to Forest Heights because they always have openings. And I never thought twice about it. I really didn’t.   [ARSHY]  It’s a decision Tracy regrets to this day.   [ROWLEY] But I understand now why so many seniors beg their kids, “Please don’t put me in a senior’s home. Please, please don’t.” Because I saw it firsthand, and if I had to do it over again, I would have done something. I would have found the room. I would have done something to make sure that she didn’t have to go there.   [ARSHY]  A month ago, Shirley Egerdeen became one of almost 50 people to die of COVID-19 at Forest Heights. Forest Heights is owned by Revera, one of the biggest for-profit long-term care providers in Canada. Tracy believes that Shirley didn’t have to die in this way. And today she’s one of the many people who have joined a class action against Revera and another for-profit chain.  I’m Arshy Mann and, from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   [PART ONE] [ARSHY]  When Shirley moved to Forest Heights, Tracy visited her constantly. And right away, the trouble began.   [ROWLEY] And I’d visit her every day and we watched TV. We’d still watch her Law & Order and everything else. Her bed was right beside the bathroom, which, you know, it happens. There’s four people in a room. Nobody really talks to each other. There’s a local dining room they could go to. But they didn’t.   [ARSHY]  More disturbingly, Shirley wasn’t bathed.   [ROWLEY] My mom never had a shower the whole time. So she said no, cause maybe she was having a bad day or whatever. They never asked her again or they didn’t come to me.    [ARSHY]  Shirley wasn’t eating well either.   [ROWLEY] And they would bring meals in. And if she was sleeping, they wouldn’t wake her up and then would she’d wake up, her food was cold. So she’d ask for it to be heated up, but they wouldn’t heat it. The potatoes would still feel like there was ice in the middle. So that’s why she wasn’t really eating.   [ARSHY]  Shirley soon became injured from just being there.   [ROWLEY] She also had a bedsore on her butt and or like a pressure sore. It was a very big one. So she was put on a waterbed. And then they said, “Well, you know, she’s not sitting in it right.” So they took her off of it, put her in a regular bed. And within a week, that sore on her bottom had now infected and got worse, that they now had to put the waterbed back in again. So, she went through pain that she didn’t need to.   [ARSHY]  If you’ve been listening to this series, you’ve heard similar stories already. You heard about Wyonne Somers, who died of improper wound care at McKenzie Towne, also a Revera facility, back in 2013. 22 people have died of COVID-19 at McKenzie Towne, making it the facility where more people have died than anywhere else in Alberta. At Forest Heights, where Shirley Egerdeen lived, the death toll is more than double that. In fact, over 160 people have died of COVID-19 in Revera homes since the pandemic began.  So what is Revera?   [SHERINA HARRIS] Revera is a privately owned long-term care home company. They are officially called Revera Inc. They also operate retirement homes.   [ARSHY]  That’s Sherina Harris, a reporter for HuffPost Canada.   [EMMA PALING] I believe there is about one hundred of their homes just in Ontario and dozens more in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.   [ARSHY]  And that’s Emma Paling, also a reporter for HuffPost Canada. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been digging into Revera’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including what happened to Shirley Egerdeen.   [PALING] Shirley lived in a ward, which meant that she shared a room with three other people and she shared a bathroom with those people. She was the first one in her room to test positive for COVID-19, and the staff at the home told Tracy that she wouldn’t be moved.    [ROWLEY] I asked, you know, would she be moved? Will she go to another room? What’s happening for isolation? And he said, “We’ve put a curtain around her.” I said, “There’s three other people in that room. How is that isolated?” And she’s also right beside the bathroom, so there’s always bacteria and germs coming from there from other people. And he said, “Well, you know, that’s what we’re doing. Her curtain’s around her. Within the week, the other people in her room were all infected with COVID-19.   [PALING] And all of the relatives told us similar things, that after their family member had contracted COVID-19, they weren’t really isolated from other people. And even before they contracted it, when there were already outbreaks, the residents were allowed to move around the buildings, continued to share bathrooms. People weren’t really being separated from each other and isolation wasn’t really being enforced. One of the other major concerns that we heard was that the company wasn’t communicating. They didn’t communicate a plan for how they were going to deal with the outbreak. They didn’t communicate how their relatives were going to be cared for or isolated, once they tested positive.   [ROWLEY] Even if you tried to call in during the outbreak, they wouldn’t answer the phone. So you couldn’t get updates. And in my case, it was always, “Well, her stats are good, so if anything changes, we’ll call you.” Some people could do window visits and they could do that. I couldn’t. She was in a wheelchair. For her to get out of bed, it would take people to get her out of bed. And they didn’t have the staff to do that. So I would never have had that opportunity and I would call in, and I would call in, and they wouldn’t answer or it would always be the same thing, “You know, well, her room oxygen’s fine, her temperature is fine and… Okay, I’ve got another call. I got to go.” I had paid for a phone for her to have in her own room. So if she didn’t answer it or that,  for a couple of days, I know obviously she wasn’t feeling well.   [PALING] She had obviously deteriorated since she caught COVID-19. Shirley wasn’t able to talk or answer her, but staff members put a phone on Shirley’s chest, so Tracy could at least kind of talk to her, be there for her. She didn’t realize, of course, that that would be the last time they spoke.    [ROWLEY] I guess I had this “mother” feeling myself in my stomach the night before she passed away. And I called in and asked if there’d be any way they could put a phone close to her so I could talk to her. And they put a phone in a glove and they put it on her chest, but she wasn’t responsive. I could hear her breathing and, um, I just talked to her for an hour. She’d call me “Toots” sometimes, so I’d be like, “Hey, Toots, are you sleeping on me? Am I that boring?” No one trying… Between my tears, to try and say nice things to her, and, um, we hung up about 11:00 that night. And then I got the call at 4:00 a.m. that she had passed. And I asked the lady, was she alone when she passed, and, um, the nurse said, “We went in to change her dressing at four o’clock, and she wasn’t breathing.” And I said, “Did you know how long that was for?” and I just got the same response: “We went in at four o’clock to change her dressing and she wasn’t breathing.” Therefore I don’t know how long she was lying in there, not breathing.    PART TWO [ARSHY]  Since late April, just over a month after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Revera has put out a handful of news releases. That includes an action plan for Forest Heights, the details of a new initiative to procure PPE, and responses to two class-action lawsuits against them: One in Alberta, and the one that Tracy is involved in in Ontario. But, by far, their most comprehensive statement is a five-page long release called “Let’s focus on the real changes needed in the long-term care sector.” And in it, Revera goes to great lengths to rebut the argument that for-profit homes are handling this pandemic worse than non-profit or public homes. We told you in the last episode about how the Toronto Star reported that people in for-profit homes are much more likely to die if there’s an outbreak than in non-profit and public homes. And here’s Revera’s response to that argument: “We are seeing more and more media stories attempting to draw a link between the ownership model for long-term care and the passing of residents from COVID-19. There are many variables and factors that have played a part in why COVID-19 spread in some homes and not others. However, objective data has not shown that ownership is one of them.” In that release, Revera does make some good points. They say that governments were too focused on hospitals early on and ignored long-term care, and that’s true. They say that they don’t get enough funding per resident, and I completely agree. But some of their other claims are disputable. For one, Revera cites something called the “Qindex.” The Qindex was introduced in 2018 and is a metric that is meant to track the overall quality of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes. But there’s a good reason to be skeptical of Qindex.   [ZAID NOORSUMAR] Quindex is an assessment tool created by the Ontario Long-Term Care Association that represents the for-profits.   [ARSHY] That’s Zaid Noorsumar. He’s a freelance journalist who covers labour issues, and for the last year he’s been investigating long-term care and home care in Ontario. And he told us that it’s essential to note where exactly this data is coming from.    [NOORSUMAR] The Qindex is a convenient way for the Long-term Care Association to say that for-profits deliver the similar quality of care as the non-profits and municipal homes.   [ARSHY] The index was created by the University of Toronto in partnership with the association that mostly represents the for-profit homes.   [NOORSUMAR] So, the metrics are not the best way to assess quality in long-term care. But if you, you know, examine where the research comes from, it comes from the association… which if you look at the board of directors, is all these big corporations on the board of directors. So, it’s–it’s really problematic. And it just so happens that Wendy Gilmour, Revera’s senior vice-president of long-term care, is on the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s board of directors. In that same five-page news release, Revera also said that they didn’t know about asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. And that’s true. Health officials were very much focused on people with symptoms. So even when employees tested positive for COVID-19, Revera admits that they did ask them, in some circumstances, to come into work.    [PALING] And the company defended that by saying, you know, they didn’t realize that COVID could spread if people didn’t have symptoms. And so they thought it would be safe.   [ARSHY] But at another Revera residence, Carling View Manor in Ottawa, Emma Paling says that something else happened.    [PALING] And what I heard from the employee at Carling View Manor was that they were taking temperatures of all the staff coming in and out at the beginning and end of their shift. And the first person who had a fever was asked to go home. But none of the people that he worked with, none of the residents that he had cared for that day, were isolated. They were still sharing dining rooms, sharing bathrooms, moving around the building.   [ARSHY] From the very beginning, health officials were clear that anyone who came into contact with someone with symptoms needed to go into isolation.   [PALING] There’s very specific steps that you are supposed to be taking if you had it. And yet Revera was letting asymptomatic employees, who tested positive, care for residents. And they were also letting people who had contact with symptomatic cases move around.   [ARSHY] Emma Paling says that Revera has not denied any of the allegations that she and Harris reported.  Revera also says in their statement that, because they’re a large chain, they had access to PPE throughout the pandemic. But employees say that they weren’t provided with proper protection.    [HARRIS] The source also raised some concerns that I think we’ve been seeing a lot in the news from other homes and other health care institutions as well: concerns about a lack of PPE. They said now they have enough, but, uh, that was more of an issue. And they found that when they would ask managers about it, they weren’t, uh, really given kind of a clear answer.   [ARSHY] I think this news release, and their public relations efforts during this pandemic, are indicative. Their evidence that for-profit homes believe that their very business model is under attack now, and they have an obligation to their shareholders to fight back And Revera is a particularly interesting case. It has deep political connections, like many of the other for-profit long-term care and retirement companies.    [PALING] Their Chief Elder Officer for Revera is Hazel McCallion, the famous “Hurricane Hazel,” former mayor of Mississauga, who is a good friend of Premier Doug Ford. And their Chair Emeritus of their board is Bill Davis, a former conservative premier of Ontario.   [ARSHY] But by far, their most interesting political connection is who owns them. Revera isn’t a publicly traded company. It’s entirely privately owned by the Canadian federal government.  The Public Sector Pension Fund, which manages the pensions for federal employees, the RCMP and the Canadian forces, bought Revera outright in 2006.   [PALING] I think that makes it even more interesting to see how the politicians respond and handle this. Especially because all the federal public servants are getting their pensions paid out by this company’s profits.   [ARSHY] The PSP Investment Board is managed at arm’s length from the federal government, but its members are appointed by the cabinet. And because this technically makes Revera a private company, we don’t have access to their financials.  But according to a recent Toronto Star investigation, we know that three of Revera’s competitors: Chartwell, Sienna and Extendicare, collectively paid out over $1.5 billion dollars in dividends to their shareholders over the last decade. So it’s reasonable to assume Revera had paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to federal pensions over the last 12 years. Of course, not all of that, by any means, was from long-term care. These companies have other businesses. But they made a lot of money for their shareholders over the years, including the federal government. And that was during a time when the long-term care crisis in Ontario and across Canada was getting worse. When investigations and inquiries were consistently calling for more staffing, for more investment.  What doesn’t show up on these balance sheets is the human cost of all this. What happens when we try to make caring for vulnerable people as efficient as possible so that we can eke out an extra few percentage points of profit.  I’ve been looking through the filings of the Public Service Pension fund, and in every annual report, there’s a section that talks about the percentage of their holdings that are real estate and, under that, you get a few mentions of Revera. And the thing that I’ve been feeling is that, in those reports, everything is so abstract. It’s so distanced from the reality on the ground. For the people who set up the framework for everything a company like Revera does, Tracy and Shirley don’t really figure into things. They’re a data point within a data point within a data point. But for Tracy and Shirley, nothing could be more important. Tracy called Shirley every Mother’s Day.    [ROWLEY] And then this Mother’s Day, it was… I couldn’t call her, I couldn’t come over and hug her. I couldn’t do any of that. It consisted of sitting at a cemetery and putting some flowers, and still putting a Mother’s Day card down there. But I didn’t get that hug. I didn’t get that personal contact. And I hadn’t for months from her. And I know how much she wanted that, because every call that we talked to before she passed was how much she missed me, and when was this gonna be over, so she could see me again?   I kept telling her that if I won the lottery, I was going to buy a big house and, um, I was gonna make sure she was with me all the time. The emotion and the feeling was, “I wish… I never I never put her there. I wish I found space somewhere for her. I wish that I could have taken better care of her, even if that meant changing her dressings or hiring someone or doing something,” because at least if she did pass on my care, she knew I loved her and she knew I took such good care of her. She… She wouldn’t have taken that last breath by herself. So I just wish I never… I never put her there.   OUTRO [ARSHY] The lawsuit that Tracy is involved in the largest COVID-19-related class action so far.   [PALING] It’s now one hundred million dollars in damages. And there were originally two representative plaintiffs who had both lost mothers. There are now six representative plaintiffs who have all lost a family member at a Revera home. Revera says that they’re currently reviewing the suit and will eventually respond. But that, right now, their focus is to prevent further illness and the loss of life.    [ARSHY] Tracy says that for her, it’s not about the money.   [ROWLEY] I want to be a voice for my mother, and I don’t want her to be a COVID status. I don’t want her to be a number. I want people to understand she was actually a person. She was a loving, caring person that was taken too soon, that wasn’t ready to go. At least I wasn’t ready for her to go.   [ARSHY] And she thinks that a lawsuit might be one of the only ways to change things.    [ROWLEY] So they’re forced to have something in place, if this happens for the second wave, that, you know, they’re not losing 50 people again. So families aren’t going through the death of their loved one, not being able to see them, not knowing if they’re OK. I don’t want people to go through that. I want seniors to have a voice.   END CREDITS That’s your episode of Commons for the week. If you want to support us, click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com This episode relied on reporting done by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris at HuffPost Canada, Marco Chown Oved, Kenyon Wallace and Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto Star, Geoffrey Stevens at the Waterloo Record and many, many others.  If you want to get in touch with us, you can tweet at us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by me and Jordan Cornish, with production help by Tiffany Lam. Our managing editor is Andréa Schmidt, and our music is by Nathan Burley.  If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND.   I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
November 6, 2017
No Protest is Genteel: On Antifa
Live from Vancouver: We speak with organizers Garth Mullins and Annie Ohana to unpack what it means to resist fascism in BC. Featuring Hadiya Roderique and guest host Sandy Garossino.
November 21, 2017
Invisible Victims: How Police Botched the Robert Pickton Case
$5/month for-adree COMMONS by clicking here. Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada. Featured in this episode: Tracy Rowley, Sherina Harris (HuffPost Canada), Emma Paling (HuffPost Canada), Zaid Noorsumar  To learn more: “COVID-19 Has Killed 164 At Revera’s Care Homes. Their Families Want Answers” by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris in HuffPost Canada “Is it Time to Care Yet?” by Zaid Noorsumar in Rank and File “It is time to forget the profits and fix long-term care” by Geoffrey Stevens in The Waterloo Region Record This episode is sponsored by Freshbooks and The Jerry Cans Additional music from Audio Network   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 5 – “SHIRLEY AND TRACY”   [COLD OPEN] [ARSHY MANN] Here’s what you need to understand about Shirley and Tracy: They both lived in Kitchener, one of the many mid-sized cities that dot Southern Ontario, and they met when Tracy started out helping Shirley with errands, like groceries and cleaning.    [TRACY ROWLEY] She was the type of person that she either liked you or she didn’t like you. And for some reason we just clicked from day one. And she was like, “No, you’re my daughter. You’re not my cleaning person, and you’re not this. You’re… You’re my family.”   [ARSHY]  That’s Tracy Rowley. And she says, that’s exactly what happened. She became Shirley Egerdeen’s family. She became her daughter.   [ROWLEY] So my mother and I, as… She called me her adopted mother, or surrogate mother. She never had any husband. She didn’t have children.    [ARSHY]  They saw each other all the time and did the things mothers and daughters do together.   [ROWLEY] We’re both Libras, so our birthdays are three days apart, so we would have Law & Order marathons for our birthday and eat Swiss Chalet. She’s very feisty.   [ARSHY]  But late last year, Shirley’s health took a turn for the worse.   [ROWLEY] So in December of last year, she got a really bad cold and the start of pneumonia. So she was put into our local hospital. And, at that time, she needed to recover a little more to be able to get back to the process of getting out of the bed into her wheelchair again, and she wasn’t strong enough from that. So the hospital said, “The best thing we could do right now is put her in long-term care.”   [ARSHY]  At first, Shirley was placed in a facility in Elmira, a nearby rural community. but she wanted to come back to town.   [ROWLEY] She said, what’s my best way of coming back to Kitchener? I want to be closer to my daughter. And the lady at the hospital said the quickest she’ll get back to Kitchener is to go to Forest Heights because they always have openings. And I never thought twice about it. I really didn’t.   [ARSHY]  It’s a decision Tracy regrets to this day.   [ROWLEY] But I understand now why so many seniors beg their kids, “Please don’t put me in a senior’s home. Please, please don’t.” Because I saw it firsthand, and if I had to do it over again, I would have done something. I would have found the room. I would have done something to make sure that she didn’t have to go there.   [ARSHY]  A month ago, Shirley Egerdeen became one of almost 50 people to die of COVID-19 at Forest Heights. Forest Heights is owned by Revera, one of the biggest for-profit long-term care providers in Canada. Tracy believes that Shirley didn’t have to die in this way. And today she’s one of the many people who have joined a class action against Revera and another for-profit chain.  I’m Arshy Mann and, from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   [PART ONE] [ARSHY]  When Shirley moved to Forest Heights, Tracy visited her constantly. And right away, the trouble began.   [ROWLEY] And I’d visit her every day and we watched TV. We’d still watch her Law & Order and everything else. Her bed was right beside the bathroom, which, you know, it happens. There’s four people in a room. Nobody really talks to each other. There’s a local dining room they could go to. But they didn’t.   [ARSHY]  More disturbingly, Shirley wasn’t bathed.   [ROWLEY] My mom never had a shower the whole time. So she said no, cause maybe she was having a bad day or whatever. They never asked her again or they didn’t come to me.    [ARSHY]  Shirley wasn’t eating well either.   [ROWLEY] And they would bring meals in. And if she was sleeping, they wouldn’t wake her up and then would she’d wake up, her food was cold. So she’d ask for it to be heated up, but they wouldn’t heat it. The potatoes would still feel like there was ice in the middle. So that’s why she wasn’t really eating.   [ARSHY]  Shirley soon became injured from just being there.   [ROWLEY] She also had a bedsore on her butt and or like a pressure sore. It was a very big one. So she was put on a waterbed. And then they said, “Well, you know, she’s not sitting in it right.” So they took her off of it, put her in a regular bed. And within a week, that sore on her bottom had now infected and got worse, that they now had to put the waterbed back in again. So, she went through pain that she didn’t need to.   [ARSHY]  If you’ve been listening to this series, you’ve heard similar stories already. You heard about Wyonne Somers, who died of improper wound care at McKenzie Towne, also a Revera facility, back in 2013. 22 people have died of COVID-19 at McKenzie Towne, making it the facility where more people have died than anywhere else in Alberta. At Forest Heights, where Shirley Egerdeen lived, the death toll is more than double that. In fact, over 160 people have died of COVID-19 in Revera homes since the pandemic began.  So what is Revera?   [SHERINA HARRIS] Revera is a privately owned long-term care home company. They are officially called Revera Inc. They also operate retirement homes.   [ARSHY]  That’s Sherina Harris, a reporter for HuffPost Canada.   [EMMA PALING] I believe there is about one hundred of their homes just in Ontario and dozens more in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.   [ARSHY]  And that’s Emma Paling, also a reporter for HuffPost Canada. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been digging into Revera’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including what happened to Shirley Egerdeen.   [PALING] Shirley lived in a ward, which meant that she shared a room with three other people and she shared a bathroom with those people. She was the first one in her room to test positive for COVID-19, and the staff at the home told Tracy that she wouldn’t be moved.    [ROWLEY] I asked, you know, would she be moved? Will she go to another room? What’s happening for isolation? And he said, “We’ve put a curtain around her.” I said, “There’s three other people in that room. How is that isolated?” And she’s also right beside the bathroom, so there’s always bacteria and germs coming from there from other people. And he said, “Well, you know, that’s what we’re doing. Her curtain’s around her. Within the week, the other people in her room were all infected with COVID-19.   [PALING] And all of the relatives told us similar things, that after their family member had contracted COVID-19, they weren’t really isolated from other people. And even before they contracted it, when there were already outbreaks, the residents were allowed to move around the buildings, continued to share bathrooms. People weren’t really being separated from each other and isolation wasn’t really being enforced. One of the other major concerns that we heard was that the company wasn’t communicating. They didn’t communicate a plan for how they were going to deal with the outbreak. They didn’t communicate how their relatives were going to be cared for or isolated, once they tested positive.   [ROWLEY] Even if you tried to call in during the outbreak, they wouldn’t answer the phone. So you couldn’t get updates. And in my case, it was always, “Well, her stats are good, so if anything changes, we’ll call you.” Some people could do window visits and they could do that. I couldn’t. She was in a wheelchair. For her to get out of bed, it would take people to get her out of bed. And they didn’t have the staff to do that. So I would never have had that opportunity and I would call in, and I would call in, and they wouldn’t answer or it would always be the same thing, “You know, well, her room oxygen’s fine, her temperature is fine and… Okay, I’ve got another call. I got to go.” I had paid for a phone for her to have in her own room. So if she didn’t answer it or that,  for a couple of days, I know obviously she wasn’t feeling well.   [PALING] She had obviously deteriorated since she caught COVID-19. Shirley wasn’t able to talk or answer her, but staff members put a phone on Shirley’s chest, so Tracy could at least kind of talk to her, be there for her. She didn’t realize, of course, that that would be the last time they spoke.    [ROWLEY] I guess I had this “mother” feeling myself in my stomach the night before she passed away. And I called in and asked if there’d be any way they could put a phone close to her so I could talk to her. And they put a phone in a glove and they put it on her chest, but she wasn’t responsive. I could hear her breathing and, um, I just talked to her for an hour. She’d call me “Toots” sometimes, so I’d be like, “Hey, Toots, are you sleeping on me? Am I that boring?” No one trying… Between my tears, to try and say nice things to her, and, um, we hung up about 11:00 that night. And then I got the call at 4:00 a.m. that she had passed. And I asked the lady, was she alone when she passed, and, um, the nurse said, “We went in to change her dressing at four o’clock, and she wasn’t breathing.” And I said, “Did you know how long that was for?” and I just got the same response: “We went in at four o’clock to change her dressing and she wasn’t breathing.” Therefore I don’t know how long she was lying in there, not breathing.    PART TWO [ARSHY]  Since late April, just over a month after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Revera has put out a handful of news releases. That includes an action plan for Forest Heights, the details of a new initiative to procure PPE, and responses to two class-action lawsuits against them: One in Alberta, and the one that Tracy is involved in in Ontario. But, by far, their most comprehensive statement is a five-page long release called “Let’s focus on the real changes needed in the long-term care sector.” And in it, Revera goes to great lengths to rebut the argument that for-profit homes are handling this pandemic worse than non-profit or public homes. We told you in the last episode about how the Toronto Star reported that people in for-profit homes are much more likely to die if there’s an outbreak than in non-profit and public homes. And here’s Revera’s response to that argument: “We are seeing more and more media stories attempting to draw a link between the ownership model for long-term care and the passing of residents from COVID-19. There are many variables and factors that have played a part in why COVID-19 spread in some homes and not others. However, objective data has not shown that ownership is one of them.” In that release, Revera does make some good points. They say that governments were too focused on hospitals early on and ignored long-term care, and that’s true. They say that they don’t get enough funding per resident, and I completely agree. But some of their other claims are disputable. For one, Revera cites something called the “Qindex.” The Qindex was introduced in 2018 and is a metric that is meant to track the overall quality of care in Ontario’s long-term care homes. But there’s a good reason to be skeptical of Qindex.   [ZAID NOORSUMAR] Quindex is an assessment tool created by the Ontario Long-Term Care Association that represents the for-profits.   [ARSHY] That’s Zaid Noorsumar. He’s a freelance journalist who covers labour issues, and for the last year he’s been investigating long-term care and home care in Ontario. And he told us that it’s essential to note where exactly this data is coming from.    [NOORSUMAR] The Qindex is a convenient way for the Long-term Care Association to say that for-profits deliver the similar quality of care as the non-profits and municipal homes.   [ARSHY] The index was created by the University of Toronto in partnership with the association that mostly represents the for-profit homes.   [NOORSUMAR] So, the metrics are not the best way to assess quality in long-term care. But if you, you know, examine where the research comes from, it comes from the association… which if you look at the board of directors, is all these big corporations on the board of directors. So, it’s–it’s really problematic. And it just so happens that Wendy Gilmour, Revera’s senior vice-president of long-term care, is on the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s board of directors. In that same five-page news release, Revera also said that they didn’t know about asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. And that’s true. Health officials were very much focused on people with symptoms. So even when employees tested positive for COVID-19, Revera admits that they did ask them, in some circumstances, to come into work.    [PALING] And the company defended that by saying, you know, they didn’t realize that COVID could spread if people didn’t have symptoms. And so they thought it would be safe.   [ARSHY] But at another Revera residence, Carling View Manor in Ottawa, Emma Paling says that something else happened.    [PALING] And what I heard from the employee at Carling View Manor was that they were taking temperatures of all the staff coming in and out at the beginning and end of their shift. And the first person who had a fever was asked to go home. But none of the people that he worked with, none of the residents that he had cared for that day, were isolated. They were still sharing dining rooms, sharing bathrooms, moving around the building.   [ARSHY] From the very beginning, health officials were clear that anyone who came into contact with someone with symptoms needed to go into isolation.   [PALING] There’s very specific steps that you are supposed to be taking if you had it. And yet Revera was letting asymptomatic employees, who tested positive, care for residents. And they were also letting people who had contact with symptomatic cases move around.   [ARSHY] Emma Paling says that Revera has not denied any of the allegations that she and Harris reported.  Revera also says in their statement that, because they’re a large chain, they had access to PPE throughout the pandemic. But employees say that they weren’t provided with proper protection.    [HARRIS] The source also raised some concerns that I think we’ve been seeing a lot in the news from other homes and other health care institutions as well: concerns about a lack of PPE. They said now they have enough, but, uh, that was more of an issue. And they found that when they would ask managers about it, they weren’t, uh, really given kind of a clear answer.   [ARSHY] I think this news release, and their public relations efforts during this pandemic, are indicative. Their evidence that for-profit homes believe that their very business model is under attack now, and they have an obligation to their shareholders to fight back And Revera is a particularly interesting case. It has deep political connections, like many of the other for-profit long-term care and retirement companies.    [PALING] Their Chief Elder Officer for Revera is Hazel McCallion, the famous “Hurricane Hazel,” former mayor of Mississauga, who is a good friend of Premier Doug Ford. And their Chair Emeritus of their board is Bill Davis, a former conservative premier of Ontario.   [ARSHY] But by far, their most interesting political connection is who owns them. Revera isn’t a publicly traded company. It’s entirely privately owned by the Canadian federal government.  The Public Sector Pension Fund, which manages the pensions for federal employees, the RCMP and the Canadian forces, bought Revera outright in 2006.   [PALING] I think that makes it even more interesting to see how the politicians respond and handle this. Especially because all the federal public servants are getting their pensions paid out by this company’s profits.   [ARSHY] The PSP Investment Board is managed at arm’s length from the federal government, but its members are appointed by the cabinet. And because this technically makes Revera a private company, we don’t have access to their financials.  But according to a recent Toronto Star investigation, we know that three of Revera’s competitors: Chartwell, Sienna and Extendicare, collectively paid out over $1.5 billion dollars in dividends to their shareholders over the last decade. So it’s reasonable to assume Revera had paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to federal pensions over the last 12 years. Of course, not all of that, by any means, was from long-term care. These companies have other businesses. But they made a lot of money for their shareholders over the years, including the federal government. And that was during a time when the long-term care crisis in Ontario and across Canada was getting worse. When investigations and inquiries were consistently calling for more staffing, for more investment.  What doesn’t show up on these balance sheets is the human cost of all this. What happens when we try to make caring for vulnerable people as efficient as possible so that we can eke out an extra few percentage points of profit.  I’ve been looking through the filings of the Public Service Pension fund, and in every annual report, there’s a section that talks about the percentage of their holdings that are real estate and, under that, you get a few mentions of Revera. And the thing that I’ve been feeling is that, in those reports, everything is so abstract. It’s so distanced from the reality on the ground. For the people who set up the framework for everything a company like Revera does, Tracy and Shirley don’t really figure into things. They’re a data point within a data point within a data point. But for Tracy and Shirley, nothing could be more important. Tracy called Shirley every Mother’s Day.    [ROWLEY] And then this Mother’s Day, it was… I couldn’t call her, I couldn’t come over and hug her. I couldn’t do any of that. It consisted of sitting at a cemetery and putting some flowers, and still putting a Mother’s Day card down there. But I didn’t get that hug. I didn’t get that personal contact. And I hadn’t for months from her. And I know how much she wanted that, because every call that we talked to before she passed was how much she missed me, and when was this gonna be over, so she could see me again?   I kept telling her that if I won the lottery, I was going to buy a big house and, um, I was gonna make sure she was with me all the time. The emotion and the feeling was, “I wish… I never I never put her there. I wish I found space somewhere for her. I wish that I could have taken better care of her, even if that meant changing her dressings or hiring someone or doing something,” because at least if she did pass on my care, she knew I loved her and she knew I took such good care of her. She… She wouldn’t have taken that last breath by herself. So I just wish I never… I never put her there.   OUTRO [ARSHY] The lawsuit that Tracy is involved in the largest COVID-19-related class action so far.   [PALING] It’s now one hundred million dollars in damages. And there were originally two representative plaintiffs who had both lost mothers. There are now six representative plaintiffs who have all lost a family member at a Revera home. Revera says that they’re currently reviewing the suit and will eventually respond. But that, right now, their focus is to prevent further illness and the loss of life.    [ARSHY] Tracy says that for her, it’s not about the money.   [ROWLEY] I want to be a voice for my mother, and I don’t want her to be a COVID status. I don’t want her to be a number. I want people to understand she was actually a person. She was a loving, caring person that was taken too soon, that wasn’t ready to go. At least I wasn’t ready for her to go.   [ARSHY] And she thinks that a lawsuit might be one of the only ways to change things.    [ROWLEY] So they’re forced to have something in place, if this happens for the second wave, that, you know, they’re not losing 50 people again. So families aren’t going through the death of their loved one, not being able to see them, not knowing if they’re OK. I don’t want people to go through that. I want seniors to have a voice.   END CREDITS That’s your episode of Commons for the week. If you want to support us, click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com This episode relied on reporting done by Emma Paling and Sherina Harris at HuffPost Canada, Marco Chown Oved, Kenyon Wallace and Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto Star, Geoffrey Stevens at the Waterloo Record and many, many others.  If you want to get in touch with us, you can tweet at us at @COMMONSpod. You can also email me, arshy@canadalandshow.com. This episode was produced by me and Jordan Cornish, with production help by Tiffany Lam. Our managing editor is Andréa Schmidt, and our music is by Nathan Burley.  If you like what we do, please help us make this show. You can support us and get ad-free podcasts by going to patreon.com/CANADALAND.   I think you should be getting our newsletterGet a weekly note about our top stories.This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.johnsmith@example.comSign UpForm is being submitted, please wait a bit.Please fill out all required fields.
December 5, 2017
Invisible Victims: The Quest for Police Accountability
"It was bad enough that I had lost my daughter. But the interaction with the police was even worse." A miniseries on policing.
December 19, 2017
Throwing Shade at 2017: A Political Awards Show
We look back on some notably weird political moments of 2017 and collectively cringe.
January 8, 2018
Unknown Road: Inside Immigration Detention
Each year, thousands of people are indefinitely jailed in prisons without any criminal charges. Babou was one of them.  
January 22, 2018
Our Mis(education): the Erasure of Blackness in Canadian Schools
"Only a few decades after slavery was abolished, you already had, in textbooks in Ontario, the removal of references of history of slavery in Canada, but still many examples of realities of slavery in the United States. This idea of identifying racism as an American phenomenon is an important part of how Canadian racism articulates itself."
February 12, 2018
Finding A Fix: Our Opioid Overdose Crisis
“I tried to count up the amount of people that I knew who had died from overdose. I got to fifty, and I just had to stop. You get used to it. It’s like it becomes normal.”
February 27, 2018
Unconstitutional Solitude
Part one of a two-part series in which we explore the conditions and consequences of solitary confinement use in Canada.
March 12, 2018
Stories From Solitude
Two stories take us inside solitary confinement cells across Canada.
March 27, 2018
Canadian History X
As a teen, Elisa Hategan joined Canada's most notorious and well-organized white supremacist group, the Heritage Front. What can we learn from the past about how white supremacists operate today? And what do we do about all these Nazis?
April 9, 2018
The All-White Jury In Canada
There's a simple legal mechanism that allows lawyers to whitewash juries. A new bill proposes getting rid of it, but some lawyers are saying that will make things worse. We look back to how we got here.
April 24, 2018
Life In Canada Without Clean Water
Canada has 20 per cent of the world's freshwater and yet some Indigenous communities across the country have not had clean drinking water for decades.
May 7, 2018
What Do Peacekeepers Actually Do?
The Liberal government announced that it would be sending around 200 troops to assist in a UN peacekeeping mission in Mali. But what does "peacekeeping" look like today and what do peacekeepers actually do?
May 22, 2018
Canada Is Not Racist… According To The Stats
If you look at the stats, Canada has a low incidence of hate crimes, but the numbers that we rely on to tell us if we're racist or not are wrong.
June 5, 2018
What The Hell Is A Fairness Letter?
We speak to someone who might not be let into Canada for trying to bring democracy to Syria.
June 19, 2018
CORRUPTION #1 – The Most Crime-Ridden Neighbourhood In Canada
This season, Commons will be focusing on stories at the intersection of money, influence and politics in Canada. In this episode, we take you to what may be Canada’s most criminal neighbourhood — Toronto’s financial district.
October 2, 2018
CORRUPTION #2 – How Vancouver Became a Money Laundering Paradise
For years, people could walk into Vancouver-area casinos with tens of thousands of dollars of suspicious cash and walk out with clean money, no questions asked. That money may be fuelling the city's housing crisis and opiate epidemic.
October 16, 2018
CORRUPTION #3 – The Trouble With Paradise: How Canadians Built The Offshore World
The Panama Papers revealed to the world just how deeply enmeshed tax havens are in the global economy. And for 100 years, Canadian banks, businessmen and politicians have worked to build that offshore system, alongside crooks, fraudsters and corrupt officials.
October 30, 2018
CORRUPTION #4 – Papa Pump and the Small Town Shakedown
In the eleven years that Marolyn Morrison was the mayor of Caledon, Ontario, she faced down deep-pocketed developers, mafia enforcers and corrupt federal officials. When millions of dollars are at stake, things get heated.
November 13, 2018
CORRUPTION #5 – The King of Cabbagetown
For two decades, he's controlled public institutions and bragged about his connections to organized crime. So who exactly is the King of Cabbagetown?
November 27, 2018
CORRUPTION #6 – Charlottetown’s Web
It might be small, but it when it comes to graft, Prince Edward Island plays in the big leagues. Inside PEI’s long, strange attempt to become Canada’s online gambling hub.
December 11, 2018
CORRUPTION #7 – The Only Canadian Imprisoned For Insider Trading
One of Canada's most notorious white-collar criminals speaks about his crimes.
January 8, 2019
CORRUPTION #8 – Hockey’s Hall of Shame
Canada is hockey crazy. But at the heart of the sport is a system of unpaid labour that scars some boys for life. And the teams and leagues are doing whatever it takes to make sure things stay exactly the way they are.
January 22, 2019
CORRUPTION #9 – Victoria’s Secrets
Tens of thousands of dollars in suits, luggage, magazines and mustard. An epic booze heist from the legislature. An undercover legislator exposing corruption. And a wood-splitter that’s transfixed a province.
February 5, 2019
CORRUPTION #10 – The Canadian Company Accused of Using Slaves Today
Canadian companies have committed all kinds of wrongdoing abroad. But this is on a different level. One Vancouver-based company has been accused by the United Nations and Human Rights Watch of using slaves to build a mine with one of the world’s most oppressive governments.
February 19, 2019
Introducing Our New Season: CRUDE
Canada was built on oil.
March 28, 2019
CRUDE #1 – Smell This Town
If you don’t understand oil, you can’t understand Canada. We take you to a place unlike anywhere else in the world, where the booms and busts all began. And find out why just a short distance away, children grow up afraid of the very air they breathe.
April 2, 2019
CRUDE #2 – Bombs, Blood & the Battle of Trickle Creek
A family poisoned in their homes. Bombs going off in the night. Shots fired and inside jobs. The story of Wiebo Ludwig is There Will Be Blood come to life. So was he a man of faith facing down the full might of Big Oil? Or a terrorist with blood on his hands?
April 16, 2019
CRUDE #3 – Let the Bastards Freeze in the Dark
The Alberta oil sands. It’s a cold patch of land (which we once almost nuked into oblivion) that’s become Canada’s economic engine. Governments have fought over it for decades. And now it’s one of the most controversial places on the planet. Will it finally tear our politics apart?
April 30, 2019
CRUDE #4 – Orphan Wells: Citizen Con
What happens when the oil wells run dry? Environmental damage, government bailouts and a scheme that some are comparing to the subprime mortgage crisis. And all of this is just the beginning.
May 14, 2019
CRUDE #5 – A Town, Annihilated
The Lac-Mégantic rail disaster was a calamity like we’ve never seen before. The families of the victims never got justice. But the conditions that made it possible have barely changed. And the next time could be far worse.
May 28, 2019
CRUDE #6 – The Devil in the Deep Blue Sea
An unspeakable tragedy occurs off the coast of Newfoundland. But this isn’t just a story about a nautical disaster. It’s about what happens when a poor province finds immense riches just within reach. And how the promise of oil wealth can twist history around itself.
June 11, 2019
CRUDE #7 – The Billionaire Plot to Destroy Alberta’s Economy is Totally Real!
Has Canada been a casualty of a nefarious campaign by foreign-funded radicals to landlock our country’s energy resources? Is Big Oil the victim of a vast international conspiracy? Naaaah. But there is, of course, another conspiracy afoot.
June 25, 2019
Introducing Wag The Doug
Over the past few weeks, Ontario Premier Doug Ford was booed at the Raptors' victory parade, demoted a bunch of star members of his Cabinet amid sagging poll numbers and lost his Chief of Staff, who got caught up in a nepotism scandal.  Are we witnessing the downfall of a government, or is this just another month in Ontario? 
July 8, 2019
CRUDE #8 – Spies, Lies and Private Eyes
Ever get the feeling someone is watching you? If you’ve been to an environmental protest recently, you might be right. Private intelligence firms, the RCMP and even Canada’s spies have all been caught collecting information on everyday Canadians speaking out against the oil industry.
July 23, 2019
CRUDE #9 – Tar Teck: The Final Frontier
Teck Resources just got approval to build the largest tar sands operation ever. The Frontier mine would have serious and permanent consequences for the local environment, Indigenous peoples and the global climate. So why haven’t you ever heard about it?
August 6, 2019
CRUDE #10 – The Apocalypse is Now
Canoe-borne bandits strike an underwater town. A new generation of wealthy lobstermen is minted. An island disappears. And hellfire engulfs a highway jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive. Just another normal day amidst Canada’s climate catastrophe. 
August 20, 2019
Our New Season: DYNASTIES
Stories about the rich and powerful families who run Canada.
September 11, 2019
DYNASTIES #1 – The Stronachs
Canada is a country ruled by dynasties — political, commercial and criminal. In the first episode of our new series, we bring you the story of an eccentric, billionaire patriarch; his famous, charismatic daughter; a fire-breathing monument the size of the Statue of Liberty; and the battle over one of Canada’s great business empires.
September 17, 2019
DYNASTIES #2 – The Irvings
For almost a century, the Irving family has run New Brunswick like a personal fiefdom. They own the newspapers, the industry, and, according to some, even the government. So how does a single family come to so thoroughly dominate an entire province? And what happens when that family starts to fracture and split apart at the seams?
October 1, 2019
DYNASTIES #3 – The Fords
They call themselves the Canadian Kennedys. And they’re one of the most famous political dynasties to ever exist in this country. But the rise of the Ford family has been marred by violence and self-destruction at almost every turn. The story of the Fords is tragic — for them, for everyone who falls into their orbit, and for the people of Toronto.
October 15, 2019
COMMONS Needs Your Help
Canada is a big, weird, and complicated place. We want to keep telling you these stories, but we need your help.
October 29, 2019
DYNASTIES #4 – The Rizzutos
The Rizzutos are Canada’s first family of crime. For decades, they dominated Montreal’s underworld with an iron fist. With the help of corrupt politicians and police officers, the Rizzutos built one of the most fearsome and lucrative criminal enterprises this country has ever seen. Their reign was long and bloody. But their fall was even more gruesome.
November 12, 2019
DYNASTIES #5 – The Sahotas
The Sahotas are Vancouver’s most notorious slumlords. For decades they’ve let their buildings rot, leaving their tenants to live in filth and desolation. But the Sahotas are not like any other dynasty you’ve ever heard of. Their story is far stranger, and far darker, than anything you can imagine.
November 27, 2019
DYNASTIES #6 – The Desmarais
The Desmarais family is by far the most influential Canadian dynasty of the last half-century. But if you don’t live in Quebec, chances are you haven’t even heard of them. Paul Desmarais had Prime Ministers and Premiers in his pocket and billions of dollars at his disposal. He wasn’t just a Laurentian elite; he was the Laurentian emperor.
December 11, 2019
DYNASTIES #7 – The Olands
For 150 years, the Olands have been one of Canada’s most prominent brewing dynasties, the makers of Moosehead Beer. But in the last decade, they’ve made the news for much darker reasons. Richard Oland was murdered in 2011. And police and prosecutors believe that he was killed by his only son.
January 8, 2020
DYNASTIES #8 – The Regans
Gerald Regan was the premier of Nova Scotia, the founder of a powerful political dynasty, and one of the most prolific sexual predators in Canadian political history. Even after his death last November, few in the establishment are willing to recognize, let alone reckon with, his crimes.
January 22, 2020
DYNASTIES #9 – The Harts
The Harts are Canada’s first family of professional wrestling and one of the most famous dynasties the country has ever produced. And sure, wrestling is scripted. But what happens when reality begins to invade that fiction? The story of the Harts is one of triumph and tragedy that transcends the world of pro wrestling.
February 5, 2020
Introducing: Cool Mules
A new investigative series about the cocaine smuggling ring inside Vice Media.
March 1, 2020
Our New Season: RADICALS
Our new season is about the people who go to extreme lengths for what they believe in.
March 12, 2020
RADICALS #1 – Nazi Island in the Sun
It’s one of the most audacious plots in North American history. Turn a Caribbean island nation into a criminal state — then use the money to fund Neo-Nazis and Klansmen across Canada, the US and Europe. The scariest part? They almost pulled it off.
March 18, 2020
RADICALS #2 – They Buried Her Heart at Wounded Knee
There have been books and songs and plays written about Anna Mae Aquash. But she was no folk hero — she was flesh and blood. A young Mi'kmaq woman who took up arms against the United States government, Anna Mae was a revolutionary. But when she was found murdered in the South Dakotan countryside, it tore her movement apart. It took thirty years to find out who pulled the trigger. But that’s not the same thing as knowing who’s responsible for her murder.
April 1, 2020
RADICALS #3 – The Last Pandemic
It began as a mysterious disease from a far off place. It turned into the deadliest plague humanity has faced since the Black Death. AIDS has ravaged and reshaped us in so many ways. But in Canada, the battle against AIDS wasn’t just a fight against a virus. It was a fight against a system that didn’t care if some people lived or died.
April 15, 2020
An emergency season: PANDEMIC
A new season of COMMONS
April 27, 2020
PANDEMIC #1 – 33 Dead in Dorval
They were found abandoned in the facility. The conditions were described as “akin to a concentration camp.” Within two weeks, over thirty of them would be dead. The story of the Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec is a national shame. And a preview of the carnage still to come.
April 29, 2020
PANDEMIC #2 – When the Plague Came
Why did Commons drop everything and focus in on long-term care? Because the vast majority of deaths are happening in those homes. Because we should have known that was going to be the case, but we let it happen anyways. And because the level of suffering, isolation and trauma happening in long-term care today is almost too much for us to face up to.
May 2, 2020
PANDEMIC #3 – McKenzie Towne
The McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre has experienced the deadliest COVID-19 outbreak in Alberta. But some people say that their loved ones were killed by neglect at McKenzie Towne long before the pandemic even began.
May 6, 2020
PANDEMIC #4 – Ontario Reaps its Dividends
Over 1700 Ontarians have already been killed by COVID-19. And the vast majority of them died in long-term care. But if you live in a private, for-profit home, you’re much more likely to die from this virus. The for-profit long-term care industry is politically powerful and deeply entrenched. Is this their moment of reckoning?
May 13, 2020
PANDEMIC #5 – Shirley and Tracy
Tracy Rowley lost her surrogate mother to COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. But she’s determined that Shirley Egerdeen doesn’t become just another statistic. Tracy’s suing the company that runs the home. But one of the strangest things in this story is exactly who owns them.
May 20, 2020
PANDEMIC #6 – Northwood
Over the last two months, Nova Scotians have endured tragedy upon tragedy. The worst mass murder in modern Canadian history. A helicopter crash and the death of a Snowbirds’ pilot. And all the while, COVID-19 ravaged the biggest long-term care home in Atlantic Canada.
May 27, 2020
PANDEMIC #7 – The Frontline
Long-term care workers are in the vanguard in the war against COVID-19. They’re not the kinds of workers who get movies or TV shows made about them. In fact, their stories are rarely told. But not only are they battling heroically against this pandemic. They’re fighting for recognition and respect within a system built to marginalize them.
June 3, 2020
BONUS: The Honest Fakery of Wrestling
Wrestling is very real and Stampede Wrestling helped build World Wrestling Entertainment. Damian Abraham, host and creator of The Wrestlers, explains in this week's bonus COMMONS episode.
June 10, 2020
PANDEMIC #8 – Hunger Strike
Innis Ingram’s mother is his hero. But today, she’s living in one of the worst hit long-term care homes in Ontario. She has a terminal illness. Dozens and dozens of people around her have died, including her friend and roommate. And she’s had minimal human contact for three months. But even though he can’t be there with her, Innis is determined to get her the care she needs.
June 17, 2020
PANDEMIC #9 – Mend the World
After a stroke left him locked in his own body, Rabbi Ronnie Cahana has found ways to lead an incredibly full life. Then the pandemic came. It swept through Quebec, leaving a trail of devastation. Today, Rabbi Cahana is one of the thousands of Quebeckers left stranded in the middle of one of the worst disasters in modern Canadian history.
June 24, 2020
PANDEMIC #10 – Burn It Down
Jonathan Marchand is one of the thousands of young disabled people living in long-term care. But Marchand doesn’t want to fix the system. He doesn’t think it can be reformed. Marchand is an abolitionist. For a century and a half, Canada has hidden away disabled people in institutions where they were neglected and abused. Is long-term care just the latest incarnation of this dark history?
July 8, 2020
PANDEMIC #11 – It Didn’t Have To Be Like This
Four months after the first outbreak in a Canadian nursing home, over 7000 long-term residents have died of COVID-19. But if you look at the news or social media or our political debates, it seems like we’ve already moved on. Maybe that’s because it feels like this kind of tragedy was inevitable during a pandemic. It wasn’t. And we know that because in some places in Canada, politicians and public health officials made decisions that saved hundreds, if not thousands of lives.
July 22, 2020
PANDEMIC #12 – The Most Dangerous Story
In the final episode in our series about the COVID-19 pandemic and the crisis in long-term care, we’re going to tell you a different kind of story. A story of hope. About how the people we treat as disposable, can have lives of joy and dignity. And about one place where they were given exactly that.
August 5, 2020
Introducing our new season…
Stories about the power the police wield in Canada, and about the lengths they’re willing to go to hold on to it.
October 7, 2020
THE POLICE #1 – Julian Fantino
Julian Fantino may be the most famous cop in Canadian history, but during his rise, people critical of the police had a way of finding themselves in the crosshairs.
October 14, 2020
We Need Your Support
We want to keep doing this work. So this week we’re reflecting on the year behind us and talking about our goals for the future.
October 20, 2020
THE POLICE #2 – The Secret History of the RCMP
The RCMP is one of the most famous police forces in the world — the red serge and stetson hat are practically synonymous with Canada. But that image obscures the profound power the Mounties have held throughout Canadian history. And the dark legacy of ethnic cleansing and genocide at their core.
October 28, 2020
THE POLICE #3 – Dirty Tricks
He called himself the General. And he was at the heart of the RCMP's biggest scandal.
November 11, 2020
THE POLICE #4 – Starlight Tours
Thirty years later, we know some of what happened to Neil Stonechild. But we still don’t have justice. 
November 25, 2020
THE POLICE #5 – Toronto’s Finest
A Toronto police officer shoots and kills two Black men and is accused of beating another, all within a five-year span. He’s never found guilty of committing a crime. And he continues to rise through the ranks.   
December 9, 2020
THE POLICE #6 – Who Killed Myles Gray?
Myles Gray was an unarmed man who died after seven Vancouver police officers beat him mercilessly. Half a decade after he died, not only does his family not have justice, they don’t even know the names of the people who killed him.
December 23, 2020
THE POLICE #7 – The G20: Conspiracy
In the first of a two-part series on the G20, two mysterious strangers start volunteering with activist networks in southern Ontario. It’s all part of one of the biggest undercover police operations in Canadian history
January 13, 2021
THE POLICE #8 – The G20: Fortress Toronto
When John and Susan Pruyn came to Toronto, they were hoping to protest against the G20 and then spend some time with their daughter. Instead, they would be caught up in a whirlwind of police misconduct with few precedents in Canadian history.
January 27, 2021
THE POLICE #9 – Northern Patrol
For three decades, much of Northern Ontario has been engaged in an unprecedented experiment in policing. It’s called the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service. And the idea is simple: the old, colonial cops shouldn’t be policing Indigenous territory. Instead, Indigenous people should police themselves.
February 10, 2021
THE POLICE #10 – Portapique
Almost a year after the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history, Nova Scotians are still in the dark about what exactly happened. A gunman, dressed in an RCMP uniform, driving an RCMP cruiser killed 22 people.
February 24, 2021
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