PANDEMIC #6 - Northwood
COMMONS
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

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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 Snowbirds’ pilot. And all the while, COVID-19 ravaged the biggest long-term care home in Atlantic Canada.

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

 

Featured in this episode: Jennifer Henderson (Halifax Examiner), Janice Keefe

To learn more:

“Nova Scotia’s lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic” by Taryn Grant, Cassidy Chisholm, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke in CBC Nova Scotia

“The Northwood board has been expressing “grave concern” about double occupancy rooms for years” by Jennifer Henderson in the Halifax Examiner

“Strang, union clash over COVID-19 concerns at Northwood” by John McPhee in The Chronicle Herald

 

This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar 

Additional music from Audio Network

I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor” by Chris Zabriskie, adapted.

 

TRANSCRIPT:

 

EPISODE 6 – “NORTHWOOD”

 

COLD OPEN

[ARSHY MANN] 

One of the most difficult things about the last two months is that people can’t mourn collectively. If someone is dying of COVID-19, the whole family can’t gather around their bed and be with them. Funerals have been curtailed. Memorials are taking place mostly online. And when something truly awful happens, the kind of event that cuts right to the heart of a whole community, there’s little we can do.

Nova Scotians have been experiencing that reality over and over again in the last two months. Like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia locked itself down on March 22 to stop the growth of coronavirus infections.

 

[JENNIFER HENDERSON]

You start to think, “Can the news get any worse?”

 

[ARSHY] 

That’s Jennifer Henderson, a freelance journalist who’s been covering the pandemic for the Halifax Examiner. 

 

[HENDERSON]

You know, you’re in the midst of a pandemic and there are people dying every day at one nursing home in your backyard, and people are worried, you know, about going to work. And then we have this mass shooting that you couldn’t even imagine in a very quiet, rural part of the province.

 

[NEWS CLIP 1, MALE]

Nova Scotians this morning are in a state of shock as this quiet province comes to grips with the fact that it now owns the grim title of the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history.

 

[HENDERSON]

You know, you see the “Nova Scotia Strong” everywhere. And, you know, sometimes I have to think, “Is that about the pandemic or is that about the mass murder?” We’ve been through a great deal in the last eight weeks.

 

[ARSHY] 

The tragedies in Nova Scotia have just been piling up, one on top of the other. People haven’t even been given the chance to come to terms with one of them, before another hits. But they’ve been trying to find a way through. Tributes poured out online. People shared videos, made signs, wrote songs. 

Abbigail Cowbrough was one of those people. Standing on the deck of the HMCS Fredericton, she played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Her performance was part of a video put together by the Nova Scotia Pipers’ Tribute to honour the victims of the shooting. 

Five days later, on April 29th, Abbigail died. She and five Canadian Armed forces members were killed in a helicopter crash near Greece. Three of the victims, including Abigail, called Nova Scotia home. The province once again mourned.  

On May 3rd, the Snowbirds launched Operation: Inspiration, a cross-country tour meant to boost morale amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They started off in Nova Scotia, first flying over Halifax to honour Abbigail and five others killed in the helicopter crash. And then they did it again, this time over Portapique. 

 

[NEWS CLIP 2, FEMALE]

A much-needed moral boost on this sunny Sunday. The fames aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, launched a coast-to-coast tour in our region today, something especially appreciated after two devastating tragedies.

 

[ARSHY] 

Flying with them that day was Capt. Jenn Casey. Casey died on May 17th when a Snowbird jet crashed in Kamloops, B.C. And again, the province did their best to honour her life. 

 

[NEWS CLIP 3, MALE]

The body of Captain Jennifer Casey returned to Halifax, the city where her life began. Important for the people of Halifax, hundreds of whom lined the streets as the motorcade passed by the places that were significant to Casey. The home where she grew up, and the radio station where she worked before joining the armed forces. 

 

[ARSHY] 

The province’s grief has been undercut by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mourning has to be governed by strict rules for the public’s own protection. A community can come together in some ways, but only so far. 

And while these shocking tragedies transpired, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept pace. It’s doesn’t feel as sudden as the others. Instead, it’s been unfolding relentlessly over months, taking the lives of 59 Nova Scotians. 

Today Nova Scotia is the third-hardest hit province per capita. There have been around a dozen outbreaks at Nova Scotia long-term care homes. But almost all of those deaths, 51 people out of those 59 have taken place at a single facility: The Northwood Centre in Halifax.

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

 

PART ONE

[NEWS CLIP 4, MALE]

Our coverage begins tonight in Nova Scotia, where the province has recorded the Maritimes’ first death related to the virus.

 

[NEWS CLIP 5, MALE]

Yesterday, we announced, uh, three residents at Northwood, uh, who had died of COVID-19. We unfortunately have to announce, uh, two more. 

 

[NEWS CLIP 6, FEMALE]

The individual who passed away was a resident at Northwood, and marks the tenth death in the province, and sixth at that facility.

 

[NEWS CLIP 7, MALE]

Today I’m sad to say that we’ve lost two more of our seniors at Northwood. 

 

[NEWS CLIP 8, FEMALE]

Thirty-five people at the facility have now died of COVID.

 

[NEWS CLIP 9, MALE]

Unfortunately, we have to report three additional deaths at Northwood. We now have 51 Nova Scotians who have died of COVID-19.

 

[NEWS CLIP 10, MALE]

Today, we mourn another loss of an individual at Northwood. We now have 56 Nova Scotians who have died.

 

[ARSHY] 

In some ways, the pandemic in Nova Scotia is playing out in much the same way as the rest of the country. Like the other provinces, the vast majority of deaths are related to long-term care. In Nova Scotia’s case, that number is 95 percent.

But almost all of those people died at Northwood.

 

[HENDERSON]

Northwood is the largest nursing home in Atlantic Canada. It’s really a campus. There are three main buildings. It’s right near the Macdonald Bridge, which crosses Halifax Harbor

 

[ARSHY] 

Northwood is run by a non-profit with a long history in Halifax. Here’s Janet Simm, Northwood’s CEO, speaking in a recent video.

 

[JANET SIMM] 

The organization first began as a social movement in response to the plight of seniors living alone in Halifax, a real community effort to make this organization come together and respond to those unmet needs.

 

[ARSHY] 

In 1962, 285 people gathered at a school in the south end of Halifax to talk about the need for affordable housing for seniors. And, by the end of that meeting, Northwood was founded. Northwood Towers opened up five years later, offering cheap apartments for older Haligonians. Three years after that, they began to build Northwood Manor, which was for seniors who needed some assistance. And then in 1970, they started construction on Northwood Centre, which was a nursing home for people who needed more serious care. 

 

[HENDERSON]

It is a combination of a retirement-living community and a nursing home, as many places are these days.

 

[ARSHY] 

And since then, Northwood has been very well-regarded in Nova Scotia.

 

[HENDERSON]

The place has a terrific reputation in the community because it’s a home. They have a radio station.

 

[BOB MARKS]

Good morning. This is NWBC, your Seniors Community Broadcasting Club, thanks to Northward Care Inc. Your host this morning, Bob Marks with my “Down Memory Lane” program. It’s time to have a little bit of a request in here. So, Bernice of Summerside, and a selection from 1942.

 

[HENDERSON]

They have a radio station, they have a bar. They have a fitness center for people with dementia. It has a well-deserved reputation in the community. This is not a, uh, for-profit commercially run. This is a not-for-profit community board of governors, which did have the top rating from the accreditation agency prior to the pandemic.

 

[ARSHY] 

Henderson says that everyday Nova Scotians haven’t been putting the blame on Northwood. 

 

[HENDERSON]

Imagine, despite the headlines and despite the knowledge that all these people have died, people are still publicly supporting Northwood. As I say, I’m struggling to think of a single negative letter that blamed Northwood. 

 

[ARSHY] 

Part of the reason why people aren’t blaming management is that Northwood has been pretty forthcoming about what’s been happening.

 

[HENDERSON]

Northwood management has been more than transparent with the public. They’ve published a timeline. They’ve done daily information updates. They took worker’s temperatures beginning and end of every shift. So they seem to do all the things they could do. And yet this was still a nightmare.

 

[ARSHY] 

So how is it that a facility that everyone agrees is one of the best ones out there could be the site of so much death? The first thing to understand is that, like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia has serious systemic problems with long-term care.

 

[HENDERSON]

Well, prior to the pandemic, it was well-known that Northwood and every nursing home in Nova Scotia had chronic staff shortages. When people were sick, they simply worked short. This was documented by the expert panel. Numerous reports. It was a given.

 

[ARSHY] 

That expert panel put out its findings in 2019, and the chair of it was Janice Keefe.

 

[JANICE KEEFE]

My name’s Janice Keefe. I’m, uh, director of the Nova Scotia Center on Aging. I’m professor and chair of the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount St. Vincent University.

 

[ARSHY] 

The panel was put together after a number of deaths due to neglect in Nova Scotia’s long-term care homes.

 

[KEEFE] 

The impetus was, uh, bedsores. There were a number of residents in long-term care who actually died because of, uh, inappropriate care around bedsores. 

 

[ARSHY] 

And the broad takeaways would be familiar to anyone who’s been listening to this podcast.

 

[KEEFE] 

What we basically found was that this was a sector that needed resources, that needed immediate attention. There were a lot of issues around staffing.

 

[ARSHY] 

Staff were constantly working short-handed. And the long-term care sector was viewed as a much worse place to work than other parts of the healthcare system. 

 

[KEEFE] 

But for the main part, the staff themselves were really frustrated about not being able to do the best care that they should be doing, because they didn’t have enough time.

 

[ARSHY] 

And as with other provinces, there are massive waitlists, especially because Nova Scotians tend to be older on average than the rest of the country. 

 

[KEEFE] 

When people from Ontario talk about, you know, when the population is going to hit, uh, 20 percent, uh, 65 and over, we’ve been dealing with that for over five years. 

 

[ARSHY] 

And the residents had increasingly complex health problems. Janice Keefe has seen that first-hand over the last thirty years.

 

[KEEFE] 

So the biggest change… I will tell you, the biggest change is the residents. I worked in a municipality in Nova Scotia and the people going to the facilities would drive their cars. They lived in the nursing homes, but they… They went out to visit. They were mobile. They were not at the end of their life. 

 

[ARSHY] 

But these are problems across all long-term care homes. It still doesn’t answer why Northwood, in particular, has experienced such a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.

 

PART TWO

It was March 15 when the first three Nova Scotians tested positive for COVID-19. Only a day later, Northwood barred all visitors to their facilities.

But, as in the rest of Canada, the provincial government and the health authority, they weren’t talking about what would happen if the virus actually got into a long-term care facility.

 

[HENDERSON]

My memory of those briefings with our chief medical officer of health and the premier, which happened daily at the beginning of the pandemic, was that all the focus was on the hospitals.

 

[ARSHY] 

By the end of March, social distancing was put into effect across the province. And it wasn’t until early April that Northwood knew that virus was in the facility.

 

[HENDERSON]

The first staff member to test positive for COVID at Northwood was April 5th. The first three residents followed on April 7th. The virus was brought into the Northwood Center building by workers who were asymptomatic and did not suspect they were ill.

 

[ARSHY] 

The day after an employee tested positive, Northwood mandated that all staff had to wear a mask. That was actually two days before Canada’s chief public health officer recommended the same thing, and a full six days before the provincial government made it mandatory for all long-term care workers.

 

[HENDERSON]

But according to the CEO of Northwood, in hindsight, the horse was already out of the barn, so to speak. Although they were ahead of both the provincial and federal guidelines with respect to wearing masks, it came too late to prevent the spread of infection at Northwood.

 

[ARSHY] 

Over the next five days, more residents and staff members began to test positive. And workers who had previously been told to self-isolate were asked to return to Northwood if they tested negative. That was a mistake.

 

[HENDERSON]

So, we know that in the period where people were becoming infected, that staff who were supposed to be out for 14 days, self isolating, were allowed to return to work because they needed them so desperately, if they tested negative. And then Northwood and the public health officials in Nova Scotia learned that you could test negative one day and positive the next.

 

[ARSHY] 

Northwood had prepared a quarantine area for residents who tested positive. It could fit 20 people. But by April 15, just ten days after the first staff member tested positive, they had to open another area. And the virus continued to spread amongst the workers. 

 

[HENDERSON]

And you can see that because, by April 18th, they had so many staff who either wouldn’t come to work because they were afraid of getting sick, or they were self isolating because they had come in contact by providing direct care to one of these sick residents. They were told to stay home for 14 days.

 

[ARSHY] 

Around 80 long-term care workers were off work, and the staffing levels were down to just 60 percent of what they normally would be. Then came the horrific weekend of April 18th and 19th. That was the same weekend a mass shooter killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia. At Northwood, residents began to die. Five people died of COVID-19 in just two days.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil held an emergency press conference that Sunday.

 

[STEPHEN MCNEIL]

We weren’t scheduled to have a news conference today, but I felt the need to be here to provide you with an update on one of our long-term care facilities, Northwood, that’s dealing with an outbreak of COVID.

I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia. This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history. There are a number of other families who are dealing with their own loss after–after their loved ones died of COVID, five people over the weekend who lived at Northwood. And I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, and my heart goes out to all of you.

 

[ARSHY] 

That weekend, the province really began to act. The Halifax Infirmary COVID-19 unit was redeployed from their hospital to Northwood; additional workers were brought in from the Red Cross, Victorian Order of Nurses and Emergency Health Services; the province set up a hotel as an off-site ward for Northwood residents who recovered for COVID-19… But people kept dying. Six more residents died in three days. And the union representing Nova Scotia’s nurses said that workers who were brought in to help staff Northwood found a total lack of infection controls and not enough PPE. They said it was like “walking into a war zone.”

Here’s NSGEU president Jason MacLean speaking to Global News.

 

[JASON MACLEAN] 

Well, when they got to Northwood, there was no supplies for them. Uh, actually, even yesterday morning, they had… They were down to three gowns. A lot of residents up and walking around, both that are sick and those that are presumed sick. So they’re up and they’re–they’re–they’re trying to use the phone at–at the counter, and they’re touching everything that’s around there.

 

[HENDERSON]

Now, Northwood officials said that these were nurses used to infection control in a hospital setting, and that simply wasn’t appropriate or possible in an old nursing home like Northwood; that, basically, it was apples and oranges.

 

[ARSHY] 

And Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Robert Strang, blasted the union and essentially accused them of lying.

 

[ROBERT STRANG] 

They’re using, frankly, fear, fear mongering and hyperbole in terms of the way they’re describing this situation. When we talk to frontline people who are in Northwood, they… What–what the NSGU is saying is actually inaccurate.

 

[ARSHY] 

Over the next week, another twelve people died at Northwood. And during that time, the Nova Scotian government declined to increase the wages of front-line workers, like other provinces had been doing. Another 16 people died in the first week of May and infections amongst residents and staff continued to inch up.

On May 8th, Nova Scotia finally agreed to give a pay bump to health care workers on the front lines. But it would only be a one-time payment of $2000. Since then, another 18 people have died at Northwood, bringing the total number up to 52 dead in the facility.

It’s clear today that some mistakes were made, both by Northwood and the provincial government. Like long-term care facilities across Canada, workers were a major vector for transmitting the virus. Workers should have been wearing masks the minute we knew the virus was in Nova Scotia. And if they were exposed, they shouldn’t have been allowed to come back to work before the two-week quarantine was up, even if they tested negative. 

Whether or not care workers had adequate PPE, and the facility had proper infection controls, hasn’t been determined yet. The nurses union said it was totally unacceptable, but Northwood and the health authority maintain that it was all up to par. But what’s not in dispute is that one of the biggest factors at play during the Northwood outbreak is the building itself.

 

[HENDERSON]

So there’s general agreement that the reason Northwood was so hard hit by COVID was because the rooms were smaller than in newer nursing homes. And it spread like wildfire.

 

[ARSHY] 

In Northwood Centre, where the most disabled residents lived, the rooms and bathrooms were often shared. 

 

[HENDERSON]

It’s more like… More like a hospital. And the rooms are small, like hospital rooms for that time, and most of them are shared. So they’re double occupancy and there’s room for about one chair for a visitor and one walker. And there’s curtains between those beds. People are not only sharing a bathroom, they’re sharing a tight space. 

But of course, most of our residents have dementia and they don’t respect those boundaries. They’re in each other’s faces and in each other’s stuff and borrowing their false teeth. You know that… That’s what goes on.

 

[ARSHY] 

It’s those lack of single-occupancy rooms that Northwood CEO Janet Simm also places most of the blame on.

 

[HENDERSON]

I asked her at one briefing, you know, “What could have been done in your view to prevent the rapid spread?” And she mentioned the double rooms, getting rid of those, and if employees, in hindsight, had put the masks on sooner.

 

[ARSHY] 

Before the current Liberal government, the last two Nova Scotian premiers did make improvements to long-term care facilities. In the late 2010s, Rodney MacDonald’s Progressive Conservatives opened long-term care beds across the province and even upgraded some older buildings.

And after that, Darrell Dexter’s NDP government had eleven long-term care homes slated for upgrades. But since Stephen McNeil was elected in 2013, only one of those facilities has been replaced. And overall, funding for long-term care has gone down.

 

[HENDERSON]

For the last seven years, there haven’t been any new nursing home beds opened under the current Liberal government.

 

[ARSHY] 

When we talk about long-term care and this pandemic, the numbers can get overwhelming. And the actual people at the centre of this story risk becoming just empty statistics.  But we want to tell you about some of the actual people who died in Northwood, because their lives are important, too. Not just where they died or what killed them, we want to mourn some of them as best we can, especially now as this virus has changed how we can do that.

Paul Sullivan worked as an insurance salesman. But he was the kind of guy whose clients quickly became his friends. He loved to build things, like hockey rinks in his backyard. And he stayed married to his wife Irenaeus for 60 years. He died in Northwood, without his family able to be by his side.

Gerald Jackson’s family had known tragedy before. His father had survived the Halifax Explosion, but it killed 46 of his family members. He was a cook in the navy for two decades, and then spent some time at Sears and then working for a museum. He lived out west in Victoria since the 1970s, but when he developed dementia, his daughters brought him back to Nova Scotia. They were able to speak to him on an iPad one last time on the day he died in Northwood.

Bunny Tanner’s children remember her as a strong and strict mother, in a good way. But she really came into her own as a grandmother. She’d survived a bout with lung cancer in 2019 and she loved her private room in Northwood. But her last days in there were terrifying. She’d call her daughter begging to be able to get out of the facility, to go anywhere else. But she died on May 1st.

COVID-19 took Gena Hemsworth that same day. She was afraid of flying, but loved sports cars. And she worked as a secretary at the Halifax Regional Vocational School for thirty years, where she put her exceptionally fast typing abilities to use. When she was away from home, Gena would call her house so she could talk to her cats. She cared for her partner Neil Mosher through ALS, and she died at Northwood a little over a month after she’d arrived.

Hilda Weber’s husband left her alone with three young children. But she worked multiple jobs to make sure they’d get by. When times were really bad, her children would split a can of soup, while she ate nothing.

Derrick Carvey loved taking drives with his dad and going on boat cruises. And he was a big Michael Jackson fan. And because of his cerebral palsy, the doctors said he wouldn’t live past thirty. But at 37, he was still alive and at Northwood, where his 98-year-old grandmother also lived. They once did a fashion show together. But both of them came down with COVID-19. His grandmother fought off the virus, but Derrick died. His father was in the room with him. He played him Michael Jackson before his son’s breathing stopped. 

Thelma Coward-Ince was the first black naval reservist in Canadian history. She eventually became secretary to the chief of staff to the admiral of the Canadian navy. And she did all of that while raising two kids on her own. One of them, Tony Ince, is today a cabinet minister in the Nova Scotian government. Tony was on his way to visit his mother again when he got the call. She had died just before he could arrive.

And then there’s Evelina Upshaw. She ran a hot lunch program for over three decades in the North End of Halifax. A few years ago, some young people from her neighbourhood made a short documentary about her. They called her a hero. Here she is speaking in that video.

 

[EVELINA UPSHAW]

I said, well, if I can do something to help those mothers, that they can go off to work feeling free, that the children are going to get a hot noon meal, then that was what I wanted to do. So that’s what I did for 33 years.

 

[ARSHY] 

On her last day, one of her daughters, covered in protective equipment, climbed into bed with her. She was able to be there for her mother at the very end. 

 

OUTRO

[ARSHY] 

For the last three years, Northwood has been asking the provincial government for money so that fewer people had to live in double or triple rooms.

 

[HENDERSON]

The board of Governors was well aware of the potential for a flu outbreak or a pandemic because they had petitioned the provincial government three separate years for money to expand. They wanted to build a few stories higher, keep the same number of beds, but create more single rooms. And the… And the reason they asked for this money was because they wanted to prevent infection. The provincial government never said no. But they never said yes. And nothing got done for three years.

 

[ARSHY] 

Premier Stephen McNeil has so far resisted the calls for a public inquiry. Some family members of the people who have died at Northwood are publicly blaming both the facility and the government. But we won’t know exactly who or what is to blame unless there are independent investigations.

For now, Nova Scotians just want the deaths to stop.

 

[HENDERSON]

I’m not sure what people want is to lay blame and finger-point. They want to fix the problem before the next wave of COVID hits. What we’ve seen, mostly, is praise and compassion for Northwood workers. You see that in the obituaries. You see that in terms of letters to the editor. In fact, people honk their horns as they pass by Northwood to support the workers. Donations of food and gifts continue to flow

 

[ARSHY] 

People volunteering to speak with Northwood residents over the phone and keep them company has doubled. The local mosque has been donating meals to workers. Medical students have been signing up to help in the facility. After all the tragedies of the last two months, Nova Scotians are still finding ways to come together.

 

END CREDITS

[ARSHY] 

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 Jennifer Henderson and Tim Bousquet at the Halifax Examiner, Cassidy Chisolm, Taryn Grant, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke at CBC Nova Scotia, John McPhee and Jim Vibert at the Chronicle Herald, Global News and many others. Right now CBC Nova Scotia is putting together profiles of as many of the Northwood residents who have died as they can. I recommend you go give those a read. 

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 additional production 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. Click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com

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Septembre Anderson and Naomi Sayers tell Desmond Cole what they think women's issues are, and what they make of how they're treated in our politics.
October 8, 2015
20
Knock Knock
Desmond Cole follows a Green Party candidate and his volunteers as they door-knock in the riding of Toronto-Danforth.
October 8, 2015
19
Campaign Ads (are for grandmas)
Andray Domise and Desmond Cole talk campaign ads with Jen Gerson and Scott Matthews. Featuring a special guest appearance from Andray’s grandma.
October 8, 2015
23
The Choice for Progressives
Tiffany Gooch explains why she's voting Liberal, and Luke Savage tells us why he's voting NDP. Plus, Desmond and Andray debate the value of voting.
October 14, 2015
24
Episode #24: Live On Election Night
Andray Domise, Desmond Cole and Supriya Dwivedi broadcast 'live and loose' to a packed room at the Monarch Tavern in Toronto. Feat. Jesse Brown in Toronto, Jen Gerson at Harper HQ in Calgary, Drew Brown in Edmonton, Morgan Baskin in Squamish. Warning: there's some profanity in this episode. Check out tweets from the event at #CL42. Special thanks to RAUR for the livestream.
October 20, 2015
25
Canada’s 1st MP of Somali descent
Ahmed Hussen is the first Canadian of Somali descent to get elected to Parliament. He joins Andray and Desmond in studio to talk about diversity in Parliament and Liberal policies on Bill C-51, the refugee crisis and more.
October 27, 2015
26
Losin’ Ain’t Easy
Andray wants to know what a party in the opposition can actually do, so he talks to Ray Martin, the former Leader of the Offiical Opposition for Alberta. He also talks about the future of the Conservative Party with Mark Warner - a candidate who was ousted in 2007 - and Tasha Kheiriddin - a conservative who's been critical of Stephen Harper.
November 2, 2015
27
How the Cabinet is like Wu-Tang Clan
Andray speaks to University of New Brunswick's JP Lewis and Buzzfeed Canada's Scaachi Koul about the new Liberal Cabinet. JP is full of weird analogies. Scaachi's dubious of the change to come.
November 9, 2015
29
The Beaverton
Andray and Desmond talk about giving teeth to political satire with Luke Gordon Field, editor-in-chief of The Beaverton.
November 24, 2015
30
Electoral Reform, or How New Zealand Got a Rastafari MP
Andray and Desmond speak to a former New Zealand politician about the electoral reform his country went through. Conservative strategist Jim Burnett thinks it would never work in Canada.
November 30, 2015
32
Families of MMIW: “What can we do tomorrow?”
Three family members of murdered or missing Indigenous women join Desmond and guest host Supriya to talk about their thoughts on the national inquiry and how they've felt let down by First Nations leaders on this issue.
December 16, 2015
31
Bringing Refugees To The Rockies
We take a look at what goes into getting 3 refugees from Syria to the small mountain town of Jasper, Alberta. And a refugee from Pakistan talks about abandoning her home country.
December 23, 2015
33
Canada’s Climate Game (of Thrones)
Andray is shamed for driving an SUV. Trudeau is shamed for brushing off young people. Desmond is shamed for not watching Game of Thrones.
December 23, 2015
34
A Senator On Mischief, Mutiny And Men’s Rights
A difficult interview in which Senator Anne C. Cools dismisses the need to audit senators' expenses and denies that violence is a gendered problem.
January 7, 2016
35
White Men Gotta Speak On This
Editor-in-chief of the Walrus Jonathan Kay and cultural critic September Anderson talk about whether white men are being stifled by political correctness. Oh, and wtf is political correctness anyway?
January 12, 2016
36
What is a Post-Harper Conservative?
Conservative strategist Jim Burnett returns to answer questions like “What is a Conservative today?” and “Did you actually like Harper?" Plus, a young Conservative gives his view on the future of the party.
January 19, 2016
37
Michelle Rempel on Heckling
Desmond and Supriya speak to Conservative MP Michelle Rempel about heckling in the House of Commons.
January 25, 2016
38
The Government Finally Admitted They Illegally Spy On Us and Nobody Cares
A watchdog report released publicly last week said CSE collected info on Canadians and gave it to other countries.
February 2, 2016
28
Paris; Backlash Against Canadian Muslims?
Following the tragedy in Paris, Desmond talks to Imam Syed Soharwardy, founder of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, and Amira Elghawaby, communications director for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, about the backlash Canadian Muslims face when terrorist attacks carried out in the name of Islam.
February 3, 2016
Don’t Let Harper Happen Here: Wab Kinew on Entering Politics
Wab Kinew talks about systemic racism against Indigenous peoples in Canada and why he's turned to politics to try to make the changes he wants to see.
February 8, 2016
40
George Elliott Clarke: A Polyphony of Canadian Blacknesses
The Parliamentary Poet Laureate talks about working for a pioneering black MP, Canada's multitude of black histories and his problem with telephone companies.
February 15, 2016
41
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. 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 Snowbirds’ pilot. And all the while, COVID-19 ravaged the biggest long-term care home in Atlantic Canada. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Jennifer Henderson (Halifax Examiner), Janice Keefe To learn more: “Nova Scotia’s lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic” by Taryn Grant, Cassidy Chisholm, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke in CBC Nova Scotia “The Northwood board has been expressing “grave concern” about double occupancy rooms for years” by Jennifer Henderson in the Halifax Examiner “Strang, union clash over COVID-19 concerns at Northwood” by John McPhee in The Chronicle Herald   This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar  Additional music from Audio Network “I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor” by Chris Zabriskie, adapted.   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 6 – “NORTHWOOD”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  One of the most difficult things about the last two months is that people can’t mourn collectively. If someone is dying of COVID-19, the whole family can’t gather around their bed and be with them. Funerals have been curtailed. Memorials are taking place mostly online. And when something truly awful happens, the kind of event that cuts right to the heart of a whole community, there’s little we can do. Nova Scotians have been experiencing that reality over and over again in the last two months. Like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia locked itself down on March 22 to stop the growth of coronavirus infections.   [JENNIFER HENDERSON] You start to think, “Can the news get any worse?”   [ARSHY]  That’s Jennifer Henderson, a freelance journalist who’s been covering the pandemic for the Halifax Examiner.    [HENDERSON] You know, you’re in the midst of a pandemic and there are people dying every day at one nursing home in your backyard, and people are worried, you know, about going to work. And then we have this mass shooting that you couldn’t even imagine in a very quiet, rural part of the province.   [NEWS CLIP 1, MALE] Nova Scotians this morning are in a state of shock as this quiet province comes to grips with the fact that it now owns the grim title of the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history.   [HENDERSON] You know, you see the “Nova Scotia Strong” everywhere. And, you know, sometimes I have to think, “Is that about the pandemic or is that about the mass murder?” We’ve been through a great deal in the last eight weeks.   [ARSHY]  The tragedies in Nova Scotia have just been piling up, one on top of the other. People haven’t even been given the chance to come to terms with one of them, before another hits. But they’ve been trying to find a way through. Tributes poured out online. People shared videos, made signs, wrote songs.  Abbigail Cowbrough was one of those people. Standing on the deck of the HMCS Fredericton, she played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Her performance was part of a video put together by the Nova Scotia Pipers’ Tribute to honour the victims of the shooting.  Five days later, on April 29th, Abbigail died. She and five Canadian Armed forces members were killed in a helicopter crash near Greece. Three of the victims, including Abigail, called Nova Scotia home. The province once again mourned.   On May 3rd, the Snowbirds launched Operation: Inspiration, a cross-country tour meant to boost morale amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They started off in Nova Scotia, first flying over Halifax to honour Abbigail and five others killed in the helicopter crash. And then they did it again, this time over Portapique.    [NEWS CLIP 2, FEMALE] A much-needed moral boost on this sunny Sunday. The fames aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, launched a coast-to-coast tour in our region today, something especially appreciated after two devastating tragedies.   [ARSHY]  Flying with them that day was Capt. Jenn Casey. Casey died on May 17th when a Snowbird jet crashed in Kamloops, B.C. And again, the province did their best to honour her life.    [NEWS CLIP 3, MALE] The body of Captain Jennifer Casey returned to Halifax, the city where her life began. Important for the people of Halifax, hundreds of whom lined the streets as the motorcade passed by the places that were significant to Casey. The home where she grew up, and the radio station where she worked before joining the armed forces.    [ARSHY]  The province’s grief has been undercut by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mourning has to be governed by strict rules for the public’s own protection. A community can come together in some ways, but only so far.  And while these shocking tragedies transpired, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept pace. It’s doesn’t feel as sudden as the others. Instead, it’s been unfolding relentlessly over months, taking the lives of 59 Nova Scotians.  Today Nova Scotia is the third-hardest hit province per capita. There have been around a dozen outbreaks at Nova Scotia long-term care homes. But almost all of those deaths, 51 people out of those 59 have taken place at a single facility: The Northwood Centre in Halifax. I’m Arshy Mann, and from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   PART ONE [NEWS CLIP 4, MALE] Our coverage begins tonight in Nova Scotia, where the province has recorded the Maritimes’ first death related to the virus.   [NEWS CLIP 5, MALE] Yesterday, we announced, uh, three residents at Northwood, uh, who had died of COVID-19. We unfortunately have to announce, uh, two more.    [NEWS CLIP 6, FEMALE] The individual who passed away was a resident at Northwood, and marks the tenth death in the province, and sixth at that facility.   [NEWS CLIP 7, MALE] Today I’m sad to say that we’ve lost two more of our seniors at Northwood.    [NEWS CLIP 8, FEMALE] Thirty-five people at the facility have now died of COVID.   [NEWS CLIP 9, MALE] Unfortunately, we have to report three additional deaths at Northwood. We now have 51 Nova Scotians who have died of COVID-19.   [NEWS CLIP 10, MALE] Today, we mourn another loss of an individual at Northwood. We now have 56 Nova Scotians who have died.   [ARSHY]  In some ways, the pandemic in Nova Scotia is playing out in much the same way as the rest of the country. Like the other provinces, the vast majority of deaths are related to long-term care. In Nova Scotia’s case, that number is 95 percent. But almost all of those people died at Northwood.   [HENDERSON] Northwood is the largest nursing home in Atlantic Canada. It’s really a campus. There are three main buildings. It’s right near the Macdonald Bridge, which crosses Halifax Harbor   [ARSHY]  Northwood is run by a non-profit with a long history in Halifax. Here’s Janet Simm, Northwood’s CEO, speaking in a recent video.   [JANET SIMM]  The organization first began as a social movement in response to the plight of seniors living alone in Halifax, a real community effort to make this organization come together and respond to those unmet needs.   [ARSHY]  In 1962, 285 people gathered at a school in the south end of Halifax to talk about the need for affordable housing for seniors. And, by the end of that meeting, Northwood was founded. Northwood Towers opened up five years later, offering cheap apartments for older Haligonians. Three years after that, they began to build Northwood Manor, which was for seniors who needed some assistance. And then in 1970, they started construction on Northwood Centre, which was a nursing home for people who needed more serious care.    [HENDERSON] It is a combination of a retirement-living community and a nursing home, as many places are these days.   [ARSHY]  And since then, Northwood has been very well-regarded in Nova Scotia.   [HENDERSON] The place has a terrific reputation in the community because it’s a home. They have a radio station.   [BOB MARKS] Good morning. This is NWBC, your Seniors Community Broadcasting Club, thanks to Northward Care Inc. Your host this morning, Bob Marks with my “Down Memory Lane” program. It’s time to have a little bit of a request in here. So, Bernice of Summerside, and a selection from 1942.   [HENDERSON] They have a radio station, they have a bar. They have a fitness center for people with dementia. It has a well-deserved reputation in the community. This is not a, uh, for-profit commercially run. This is a not-for-profit community board of governors, which did have the top rating from the accreditation agency prior to the pandemic.   [ARSHY]  Henderson says that everyday Nova Scotians haven’t been putting the blame on Northwood.    [HENDERSON] Imagine, despite the headlines and despite the knowledge that all these people have died, people are still publicly supporting Northwood. As I say, I’m struggling to think of a single negative letter that blamed Northwood.    [ARSHY]  Part of the reason why people aren’t blaming management is that Northwood has been pretty forthcoming about what’s been happening.   [HENDERSON] Northwood management has been more than transparent with the public. They’ve published a timeline. They’ve done daily information updates. They took worker’s temperatures beginning and end of every shift. So they seem to do all the things they could do. And yet this was still a nightmare.   [ARSHY]  So how is it that a facility that everyone agrees is one of the best ones out there could be the site of so much death? The first thing to understand is that, like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia has serious systemic problems with long-term care.   [HENDERSON] Well, prior to the pandemic, it was well-known that Northwood and every nursing home in Nova Scotia had chronic staff shortages. When people were sick, they simply worked short. This was documented by the expert panel. Numerous reports. It was a given.   [ARSHY]  That expert panel put out its findings in 2019, and the chair of it was Janice Keefe.   [JANICE KEEFE] My name’s Janice Keefe. I’m, uh, director of the Nova Scotia Center on Aging. I’m professor and chair of the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount St. Vincent University.   [ARSHY]  The panel was put together after a number of deaths due to neglect in Nova Scotia’s long-term care homes.   [KEEFE]  The impetus was, uh, bedsores. There were a number of residents in long-term care who actually died because of, uh, inappropriate care around bedsores.    [ARSHY]  And the broad takeaways would be familiar to anyone who’s been listening to this podcast.   [KEEFE]  What we basically found was that this was a sector that needed resources, that needed immediate attention. There were a lot of issues around staffing.   [ARSHY]  Staff were constantly working short-handed. And the long-term care sector was viewed as a much worse place to work than other parts of the healthcare system.    [KEEFE]  But for the main part, the staff themselves were really frustrated about not being able to do the best care that they should be doing, because they didn’t have enough time.   [ARSHY]  And as with other provinces, there are massive waitlists, especially because Nova Scotians tend to be older on average than the rest of the country.    [KEEFE]  When people from Ontario talk about, you know, when the population is going to hit, uh, 20 percent, uh, 65 and over, we’ve been dealing with that for over five years.    [ARSHY]  And the residents had increasingly complex health problems. Janice Keefe has seen that first-hand over the last thirty years.   [KEEFE]  So the biggest change… I will tell you, the biggest change is the residents. I worked in a municipality in Nova Scotia and the people going to the facilities would drive their cars. They lived in the nursing homes, but they… They went out to visit. They were mobile. They were not at the end of their life.    [ARSHY]  But these are problems across all long-term care homes. It still doesn’t answer why Northwood, in particular, has experienced such a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.   PART TWO It was March 15 when the first three Nova Scotians tested positive for COVID-19. Only a day later, Northwood barred all visitors to their facilities. But, as in the rest of Canada, the provincial government and the health authority, they weren’t talking about what would happen if the virus actually got into a long-term care facility.   [HENDERSON] My memory of those briefings with our chief medical officer of health and the premier, which happened daily at the beginning of the pandemic, was that all the focus was on the hospitals.   [ARSHY]  By the end of March, social distancing was put into effect across the province. And it wasn’t until early April that Northwood knew that virus was in the facility.   [HENDERSON] The first staff member to test positive for COVID at Northwood was April 5th. The first three residents followed on April 7th. The virus was brought into the Northwood Center building by workers who were asymptomatic and did not suspect they were ill.   [ARSHY]  The day after an employee tested positive, Northwood mandated that all staff had to wear a mask. That was actually two days before Canada’s chief public health officer recommended the same thing, and a full six days before the provincial government made it mandatory for all long-term care workers.   [HENDERSON] But according to the CEO of Northwood, in hindsight, the horse was already out of the barn, so to speak. Although they were ahead of both the provincial and federal guidelines with respect to wearing masks, it came too late to prevent the spread of infection at Northwood.   [ARSHY]  Over the next five days, more residents and staff members began to test positive. And workers who had previously been told to self-isolate were asked to return to Northwood if they tested negative. That was a mistake.   [HENDERSON] So, we know that in the period where people were becoming infected, that staff who were supposed to be out for 14 days, self isolating, were allowed to return to work because they needed them so desperately, if they tested negative. And then Northwood and the public health officials in Nova Scotia learned that you could test negative one day and positive the next.   [ARSHY]  Northwood had prepared a quarantine area for residents who tested positive. It could fit 20 people. But by April 15, just ten days after the first staff member tested positive, they had to open another area. And the virus continued to spread amongst the workers.    [HENDERSON] And you can see that because, by April 18th, they had so many staff who either wouldn’t come to work because they were afraid of getting sick, or they were self isolating because they had come in contact by providing direct care to one of these sick residents. They were told to stay home for 14 days.   [ARSHY]  Around 80 long-term care workers were off work, and the staffing levels were down to just 60 percent of what they normally would be. Then came the horrific weekend of April 18th and 19th. That was the same weekend a mass shooter killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia. At Northwood, residents began to die. Five people died of COVID-19 in just two days. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil held an emergency press conference that Sunday.   [STEPHEN MCNEIL] We weren’t scheduled to have a news conference today, but I felt the need to be here to provide you with an update on one of our long-term care facilities, Northwood, that’s dealing with an outbreak of COVID. I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia. This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history. There are a number of other families who are dealing with their own loss after–after their loved ones died of COVID, five people over the weekend who lived at Northwood. And I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, and my heart goes out to all of you.   [ARSHY]  That weekend, the province really began to act. The Halifax Infirmary COVID-19 unit was redeployed from their hospital to Northwood; additional workers were brought in from the Red Cross, Victorian Order of Nurses and Emergency Health Services; the province set up a hotel as an off-site ward for Northwood residents who recovered for COVID-19… But people kept dying. Six more residents died in three days. And the union representing Nova Scotia’s nurses said that workers who were brought in to help staff Northwood found a total lack of infection controls and not enough PPE. They said it was like “walking into a war zone.” Here’s NSGEU president Jason MacLean speaking to Global News.   [JASON MACLEAN]  Well, when they got to Northwood, there was no supplies for them. Uh, actually, even yesterday morning, they had… They were down to three gowns. A lot of residents up and walking around, both that are sick and those that are presumed sick. So they’re up and they’re–they’re–they’re trying to use the phone at–at the counter, and they’re touching everything that’s around there.   [HENDERSON] Now, Northwood officials said that these were nurses used to infection control in a hospital setting, and that simply wasn’t appropriate or possible in an old nursing home like Northwood; that, basically, it was apples and oranges.   [ARSHY]  And Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Robert Strang, blasted the union and essentially accused them of lying.   [ROBERT STRANG]  They’re using, frankly, fear, fear mongering and hyperbole in terms of the way they’re describing this situation. When we talk to frontline people who are in Northwood, they… What–what the NSGU is saying is actually inaccurate.   [ARSHY]  Over the next week, another twelve people died at Northwood. And during that time, the Nova Scotian government declined to increase the wages of front-line workers, like other provinces had been doing. Another 16 people died in the first week of May and infections amongst residents and staff continued to inch up. On May 8th, Nova Scotia finally agreed to give a pay bump to health care workers on the front lines. But it would only be a one-time payment of $2000. Since then, another 18 people have died at Northwood, bringing the total number up to 52 dead in the facility. It’s clear today that some mistakes were made, both by Northwood and the provincial government. Like long-term care facilities across Canada, workers were a major vector for transmitting the virus. Workers should have been wearing masks the minute we knew the virus was in Nova Scotia. And if they were exposed, they shouldn’t have been allowed to come back to work before the two-week quarantine was up, even if they tested negative.  Whether or not care workers had adequate PPE, and the facility had proper infection controls, hasn’t been determined yet. The nurses union said it was totally unacceptable, but Northwood and the health authority maintain that it was all up to par. But what’s not in dispute is that one of the biggest factors at play during the Northwood outbreak is the building itself.   [HENDERSON] So there’s general agreement that the reason Northwood was so hard hit by COVID was because the rooms were smaller than in newer nursing homes. And it spread like wildfire.   [ARSHY]  In Northwood Centre, where the most disabled residents lived, the rooms and bathrooms were often shared.    [HENDERSON] It’s more like… More like a hospital. And the rooms are small, like hospital rooms for that time, and most of them are shared. So they’re double occupancy and there’s room for about one chair for a visitor and one walker. And there’s curtains between those beds. People are not only sharing a bathroom, they’re sharing a tight space.  But of course, most of our residents have dementia and they don’t respect those boundaries. They’re in each other’s faces and in each other’s stuff and borrowing their false teeth. You know that… That’s what goes on.   [ARSHY]  It’s those lack of single-occupancy rooms that Northwood CEO Janet Simm also places most of the blame on.   [HENDERSON] I asked her at one briefing, you know, “What could have been done in your view to prevent the rapid spread?” And she mentioned the double rooms, getting rid of those, and if employees, in hindsight, had put the masks on sooner.   [ARSHY]  Before the current Liberal government, the last two Nova Scotian premiers did make improvements to long-term care facilities. In the late 2010s, Rodney MacDonald’s Progressive Conservatives opened long-term care beds across the province and even upgraded some older buildings. And after that, Darrell Dexter’s NDP government had eleven long-term care homes slated for upgrades. But since Stephen McNeil was elected in 2013, only one of those facilities has been replaced. And overall, funding for long-term care has gone down.   [HENDERSON] For the last seven years, there haven’t been any new nursing home beds opened under the current Liberal government.   [ARSHY]  When we talk about long-term care and this pandemic, the numbers can get overwhelming. And the actual people at the centre of this story risk becoming just empty statistics.  But we want to tell you about some of the actual people who died in Northwood, because their lives are important, too. Not just where they died or what killed them, we want to mourn some of them as best we can, especially now as this virus has changed how we can do that. Paul Sullivan worked as an insurance salesman. But he was the kind of guy whose clients quickly became his friends. He loved to build things, like hockey rinks in his backyard. And he stayed married to his wife Irenaeus for 60 years. He died in Northwood, without his family able to be by his side. Gerald Jackson’s family had known tragedy before. His father had survived the Halifax Explosion, but it killed 46 of his family members. He was a cook in the navy for two decades, and then spent some time at Sears and then working for a museum. He lived out west in Victoria since the 1970s, but when he developed dementia, his daughters brought him back to Nova Scotia. They were able to speak to him on an iPad one last time on the day he died in Northwood. Bunny Tanner’s children remember her as a strong and strict mother, in a good way. But she really came into her own as a grandmother. She’d survived a bout with lung cancer in 2019 and she loved her private room in Northwood. But her last days in there were terrifying. She’d call her daughter begging to be able to get out of the facility, to go anywhere else. But she died on May 1st. COVID-19 took Gena Hemsworth that same day. She was afraid of flying, but loved sports cars. And she worked as a secretary at the Halifax Regional Vocational School for thirty years, where she put her exceptionally fast typing abilities to use. When she was away from home, Gena would call her house so she could talk to her cats. She cared for her partner Neil Mosher through ALS, and she died at Northwood a little over a month after she’d arrived. Hilda Weber’s husband left her alone with three young children. But she worked multiple jobs to make sure they’d get by. When times were really bad, her children would split a can of soup, while she ate nothing. Derrick Carvey loved taking drives with his dad and going on boat cruises. And he was a big Michael Jackson fan. And because of his cerebral palsy, the doctors said he wouldn’t live past thirty. But at 37, he was still alive and at Northwood, where his 98-year-old grandmother also lived. They once did a fashion show together. But both of them came down with COVID-19. His grandmother fought off the virus, but Derrick died. His father was in the room with him. He played him Michael Jackson before his son’s breathing stopped.  Thelma Coward-Ince was the first black naval reservist in Canadian history. She eventually became secretary to the chief of staff to the admiral of the Canadian navy. And she did all of that while raising two kids on her own. One of them, Tony Ince, is today a cabinet minister in the Nova Scotian government. Tony was on his way to visit his mother again when he got the call. She had died just before he could arrive. And then there’s Evelina Upshaw. She ran a hot lunch program for over three decades in the North End of Halifax. A few years ago, some young people from her neighbourhood made a short documentary about her. They called her a hero. Here she is speaking in that video.   [EVELINA UPSHAW] I said, well, if I can do something to help those mothers, that they can go off to work feeling free, that the children are going to get a hot noon meal, then that was what I wanted to do. So that’s what I did for 33 years.   [ARSHY]  On her last day, one of her daughters, covered in protective equipment, climbed into bed with her. She was able to be there for her mother at the very end.    OUTRO [ARSHY]  For the last three years, Northwood has been asking the provincial government for money so that fewer people had to live in double or triple rooms.   [HENDERSON] The board of Governors was well aware of the potential for a flu outbreak or a pandemic because they had petitioned the provincial government three separate years for money to expand. They wanted to build a few stories higher, keep the same number of beds, but create more single rooms. And the… And the reason they asked for this money was because they wanted to prevent infection. The provincial government never said no. But they never said yes. And nothing got done for three years.   [ARSHY]  Premier Stephen McNeil has so far resisted the calls for a public inquiry. Some family members of the people who have died at Northwood are publicly blaming both the facility and the government. But we won’t know exactly who or what is to blame unless there are independent investigations. For now, Nova Scotians just want the deaths to stop.   [HENDERSON] I’m not sure what people want is to lay blame and finger-point. They want to fix the problem before the next wave of COVID hits. What we’ve seen, mostly, is praise and compassion for Northwood workers. You see that in the obituaries. You see that in terms of letters to the editor. In fact, people honk their horns as they pass by Northwood to support the workers. Donations of food and gifts continue to flow   [ARSHY]  People volunteering to speak with Northwood residents over the phone and keep them company has doubled. The local mosque has been donating meals to workers. Medical students have been signing up to help in the facility. After all the tragedies of the last two months, Nova Scotians are still finding ways to come together.   END CREDITS [ARSHY]  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 Jennifer Henderson and Tim Bousquet at the Halifax Examiner, Cassidy Chisolm, Taryn Grant, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke at CBC Nova Scotia, John McPhee and Jim Vibert at the Chronicle Herald, Global News and many others. Right now CBC Nova Scotia is putting together profiles of as many of the Northwood residents who have died as they can. I recommend you go give those a read.  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 additional production 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. Click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com 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, 2016
45
Police in Canada Get Away with Killing Black People
“It’s just the mindsets of the entire police force in which they don’t see us as human and if a life is lost of ours, they just don’t care."
March 30, 2016
46
Tom Mulcair: Hot Prosecutor or Wet Napkin?
Tom Mulcair's leadership review, corrupt Quebec politics and a ton of free advice on how the government can become more open.
April 4, 2016
47
Should This Old Indian Guy Lead the Conservatives?
Conservatives jump into the leadership race, Desmond has questions about a Liberal Party flip flop on torture and economist Lindsay Tedds tells us why the Panama Papers matter.
April 11, 2016
48
Parliament Needs More Women’s Bathrooms
NOT SORRY writer Vicky Mochama talks to young women on Parliament Hill about the barriers they face and the work they do.
April 19, 2016
49
Can a Conservative Be a Feminist?
Should a politician's voting record prevent her from speaking up about sexism? Why protestors were living inside the offices of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada across the country. And Mike Duffy's acquitted. Jane Lytvenenko joins Supriya Dwivedi.
April 25, 2016
50
Debating Same-Sex Marriage and Other Ways to Stay Irrelevant
The Conservative Party is getting ready to debate same-sex marriage more than a decade after it became law. BC's Premier is getting rich off party funds. An economist on why Newfounland and Labrador are shutting down more than half their libraries. Desmond says goodbye.
May 2, 2016
51
How to Make Poor People Disappear (Census Edition)
Sex and the census, how the last government made poor people disappear and bailing out Bombardier.
May 11, 2016
52
Are Libertarians Conservatives?
Libertarian Matt Bufton does not want to be lumped in with Conservatives; a story of a Brenna Kannick's death in remand; the NDP proposed a bill to create gender equity (nearly) on the ballot.
May 16, 2016
Celebrating Defeat: Dispatches from the Conservative Convention
The Syrup Trap's Winnie Code checks out the Conservative Convention, where she talks to a crude button maker and interim leader Rona Ambrose.
June 1, 2016
This Is Not Canada: Living as a Migrant Farm Worker
A farm worker wants better conditions for foreign labourers, and is Trudeau bending gender norms in politics?
June 6, 2016
Cheri DiNovo on How to Fix the NDP
MPP Cheri DiNovo on why she couldn't sit back and watch the NDP make any more mistakes.
June 14, 2016
Naming a Genocide
The government declared that ISIS is committing a genocide against Yazidis. Vicky and Supriya look into what that means for Canada's obligations.
June 21, 2016
57
Buy Gold and Raisin Bran: The Brexit and Canada
Supriya and Vicky want to know what the Brexit means for us. Does a vote for the United Kingdom to leave the EU change our lives on this side of the ocean?
July 5, 2016
58
When CSIS Comes Knocking
Vicky and Supriya talk to human rights activist Monia Mazigh about CSIS's unannounced visits to Muslim men's homes and workplaces.
July 12, 2016
Canadian Police Are Racist Too
There’s been a lot of attention on police violence against Black people in the U.S. How different is Canada's policing system?
July 26, 2016
MMIW: What Justice Means for a Family Member
We talk to Maggie Cywink about the upcoming inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. Her sister Sonya Cywink was murdered over 20 years ago and the case remains unsolved.
August 9, 2016
When CSIS Comes Knocking pt. 2
Earlier this summer, we heard about CSIS agents making unannounced visits to Muslims. Now, one of those men joins us.
August 23, 2016
62
When Your Councillor Spams You On Facebook
A listener thinks a city councillor is using his platform to make money. The councillor gets philosophical. We get to the bottom of it.
September 6, 2016
Conservative Leadership Showdown Part 1: Michael Chong & Brad Trost
Over the summer, Vicky and Supriya set out to interview all of the candidates for the leader of Conservative Party. Here are their interviews with Michael Chong and Brad Trost.
September 13, 2016
64
Conservative Leadership Showdown Part 2: Tony Clement & Maxime Bernier
Our quest to get to know all the Conservative leadership contenders continues with Tony Clement and Maxime Bernier.
September 20, 2016
65
Drunk On Liberal Power / Kellie Leitch On Anti-Canadian Values
Conservative leadership contender Kellie Leitch calls Trudeau a "Canadian identity denier" and defends her idea of screening immigrants for their values. Plus, a look at the year ahead in Parliament.
September 27, 2016
A Hat Trick Of Deceit: First Nations And The LNG Project
On last week's show, Bloomberg's Josh Wingrove predicted energy projects would put an end to the Trudeau government's honeymoon. Now we have a test case.
October 4, 2016
67
A Hodge Podge Of Political Hacks: Inside The War Room
We go behind the scenes in Canadian politics with Lisa and Warren Kinsella, who share stories of Liberal war rooms and "dirty rotten lobbyists."
October 11, 2016
A Message About the Future of COMMONS
We have news.
October 18, 2016
COMMONS returns!
$5/month for-adree COMMONS by clicking here. 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 Snowbirds’ pilot. And all the while, COVID-19 ravaged the biggest long-term care home in Atlantic Canada. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Jennifer Henderson (Halifax Examiner), Janice Keefe To learn more: “Nova Scotia’s lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic” by Taryn Grant, Cassidy Chisholm, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke in CBC Nova Scotia “The Northwood board has been expressing “grave concern” about double occupancy rooms for years” by Jennifer Henderson in the Halifax Examiner “Strang, union clash over COVID-19 concerns at Northwood” by John McPhee in The Chronicle Herald   This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar  Additional music from Audio Network “I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor” by Chris Zabriskie, adapted.   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 6 – “NORTHWOOD”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  One of the most difficult things about the last two months is that people can’t mourn collectively. If someone is dying of COVID-19, the whole family can’t gather around their bed and be with them. Funerals have been curtailed. Memorials are taking place mostly online. And when something truly awful happens, the kind of event that cuts right to the heart of a whole community, there’s little we can do. Nova Scotians have been experiencing that reality over and over again in the last two months. Like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia locked itself down on March 22 to stop the growth of coronavirus infections.   [JENNIFER HENDERSON] You start to think, “Can the news get any worse?”   [ARSHY]  That’s Jennifer Henderson, a freelance journalist who’s been covering the pandemic for the Halifax Examiner.    [HENDERSON] You know, you’re in the midst of a pandemic and there are people dying every day at one nursing home in your backyard, and people are worried, you know, about going to work. And then we have this mass shooting that you couldn’t even imagine in a very quiet, rural part of the province.   [NEWS CLIP 1, MALE] Nova Scotians this morning are in a state of shock as this quiet province comes to grips with the fact that it now owns the grim title of the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history.   [HENDERSON] You know, you see the “Nova Scotia Strong” everywhere. And, you know, sometimes I have to think, “Is that about the pandemic or is that about the mass murder?” We’ve been through a great deal in the last eight weeks.   [ARSHY]  The tragedies in Nova Scotia have just been piling up, one on top of the other. People haven’t even been given the chance to come to terms with one of them, before another hits. But they’ve been trying to find a way through. Tributes poured out online. People shared videos, made signs, wrote songs.  Abbigail Cowbrough was one of those people. Standing on the deck of the HMCS Fredericton, she played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Her performance was part of a video put together by the Nova Scotia Pipers’ Tribute to honour the victims of the shooting.  Five days later, on April 29th, Abbigail died. She and five Canadian Armed forces members were killed in a helicopter crash near Greece. Three of the victims, including Abigail, called Nova Scotia home. The province once again mourned.   On May 3rd, the Snowbirds launched Operation: Inspiration, a cross-country tour meant to boost morale amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They started off in Nova Scotia, first flying over Halifax to honour Abbigail and five others killed in the helicopter crash. And then they did it again, this time over Portapique.    [NEWS CLIP 2, FEMALE] A much-needed moral boost on this sunny Sunday. The fames aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, launched a coast-to-coast tour in our region today, something especially appreciated after two devastating tragedies.   [ARSHY]  Flying with them that day was Capt. Jenn Casey. Casey died on May 17th when a Snowbird jet crashed in Kamloops, B.C. And again, the province did their best to honour her life.    [NEWS CLIP 3, MALE] The body of Captain Jennifer Casey returned to Halifax, the city where her life began. Important for the people of Halifax, hundreds of whom lined the streets as the motorcade passed by the places that were significant to Casey. The home where she grew up, and the radio station where she worked before joining the armed forces.    [ARSHY]  The province’s grief has been undercut by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mourning has to be governed by strict rules for the public’s own protection. A community can come together in some ways, but only so far.  And while these shocking tragedies transpired, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept pace. It’s doesn’t feel as sudden as the others. Instead, it’s been unfolding relentlessly over months, taking the lives of 59 Nova Scotians.  Today Nova Scotia is the third-hardest hit province per capita. There have been around a dozen outbreaks at Nova Scotia long-term care homes. But almost all of those deaths, 51 people out of those 59 have taken place at a single facility: The Northwood Centre in Halifax. I’m Arshy Mann, and from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   PART ONE [NEWS CLIP 4, MALE] Our coverage begins tonight in Nova Scotia, where the province has recorded the Maritimes’ first death related to the virus.   [NEWS CLIP 5, MALE] Yesterday, we announced, uh, three residents at Northwood, uh, who had died of COVID-19. We unfortunately have to announce, uh, two more.    [NEWS CLIP 6, FEMALE] The individual who passed away was a resident at Northwood, and marks the tenth death in the province, and sixth at that facility.   [NEWS CLIP 7, MALE] Today I’m sad to say that we’ve lost two more of our seniors at Northwood.    [NEWS CLIP 8, FEMALE] Thirty-five people at the facility have now died of COVID.   [NEWS CLIP 9, MALE] Unfortunately, we have to report three additional deaths at Northwood. We now have 51 Nova Scotians who have died of COVID-19.   [NEWS CLIP 10, MALE] Today, we mourn another loss of an individual at Northwood. We now have 56 Nova Scotians who have died.   [ARSHY]  In some ways, the pandemic in Nova Scotia is playing out in much the same way as the rest of the country. Like the other provinces, the vast majority of deaths are related to long-term care. In Nova Scotia’s case, that number is 95 percent. But almost all of those people died at Northwood.   [HENDERSON] Northwood is the largest nursing home in Atlantic Canada. It’s really a campus. There are three main buildings. It’s right near the Macdonald Bridge, which crosses Halifax Harbor   [ARSHY]  Northwood is run by a non-profit with a long history in Halifax. Here’s Janet Simm, Northwood’s CEO, speaking in a recent video.   [JANET SIMM]  The organization first began as a social movement in response to the plight of seniors living alone in Halifax, a real community effort to make this organization come together and respond to those unmet needs.   [ARSHY]  In 1962, 285 people gathered at a school in the south end of Halifax to talk about the need for affordable housing for seniors. And, by the end of that meeting, Northwood was founded. Northwood Towers opened up five years later, offering cheap apartments for older Haligonians. Three years after that, they began to build Northwood Manor, which was for seniors who needed some assistance. And then in 1970, they started construction on Northwood Centre, which was a nursing home for people who needed more serious care.    [HENDERSON] It is a combination of a retirement-living community and a nursing home, as many places are these days.   [ARSHY]  And since then, Northwood has been very well-regarded in Nova Scotia.   [HENDERSON] The place has a terrific reputation in the community because it’s a home. They have a radio station.   [BOB MARKS] Good morning. This is NWBC, your Seniors Community Broadcasting Club, thanks to Northward Care Inc. Your host this morning, Bob Marks with my “Down Memory Lane” program. It’s time to have a little bit of a request in here. So, Bernice of Summerside, and a selection from 1942.   [HENDERSON] They have a radio station, they have a bar. They have a fitness center for people with dementia. It has a well-deserved reputation in the community. This is not a, uh, for-profit commercially run. This is a not-for-profit community board of governors, which did have the top rating from the accreditation agency prior to the pandemic.   [ARSHY]  Henderson says that everyday Nova Scotians haven’t been putting the blame on Northwood.    [HENDERSON] Imagine, despite the headlines and despite the knowledge that all these people have died, people are still publicly supporting Northwood. As I say, I’m struggling to think of a single negative letter that blamed Northwood.    [ARSHY]  Part of the reason why people aren’t blaming management is that Northwood has been pretty forthcoming about what’s been happening.   [HENDERSON] Northwood management has been more than transparent with the public. They’ve published a timeline. They’ve done daily information updates. They took worker’s temperatures beginning and end of every shift. So they seem to do all the things they could do. And yet this was still a nightmare.   [ARSHY]  So how is it that a facility that everyone agrees is one of the best ones out there could be the site of so much death? The first thing to understand is that, like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia has serious systemic problems with long-term care.   [HENDERSON] Well, prior to the pandemic, it was well-known that Northwood and every nursing home in Nova Scotia had chronic staff shortages. When people were sick, they simply worked short. This was documented by the expert panel. Numerous reports. It was a given.   [ARSHY]  That expert panel put out its findings in 2019, and the chair of it was Janice Keefe.   [JANICE KEEFE] My name’s Janice Keefe. I’m, uh, director of the Nova Scotia Center on Aging. I’m professor and chair of the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount St. Vincent University.   [ARSHY]  The panel was put together after a number of deaths due to neglect in Nova Scotia’s long-term care homes.   [KEEFE]  The impetus was, uh, bedsores. There were a number of residents in long-term care who actually died because of, uh, inappropriate care around bedsores.    [ARSHY]  And the broad takeaways would be familiar to anyone who’s been listening to this podcast.   [KEEFE]  What we basically found was that this was a sector that needed resources, that needed immediate attention. There were a lot of issues around staffing.   [ARSHY]  Staff were constantly working short-handed. And the long-term care sector was viewed as a much worse place to work than other parts of the healthcare system.    [KEEFE]  But for the main part, the staff themselves were really frustrated about not being able to do the best care that they should be doing, because they didn’t have enough time.   [ARSHY]  And as with other provinces, there are massive waitlists, especially because Nova Scotians tend to be older on average than the rest of the country.    [KEEFE]  When people from Ontario talk about, you know, when the population is going to hit, uh, 20 percent, uh, 65 and over, we’ve been dealing with that for over five years.    [ARSHY]  And the residents had increasingly complex health problems. Janice Keefe has seen that first-hand over the last thirty years.   [KEEFE]  So the biggest change… I will tell you, the biggest change is the residents. I worked in a municipality in Nova Scotia and the people going to the facilities would drive their cars. They lived in the nursing homes, but they… They went out to visit. They were mobile. They were not at the end of their life.    [ARSHY]  But these are problems across all long-term care homes. It still doesn’t answer why Northwood, in particular, has experienced such a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.   PART TWO It was March 15 when the first three Nova Scotians tested positive for COVID-19. Only a day later, Northwood barred all visitors to their facilities. But, as in the rest of Canada, the provincial government and the health authority, they weren’t talking about what would happen if the virus actually got into a long-term care facility.   [HENDERSON] My memory of those briefings with our chief medical officer of health and the premier, which happened daily at the beginning of the pandemic, was that all the focus was on the hospitals.   [ARSHY]  By the end of March, social distancing was put into effect across the province. And it wasn’t until early April that Northwood knew that virus was in the facility.   [HENDERSON] The first staff member to test positive for COVID at Northwood was April 5th. The first three residents followed on April 7th. The virus was brought into the Northwood Center building by workers who were asymptomatic and did not suspect they were ill.   [ARSHY]  The day after an employee tested positive, Northwood mandated that all staff had to wear a mask. That was actually two days before Canada’s chief public health officer recommended the same thing, and a full six days before the provincial government made it mandatory for all long-term care workers.   [HENDERSON] But according to the CEO of Northwood, in hindsight, the horse was already out of the barn, so to speak. Although they were ahead of both the provincial and federal guidelines with respect to wearing masks, it came too late to prevent the spread of infection at Northwood.   [ARSHY]  Over the next five days, more residents and staff members began to test positive. And workers who had previously been told to self-isolate were asked to return to Northwood if they tested negative. That was a mistake.   [HENDERSON] So, we know that in the period where people were becoming infected, that staff who were supposed to be out for 14 days, self isolating, were allowed to return to work because they needed them so desperately, if they tested negative. And then Northwood and the public health officials in Nova Scotia learned that you could test negative one day and positive the next.   [ARSHY]  Northwood had prepared a quarantine area for residents who tested positive. It could fit 20 people. But by April 15, just ten days after the first staff member tested positive, they had to open another area. And the virus continued to spread amongst the workers.    [HENDERSON] And you can see that because, by April 18th, they had so many staff who either wouldn’t come to work because they were afraid of getting sick, or they were self isolating because they had come in contact by providing direct care to one of these sick residents. They were told to stay home for 14 days.   [ARSHY]  Around 80 long-term care workers were off work, and the staffing levels were down to just 60 percent of what they normally would be. Then came the horrific weekend of April 18th and 19th. That was the same weekend a mass shooter killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia. At Northwood, residents began to die. Five people died of COVID-19 in just two days. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil held an emergency press conference that Sunday.   [STEPHEN MCNEIL] We weren’t scheduled to have a news conference today, but I felt the need to be here to provide you with an update on one of our long-term care facilities, Northwood, that’s dealing with an outbreak of COVID. I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia. This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history. There are a number of other families who are dealing with their own loss after–after their loved ones died of COVID, five people over the weekend who lived at Northwood. And I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, and my heart goes out to all of you.   [ARSHY]  That weekend, the province really began to act. The Halifax Infirmary COVID-19 unit was redeployed from their hospital to Northwood; additional workers were brought in from the Red Cross, Victorian Order of Nurses and Emergency Health Services; the province set up a hotel as an off-site ward for Northwood residents who recovered for COVID-19… But people kept dying. Six more residents died in three days. And the union representing Nova Scotia’s nurses said that workers who were brought in to help staff Northwood found a total lack of infection controls and not enough PPE. They said it was like “walking into a war zone.” Here’s NSGEU president Jason MacLean speaking to Global News.   [JASON MACLEAN]  Well, when they got to Northwood, there was no supplies for them. Uh, actually, even yesterday morning, they had… They were down to three gowns. A lot of residents up and walking around, both that are sick and those that are presumed sick. So they’re up and they’re–they’re–they’re trying to use the phone at–at the counter, and they’re touching everything that’s around there.   [HENDERSON] Now, Northwood officials said that these were nurses used to infection control in a hospital setting, and that simply wasn’t appropriate or possible in an old nursing home like Northwood; that, basically, it was apples and oranges.   [ARSHY]  And Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Robert Strang, blasted the union and essentially accused them of lying.   [ROBERT STRANG]  They’re using, frankly, fear, fear mongering and hyperbole in terms of the way they’re describing this situation. When we talk to frontline people who are in Northwood, they… What–what the NSGU is saying is actually inaccurate.   [ARSHY]  Over the next week, another twelve people died at Northwood. And during that time, the Nova Scotian government declined to increase the wages of front-line workers, like other provinces had been doing. Another 16 people died in the first week of May and infections amongst residents and staff continued to inch up. On May 8th, Nova Scotia finally agreed to give a pay bump to health care workers on the front lines. But it would only be a one-time payment of $2000. Since then, another 18 people have died at Northwood, bringing the total number up to 52 dead in the facility. It’s clear today that some mistakes were made, both by Northwood and the provincial government. Like long-term care facilities across Canada, workers were a major vector for transmitting the virus. Workers should have been wearing masks the minute we knew the virus was in Nova Scotia. And if they were exposed, they shouldn’t have been allowed to come back to work before the two-week quarantine was up, even if they tested negative.  Whether or not care workers had adequate PPE, and the facility had proper infection controls, hasn’t been determined yet. The nurses union said it was totally unacceptable, but Northwood and the health authority maintain that it was all up to par. But what’s not in dispute is that one of the biggest factors at play during the Northwood outbreak is the building itself.   [HENDERSON] So there’s general agreement that the reason Northwood was so hard hit by COVID was because the rooms were smaller than in newer nursing homes. And it spread like wildfire.   [ARSHY]  In Northwood Centre, where the most disabled residents lived, the rooms and bathrooms were often shared.    [HENDERSON] It’s more like… More like a hospital. And the rooms are small, like hospital rooms for that time, and most of them are shared. So they’re double occupancy and there’s room for about one chair for a visitor and one walker. And there’s curtains between those beds. People are not only sharing a bathroom, they’re sharing a tight space.  But of course, most of our residents have dementia and they don’t respect those boundaries. They’re in each other’s faces and in each other’s stuff and borrowing their false teeth. You know that… That’s what goes on.   [ARSHY]  It’s those lack of single-occupancy rooms that Northwood CEO Janet Simm also places most of the blame on.   [HENDERSON] I asked her at one briefing, you know, “What could have been done in your view to prevent the rapid spread?” And she mentioned the double rooms, getting rid of those, and if employees, in hindsight, had put the masks on sooner.   [ARSHY]  Before the current Liberal government, the last two Nova Scotian premiers did make improvements to long-term care facilities. In the late 2010s, Rodney MacDonald’s Progressive Conservatives opened long-term care beds across the province and even upgraded some older buildings. And after that, Darrell Dexter’s NDP government had eleven long-term care homes slated for upgrades. But since Stephen McNeil was elected in 2013, only one of those facilities has been replaced. And overall, funding for long-term care has gone down.   [HENDERSON] For the last seven years, there haven’t been any new nursing home beds opened under the current Liberal government.   [ARSHY]  When we talk about long-term care and this pandemic, the numbers can get overwhelming. And the actual people at the centre of this story risk becoming just empty statistics.  But we want to tell you about some of the actual people who died in Northwood, because their lives are important, too. Not just where they died or what killed them, we want to mourn some of them as best we can, especially now as this virus has changed how we can do that. Paul Sullivan worked as an insurance salesman. But he was the kind of guy whose clients quickly became his friends. He loved to build things, like hockey rinks in his backyard. And he stayed married to his wife Irenaeus for 60 years. He died in Northwood, without his family able to be by his side. Gerald Jackson’s family had known tragedy before. His father had survived the Halifax Explosion, but it killed 46 of his family members. He was a cook in the navy for two decades, and then spent some time at Sears and then working for a museum. He lived out west in Victoria since the 1970s, but when he developed dementia, his daughters brought him back to Nova Scotia. They were able to speak to him on an iPad one last time on the day he died in Northwood. Bunny Tanner’s children remember her as a strong and strict mother, in a good way. But she really came into her own as a grandmother. She’d survived a bout with lung cancer in 2019 and she loved her private room in Northwood. But her last days in there were terrifying. She’d call her daughter begging to be able to get out of the facility, to go anywhere else. But she died on May 1st. COVID-19 took Gena Hemsworth that same day. She was afraid of flying, but loved sports cars. And she worked as a secretary at the Halifax Regional Vocational School for thirty years, where she put her exceptionally fast typing abilities to use. When she was away from home, Gena would call her house so she could talk to her cats. She cared for her partner Neil Mosher through ALS, and she died at Northwood a little over a month after she’d arrived. Hilda Weber’s husband left her alone with three young children. But she worked multiple jobs to make sure they’d get by. When times were really bad, her children would split a can of soup, while she ate nothing. Derrick Carvey loved taking drives with his dad and going on boat cruises. And he was a big Michael Jackson fan. And because of his cerebral palsy, the doctors said he wouldn’t live past thirty. But at 37, he was still alive and at Northwood, where his 98-year-old grandmother also lived. They once did a fashion show together. But both of them came down with COVID-19. His grandmother fought off the virus, but Derrick died. His father was in the room with him. He played him Michael Jackson before his son’s breathing stopped.  Thelma Coward-Ince was the first black naval reservist in Canadian history. She eventually became secretary to the chief of staff to the admiral of the Canadian navy. And she did all of that while raising two kids on her own. One of them, Tony Ince, is today a cabinet minister in the Nova Scotian government. Tony was on his way to visit his mother again when he got the call. She had died just before he could arrive. And then there’s Evelina Upshaw. She ran a hot lunch program for over three decades in the North End of Halifax. A few years ago, some young people from her neighbourhood made a short documentary about her. They called her a hero. Here she is speaking in that video.   [EVELINA UPSHAW] I said, well, if I can do something to help those mothers, that they can go off to work feeling free, that the children are going to get a hot noon meal, then that was what I wanted to do. So that’s what I did for 33 years.   [ARSHY]  On her last day, one of her daughters, covered in protective equipment, climbed into bed with her. She was able to be there for her mother at the very end.    OUTRO [ARSHY]  For the last three years, Northwood has been asking the provincial government for money so that fewer people had to live in double or triple rooms.   [HENDERSON] The board of Governors was well aware of the potential for a flu outbreak or a pandemic because they had petitioned the provincial government three separate years for money to expand. They wanted to build a few stories higher, keep the same number of beds, but create more single rooms. And the… And the reason they asked for this money was because they wanted to prevent infection. The provincial government never said no. But they never said yes. And nothing got done for three years.   [ARSHY]  Premier Stephen McNeil has so far resisted the calls for a public inquiry. Some family members of the people who have died at Northwood are publicly blaming both the facility and the government. But we won’t know exactly who or what is to blame unless there are independent investigations. For now, Nova Scotians just want the deaths to stop.   [HENDERSON] I’m not sure what people want is to lay blame and finger-point. They want to fix the problem before the next wave of COVID hits. What we’ve seen, mostly, is praise and compassion for Northwood workers. You see that in the obituaries. You see that in terms of letters to the editor. In fact, people honk their horns as they pass by Northwood to support the workers. Donations of food and gifts continue to flow   [ARSHY]  People volunteering to speak with Northwood residents over the phone and keep them company has doubled. The local mosque has been donating meals to workers. Medical students have been signing up to help in the facility. After all the tragedies of the last two months, Nova Scotians are still finding ways to come together.   END CREDITS [ARSHY]  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 Jennifer Henderson and Tim Bousquet at the Halifax Examiner, Cassidy Chisolm, Taryn Grant, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke at CBC Nova Scotia, John McPhee and Jim Vibert at the Chronicle Herald, Global News and many others. Right now CBC Nova Scotia is putting together profiles of as many of the Northwood residents who have died as they can. I recommend you go give those a read.  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 additional production 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. Click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com 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. 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 Snowbirds’ pilot. And all the while, COVID-19 ravaged the biggest long-term care home in Atlantic Canada. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Jennifer Henderson (Halifax Examiner), Janice Keefe To learn more: “Nova Scotia’s lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic” by Taryn Grant, Cassidy Chisholm, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke in CBC Nova Scotia “The Northwood board has been expressing “grave concern” about double occupancy rooms for years” by Jennifer Henderson in the Halifax Examiner “Strang, union clash over COVID-19 concerns at Northwood” by John McPhee in The Chronicle Herald   This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar  Additional music from Audio Network “I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor” by Chris Zabriskie, adapted.   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 6 – “NORTHWOOD”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  One of the most difficult things about the last two months is that people can’t mourn collectively. If someone is dying of COVID-19, the whole family can’t gather around their bed and be with them. Funerals have been curtailed. Memorials are taking place mostly online. And when something truly awful happens, the kind of event that cuts right to the heart of a whole community, there’s little we can do. Nova Scotians have been experiencing that reality over and over again in the last two months. Like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia locked itself down on March 22 to stop the growth of coronavirus infections.   [JENNIFER HENDERSON] You start to think, “Can the news get any worse?”   [ARSHY]  That’s Jennifer Henderson, a freelance journalist who’s been covering the pandemic for the Halifax Examiner.    [HENDERSON] You know, you’re in the midst of a pandemic and there are people dying every day at one nursing home in your backyard, and people are worried, you know, about going to work. And then we have this mass shooting that you couldn’t even imagine in a very quiet, rural part of the province.   [NEWS CLIP 1, MALE] Nova Scotians this morning are in a state of shock as this quiet province comes to grips with the fact that it now owns the grim title of the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history.   [HENDERSON] You know, you see the “Nova Scotia Strong” everywhere. And, you know, sometimes I have to think, “Is that about the pandemic or is that about the mass murder?” We’ve been through a great deal in the last eight weeks.   [ARSHY]  The tragedies in Nova Scotia have just been piling up, one on top of the other. People haven’t even been given the chance to come to terms with one of them, before another hits. But they’ve been trying to find a way through. Tributes poured out online. People shared videos, made signs, wrote songs.  Abbigail Cowbrough was one of those people. Standing on the deck of the HMCS Fredericton, she played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Her performance was part of a video put together by the Nova Scotia Pipers’ Tribute to honour the victims of the shooting.  Five days later, on April 29th, Abbigail died. She and five Canadian Armed forces members were killed in a helicopter crash near Greece. Three of the victims, including Abigail, called Nova Scotia home. The province once again mourned.   On May 3rd, the Snowbirds launched Operation: Inspiration, a cross-country tour meant to boost morale amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They started off in Nova Scotia, first flying over Halifax to honour Abbigail and five others killed in the helicopter crash. And then they did it again, this time over Portapique.    [NEWS CLIP 2, FEMALE] A much-needed moral boost on this sunny Sunday. The fames aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, launched a coast-to-coast tour in our region today, something especially appreciated after two devastating tragedies.   [ARSHY]  Flying with them that day was Capt. Jenn Casey. Casey died on May 17th when a Snowbird jet crashed in Kamloops, B.C. And again, the province did their best to honour her life.    [NEWS CLIP 3, MALE] The body of Captain Jennifer Casey returned to Halifax, the city where her life began. Important for the people of Halifax, hundreds of whom lined the streets as the motorcade passed by the places that were significant to Casey. The home where she grew up, and the radio station where she worked before joining the armed forces.    [ARSHY]  The province’s grief has been undercut by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mourning has to be governed by strict rules for the public’s own protection. A community can come together in some ways, but only so far.  And while these shocking tragedies transpired, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept pace. It’s doesn’t feel as sudden as the others. Instead, it’s been unfolding relentlessly over months, taking the lives of 59 Nova Scotians.  Today Nova Scotia is the third-hardest hit province per capita. There have been around a dozen outbreaks at Nova Scotia long-term care homes. But almost all of those deaths, 51 people out of those 59 have taken place at a single facility: The Northwood Centre in Halifax. I’m Arshy Mann, and from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   PART ONE [NEWS CLIP 4, MALE] Our coverage begins tonight in Nova Scotia, where the province has recorded the Maritimes’ first death related to the virus.   [NEWS CLIP 5, MALE] Yesterday, we announced, uh, three residents at Northwood, uh, who had died of COVID-19. We unfortunately have to announce, uh, two more.    [NEWS CLIP 6, FEMALE] The individual who passed away was a resident at Northwood, and marks the tenth death in the province, and sixth at that facility.   [NEWS CLIP 7, MALE] Today I’m sad to say that we’ve lost two more of our seniors at Northwood.    [NEWS CLIP 8, FEMALE] Thirty-five people at the facility have now died of COVID.   [NEWS CLIP 9, MALE] Unfortunately, we have to report three additional deaths at Northwood. We now have 51 Nova Scotians who have died of COVID-19.   [NEWS CLIP 10, MALE] Today, we mourn another loss of an individual at Northwood. We now have 56 Nova Scotians who have died.   [ARSHY]  In some ways, the pandemic in Nova Scotia is playing out in much the same way as the rest of the country. Like the other provinces, the vast majority of deaths are related to long-term care. In Nova Scotia’s case, that number is 95 percent. But almost all of those people died at Northwood.   [HENDERSON] Northwood is the largest nursing home in Atlantic Canada. It’s really a campus. There are three main buildings. It’s right near the Macdonald Bridge, which crosses Halifax Harbor   [ARSHY]  Northwood is run by a non-profit with a long history in Halifax. Here’s Janet Simm, Northwood’s CEO, speaking in a recent video.   [JANET SIMM]  The organization first began as a social movement in response to the plight of seniors living alone in Halifax, a real community effort to make this organization come together and respond to those unmet needs.   [ARSHY]  In 1962, 285 people gathered at a school in the south end of Halifax to talk about the need for affordable housing for seniors. And, by the end of that meeting, Northwood was founded. Northwood Towers opened up five years later, offering cheap apartments for older Haligonians. Three years after that, they began to build Northwood Manor, which was for seniors who needed some assistance. And then in 1970, they started construction on Northwood Centre, which was a nursing home for people who needed more serious care.    [HENDERSON] It is a combination of a retirement-living community and a nursing home, as many places are these days.   [ARSHY]  And since then, Northwood has been very well-regarded in Nova Scotia.   [HENDERSON] The place has a terrific reputation in the community because it’s a home. They have a radio station.   [BOB MARKS] Good morning. This is NWBC, your Seniors Community Broadcasting Club, thanks to Northward Care Inc. Your host this morning, Bob Marks with my “Down Memory Lane” program. It’s time to have a little bit of a request in here. So, Bernice of Summerside, and a selection from 1942.   [HENDERSON] They have a radio station, they have a bar. They have a fitness center for people with dementia. It has a well-deserved reputation in the community. This is not a, uh, for-profit commercially run. This is a not-for-profit community board of governors, which did have the top rating from the accreditation agency prior to the pandemic.   [ARSHY]  Henderson says that everyday Nova Scotians haven’t been putting the blame on Northwood.    [HENDERSON] Imagine, despite the headlines and despite the knowledge that all these people have died, people are still publicly supporting Northwood. As I say, I’m struggling to think of a single negative letter that blamed Northwood.    [ARSHY]  Part of the reason why people aren’t blaming management is that Northwood has been pretty forthcoming about what’s been happening.   [HENDERSON] Northwood management has been more than transparent with the public. They’ve published a timeline. They’ve done daily information updates. They took worker’s temperatures beginning and end of every shift. So they seem to do all the things they could do. And yet this was still a nightmare.   [ARSHY]  So how is it that a facility that everyone agrees is one of the best ones out there could be the site of so much death? The first thing to understand is that, like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia has serious systemic problems with long-term care.   [HENDERSON] Well, prior to the pandemic, it was well-known that Northwood and every nursing home in Nova Scotia had chronic staff shortages. When people were sick, they simply worked short. This was documented by the expert panel. Numerous reports. It was a given.   [ARSHY]  That expert panel put out its findings in 2019, and the chair of it was Janice Keefe.   [JANICE KEEFE] My name’s Janice Keefe. I’m, uh, director of the Nova Scotia Center on Aging. I’m professor and chair of the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount St. Vincent University.   [ARSHY]  The panel was put together after a number of deaths due to neglect in Nova Scotia’s long-term care homes.   [KEEFE]  The impetus was, uh, bedsores. There were a number of residents in long-term care who actually died because of, uh, inappropriate care around bedsores.    [ARSHY]  And the broad takeaways would be familiar to anyone who’s been listening to this podcast.   [KEEFE]  What we basically found was that this was a sector that needed resources, that needed immediate attention. There were a lot of issues around staffing.   [ARSHY]  Staff were constantly working short-handed. And the long-term care sector was viewed as a much worse place to work than other parts of the healthcare system.    [KEEFE]  But for the main part, the staff themselves were really frustrated about not being able to do the best care that they should be doing, because they didn’t have enough time.   [ARSHY]  And as with other provinces, there are massive waitlists, especially because Nova Scotians tend to be older on average than the rest of the country.    [KEEFE]  When people from Ontario talk about, you know, when the population is going to hit, uh, 20 percent, uh, 65 and over, we’ve been dealing with that for over five years.    [ARSHY]  And the residents had increasingly complex health problems. Janice Keefe has seen that first-hand over the last thirty years.   [KEEFE]  So the biggest change… I will tell you, the biggest change is the residents. I worked in a municipality in Nova Scotia and the people going to the facilities would drive their cars. They lived in the nursing homes, but they… They went out to visit. They were mobile. They were not at the end of their life.    [ARSHY]  But these are problems across all long-term care homes. It still doesn’t answer why Northwood, in particular, has experienced such a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.   PART TWO It was March 15 when the first three Nova Scotians tested positive for COVID-19. Only a day later, Northwood barred all visitors to their facilities. But, as in the rest of Canada, the provincial government and the health authority, they weren’t talking about what would happen if the virus actually got into a long-term care facility.   [HENDERSON] My memory of those briefings with our chief medical officer of health and the premier, which happened daily at the beginning of the pandemic, was that all the focus was on the hospitals.   [ARSHY]  By the end of March, social distancing was put into effect across the province. And it wasn’t until early April that Northwood knew that virus was in the facility.   [HENDERSON] The first staff member to test positive for COVID at Northwood was April 5th. The first three residents followed on April 7th. The virus was brought into the Northwood Center building by workers who were asymptomatic and did not suspect they were ill.   [ARSHY]  The day after an employee tested positive, Northwood mandated that all staff had to wear a mask. That was actually two days before Canada’s chief public health officer recommended the same thing, and a full six days before the provincial government made it mandatory for all long-term care workers.   [HENDERSON] But according to the CEO of Northwood, in hindsight, the horse was already out of the barn, so to speak. Although they were ahead of both the provincial and federal guidelines with respect to wearing masks, it came too late to prevent the spread of infection at Northwood.   [ARSHY]  Over the next five days, more residents and staff members began to test positive. And workers who had previously been told to self-isolate were asked to return to Northwood if they tested negative. That was a mistake.   [HENDERSON] So, we know that in the period where people were becoming infected, that staff who were supposed to be out for 14 days, self isolating, were allowed to return to work because they needed them so desperately, if they tested negative. And then Northwood and the public health officials in Nova Scotia learned that you could test negative one day and positive the next.   [ARSHY]  Northwood had prepared a quarantine area for residents who tested positive. It could fit 20 people. But by April 15, just ten days after the first staff member tested positive, they had to open another area. And the virus continued to spread amongst the workers.    [HENDERSON] And you can see that because, by April 18th, they had so many staff who either wouldn’t come to work because they were afraid of getting sick, or they were self isolating because they had come in contact by providing direct care to one of these sick residents. They were told to stay home for 14 days.   [ARSHY]  Around 80 long-term care workers were off work, and the staffing levels were down to just 60 percent of what they normally would be. Then came the horrific weekend of April 18th and 19th. That was the same weekend a mass shooter killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia. At Northwood, residents began to die. Five people died of COVID-19 in just two days. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil held an emergency press conference that Sunday.   [STEPHEN MCNEIL] We weren’t scheduled to have a news conference today, but I felt the need to be here to provide you with an update on one of our long-term care facilities, Northwood, that’s dealing with an outbreak of COVID. I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia. This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history. There are a number of other families who are dealing with their own loss after–after their loved ones died of COVID, five people over the weekend who lived at Northwood. And I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, and my heart goes out to all of you.   [ARSHY]  That weekend, the province really began to act. The Halifax Infirmary COVID-19 unit was redeployed from their hospital to Northwood; additional workers were brought in from the Red Cross, Victorian Order of Nurses and Emergency Health Services; the province set up a hotel as an off-site ward for Northwood residents who recovered for COVID-19… But people kept dying. Six more residents died in three days. And the union representing Nova Scotia’s nurses said that workers who were brought in to help staff Northwood found a total lack of infection controls and not enough PPE. They said it was like “walking into a war zone.” Here’s NSGEU president Jason MacLean speaking to Global News.   [JASON MACLEAN]  Well, when they got to Northwood, there was no supplies for them. Uh, actually, even yesterday morning, they had… They were down to three gowns. A lot of residents up and walking around, both that are sick and those that are presumed sick. So they’re up and they’re–they’re–they’re trying to use the phone at–at the counter, and they’re touching everything that’s around there.   [HENDERSON] Now, Northwood officials said that these were nurses used to infection control in a hospital setting, and that simply wasn’t appropriate or possible in an old nursing home like Northwood; that, basically, it was apples and oranges.   [ARSHY]  And Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Robert Strang, blasted the union and essentially accused them of lying.   [ROBERT STRANG]  They’re using, frankly, fear, fear mongering and hyperbole in terms of the way they’re describing this situation. When we talk to frontline people who are in Northwood, they… What–what the NSGU is saying is actually inaccurate.   [ARSHY]  Over the next week, another twelve people died at Northwood. And during that time, the Nova Scotian government declined to increase the wages of front-line workers, like other provinces had been doing. Another 16 people died in the first week of May and infections amongst residents and staff continued to inch up. On May 8th, Nova Scotia finally agreed to give a pay bump to health care workers on the front lines. But it would only be a one-time payment of $2000. Since then, another 18 people have died at Northwood, bringing the total number up to 52 dead in the facility. It’s clear today that some mistakes were made, both by Northwood and the provincial government. Like long-term care facilities across Canada, workers were a major vector for transmitting the virus. Workers should have been wearing masks the minute we knew the virus was in Nova Scotia. And if they were exposed, they shouldn’t have been allowed to come back to work before the two-week quarantine was up, even if they tested negative.  Whether or not care workers had adequate PPE, and the facility had proper infection controls, hasn’t been determined yet. The nurses union said it was totally unacceptable, but Northwood and the health authority maintain that it was all up to par. But what’s not in dispute is that one of the biggest factors at play during the Northwood outbreak is the building itself.   [HENDERSON] So there’s general agreement that the reason Northwood was so hard hit by COVID was because the rooms were smaller than in newer nursing homes. And it spread like wildfire.   [ARSHY]  In Northwood Centre, where the most disabled residents lived, the rooms and bathrooms were often shared.    [HENDERSON] It’s more like… More like a hospital. And the rooms are small, like hospital rooms for that time, and most of them are shared. So they’re double occupancy and there’s room for about one chair for a visitor and one walker. And there’s curtains between those beds. People are not only sharing a bathroom, they’re sharing a tight space.  But of course, most of our residents have dementia and they don’t respect those boundaries. They’re in each other’s faces and in each other’s stuff and borrowing their false teeth. You know that… That’s what goes on.   [ARSHY]  It’s those lack of single-occupancy rooms that Northwood CEO Janet Simm also places most of the blame on.   [HENDERSON] I asked her at one briefing, you know, “What could have been done in your view to prevent the rapid spread?” And she mentioned the double rooms, getting rid of those, and if employees, in hindsight, had put the masks on sooner.   [ARSHY]  Before the current Liberal government, the last two Nova Scotian premiers did make improvements to long-term care facilities. In the late 2010s, Rodney MacDonald’s Progressive Conservatives opened long-term care beds across the province and even upgraded some older buildings. And after that, Darrell Dexter’s NDP government had eleven long-term care homes slated for upgrades. But since Stephen McNeil was elected in 2013, only one of those facilities has been replaced. And overall, funding for long-term care has gone down.   [HENDERSON] For the last seven years, there haven’t been any new nursing home beds opened under the current Liberal government.   [ARSHY]  When we talk about long-term care and this pandemic, the numbers can get overwhelming. And the actual people at the centre of this story risk becoming just empty statistics.  But we want to tell you about some of the actual people who died in Northwood, because their lives are important, too. Not just where they died or what killed them, we want to mourn some of them as best we can, especially now as this virus has changed how we can do that. Paul Sullivan worked as an insurance salesman. But he was the kind of guy whose clients quickly became his friends. He loved to build things, like hockey rinks in his backyard. And he stayed married to his wife Irenaeus for 60 years. He died in Northwood, without his family able to be by his side. Gerald Jackson’s family had known tragedy before. His father had survived the Halifax Explosion, but it killed 46 of his family members. He was a cook in the navy for two decades, and then spent some time at Sears and then working for a museum. He lived out west in Victoria since the 1970s, but when he developed dementia, his daughters brought him back to Nova Scotia. They were able to speak to him on an iPad one last time on the day he died in Northwood. Bunny Tanner’s children remember her as a strong and strict mother, in a good way. But she really came into her own as a grandmother. She’d survived a bout with lung cancer in 2019 and she loved her private room in Northwood. But her last days in there were terrifying. She’d call her daughter begging to be able to get out of the facility, to go anywhere else. But she died on May 1st. COVID-19 took Gena Hemsworth that same day. She was afraid of flying, but loved sports cars. And she worked as a secretary at the Halifax Regional Vocational School for thirty years, where she put her exceptionally fast typing abilities to use. When she was away from home, Gena would call her house so she could talk to her cats. She cared for her partner Neil Mosher through ALS, and she died at Northwood a little over a month after she’d arrived. Hilda Weber’s husband left her alone with three young children. But she worked multiple jobs to make sure they’d get by. When times were really bad, her children would split a can of soup, while she ate nothing. Derrick Carvey loved taking drives with his dad and going on boat cruises. And he was a big Michael Jackson fan. And because of his cerebral palsy, the doctors said he wouldn’t live past thirty. But at 37, he was still alive and at Northwood, where his 98-year-old grandmother also lived. They once did a fashion show together. But both of them came down with COVID-19. His grandmother fought off the virus, but Derrick died. His father was in the room with him. He played him Michael Jackson before his son’s breathing stopped.  Thelma Coward-Ince was the first black naval reservist in Canadian history. She eventually became secretary to the chief of staff to the admiral of the Canadian navy. And she did all of that while raising two kids on her own. One of them, Tony Ince, is today a cabinet minister in the Nova Scotian government. Tony was on his way to visit his mother again when he got the call. She had died just before he could arrive. And then there’s Evelina Upshaw. She ran a hot lunch program for over three decades in the North End of Halifax. A few years ago, some young people from her neighbourhood made a short documentary about her. They called her a hero. Here she is speaking in that video.   [EVELINA UPSHAW] I said, well, if I can do something to help those mothers, that they can go off to work feeling free, that the children are going to get a hot noon meal, then that was what I wanted to do. So that’s what I did for 33 years.   [ARSHY]  On her last day, one of her daughters, covered in protective equipment, climbed into bed with her. She was able to be there for her mother at the very end.    OUTRO [ARSHY]  For the last three years, Northwood has been asking the provincial government for money so that fewer people had to live in double or triple rooms.   [HENDERSON] The board of Governors was well aware of the potential for a flu outbreak or a pandemic because they had petitioned the provincial government three separate years for money to expand. They wanted to build a few stories higher, keep the same number of beds, but create more single rooms. And the… And the reason they asked for this money was because they wanted to prevent infection. The provincial government never said no. But they never said yes. And nothing got done for three years.   [ARSHY]  Premier Stephen McNeil has so far resisted the calls for a public inquiry. Some family members of the people who have died at Northwood are publicly blaming both the facility and the government. But we won’t know exactly who or what is to blame unless there are independent investigations. For now, Nova Scotians just want the deaths to stop.   [HENDERSON] I’m not sure what people want is to lay blame and finger-point. They want to fix the problem before the next wave of COVID hits. What we’ve seen, mostly, is praise and compassion for Northwood workers. You see that in the obituaries. You see that in terms of letters to the editor. In fact, people honk their horns as they pass by Northwood to support the workers. Donations of food and gifts continue to flow   [ARSHY]  People volunteering to speak with Northwood residents over the phone and keep them company has doubled. The local mosque has been donating meals to workers. Medical students have been signing up to help in the facility. After all the tragedies of the last two months, Nova Scotians are still finding ways to come together.   END CREDITS [ARSHY]  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 Jennifer Henderson and Tim Bousquet at the Halifax Examiner, Cassidy Chisolm, Taryn Grant, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke at CBC Nova Scotia, John McPhee and Jim Vibert at the Chronicle Herald, Global News and many others. Right now CBC Nova Scotia is putting together profiles of as many of the Northwood residents who have died as they can. I recommend you go give those a read.  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 additional production 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. Click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com 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. 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 Snowbirds’ pilot. And all the while, COVID-19 ravaged the biggest long-term care home in Atlantic Canada. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Jennifer Henderson (Halifax Examiner), Janice Keefe To learn more: “Nova Scotia’s lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic” by Taryn Grant, Cassidy Chisholm, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke in CBC Nova Scotia “The Northwood board has been expressing “grave concern” about double occupancy rooms for years” by Jennifer Henderson in the Halifax Examiner “Strang, union clash over COVID-19 concerns at Northwood” by John McPhee in The Chronicle Herald   This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar  Additional music from Audio Network “I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor” by Chris Zabriskie, adapted.   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 6 – “NORTHWOOD”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  One of the most difficult things about the last two months is that people can’t mourn collectively. If someone is dying of COVID-19, the whole family can’t gather around their bed and be with them. Funerals have been curtailed. Memorials are taking place mostly online. And when something truly awful happens, the kind of event that cuts right to the heart of a whole community, there’s little we can do. Nova Scotians have been experiencing that reality over and over again in the last two months. Like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia locked itself down on March 22 to stop the growth of coronavirus infections.   [JENNIFER HENDERSON] You start to think, “Can the news get any worse?”   [ARSHY]  That’s Jennifer Henderson, a freelance journalist who’s been covering the pandemic for the Halifax Examiner.    [HENDERSON] You know, you’re in the midst of a pandemic and there are people dying every day at one nursing home in your backyard, and people are worried, you know, about going to work. And then we have this mass shooting that you couldn’t even imagine in a very quiet, rural part of the province.   [NEWS CLIP 1, MALE] Nova Scotians this morning are in a state of shock as this quiet province comes to grips with the fact that it now owns the grim title of the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history.   [HENDERSON] You know, you see the “Nova Scotia Strong” everywhere. And, you know, sometimes I have to think, “Is that about the pandemic or is that about the mass murder?” We’ve been through a great deal in the last eight weeks.   [ARSHY]  The tragedies in Nova Scotia have just been piling up, one on top of the other. People haven’t even been given the chance to come to terms with one of them, before another hits. But they’ve been trying to find a way through. Tributes poured out online. People shared videos, made signs, wrote songs.  Abbigail Cowbrough was one of those people. Standing on the deck of the HMCS Fredericton, she played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Her performance was part of a video put together by the Nova Scotia Pipers’ Tribute to honour the victims of the shooting.  Five days later, on April 29th, Abbigail died. She and five Canadian Armed forces members were killed in a helicopter crash near Greece. Three of the victims, including Abigail, called Nova Scotia home. The province once again mourned.   On May 3rd, the Snowbirds launched Operation: Inspiration, a cross-country tour meant to boost morale amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They started off in Nova Scotia, first flying over Halifax to honour Abbigail and five others killed in the helicopter crash. And then they did it again, this time over Portapique.    [NEWS CLIP 2, FEMALE] A much-needed moral boost on this sunny Sunday. The fames aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, launched a coast-to-coast tour in our region today, something especially appreciated after two devastating tragedies.   [ARSHY]  Flying with them that day was Capt. Jenn Casey. Casey died on May 17th when a Snowbird jet crashed in Kamloops, B.C. And again, the province did their best to honour her life.    [NEWS CLIP 3, MALE] The body of Captain Jennifer Casey returned to Halifax, the city where her life began. Important for the people of Halifax, hundreds of whom lined the streets as the motorcade passed by the places that were significant to Casey. The home where she grew up, and the radio station where she worked before joining the armed forces.    [ARSHY]  The province’s grief has been undercut by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mourning has to be governed by strict rules for the public’s own protection. A community can come together in some ways, but only so far.  And while these shocking tragedies transpired, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept pace. It’s doesn’t feel as sudden as the others. Instead, it’s been unfolding relentlessly over months, taking the lives of 59 Nova Scotians.  Today Nova Scotia is the third-hardest hit province per capita. There have been around a dozen outbreaks at Nova Scotia long-term care homes. But almost all of those deaths, 51 people out of those 59 have taken place at a single facility: The Northwood Centre in Halifax. I’m Arshy Mann, and from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   PART ONE [NEWS CLIP 4, MALE] Our coverage begins tonight in Nova Scotia, where the province has recorded the Maritimes’ first death related to the virus.   [NEWS CLIP 5, MALE] Yesterday, we announced, uh, three residents at Northwood, uh, who had died of COVID-19. We unfortunately have to announce, uh, two more.    [NEWS CLIP 6, FEMALE] The individual who passed away was a resident at Northwood, and marks the tenth death in the province, and sixth at that facility.   [NEWS CLIP 7, MALE] Today I’m sad to say that we’ve lost two more of our seniors at Northwood.    [NEWS CLIP 8, FEMALE] Thirty-five people at the facility have now died of COVID.   [NEWS CLIP 9, MALE] Unfortunately, we have to report three additional deaths at Northwood. We now have 51 Nova Scotians who have died of COVID-19.   [NEWS CLIP 10, MALE] Today, we mourn another loss of an individual at Northwood. We now have 56 Nova Scotians who have died.   [ARSHY]  In some ways, the pandemic in Nova Scotia is playing out in much the same way as the rest of the country. Like the other provinces, the vast majority of deaths are related to long-term care. In Nova Scotia’s case, that number is 95 percent. But almost all of those people died at Northwood.   [HENDERSON] Northwood is the largest nursing home in Atlantic Canada. It’s really a campus. There are three main buildings. It’s right near the Macdonald Bridge, which crosses Halifax Harbor   [ARSHY]  Northwood is run by a non-profit with a long history in Halifax. Here’s Janet Simm, Northwood’s CEO, speaking in a recent video.   [JANET SIMM]  The organization first began as a social movement in response to the plight of seniors living alone in Halifax, a real community effort to make this organization come together and respond to those unmet needs.   [ARSHY]  In 1962, 285 people gathered at a school in the south end of Halifax to talk about the need for affordable housing for seniors. And, by the end of that meeting, Northwood was founded. Northwood Towers opened up five years later, offering cheap apartments for older Haligonians. Three years after that, they began to build Northwood Manor, which was for seniors who needed some assistance. And then in 1970, they started construction on Northwood Centre, which was a nursing home for people who needed more serious care.    [HENDERSON] It is a combination of a retirement-living community and a nursing home, as many places are these days.   [ARSHY]  And since then, Northwood has been very well-regarded in Nova Scotia.   [HENDERSON] The place has a terrific reputation in the community because it’s a home. They have a radio station.   [BOB MARKS] Good morning. This is NWBC, your Seniors Community Broadcasting Club, thanks to Northward Care Inc. Your host this morning, Bob Marks with my “Down Memory Lane” program. It’s time to have a little bit of a request in here. So, Bernice of Summerside, and a selection from 1942.   [HENDERSON] They have a radio station, they have a bar. They have a fitness center for people with dementia. It has a well-deserved reputation in the community. This is not a, uh, for-profit commercially run. This is a not-for-profit community board of governors, which did have the top rating from the accreditation agency prior to the pandemic.   [ARSHY]  Henderson says that everyday Nova Scotians haven’t been putting the blame on Northwood.    [HENDERSON] Imagine, despite the headlines and despite the knowledge that all these people have died, people are still publicly supporting Northwood. As I say, I’m struggling to think of a single negative letter that blamed Northwood.    [ARSHY]  Part of the reason why people aren’t blaming management is that Northwood has been pretty forthcoming about what’s been happening.   [HENDERSON] Northwood management has been more than transparent with the public. They’ve published a timeline. They’ve done daily information updates. They took worker’s temperatures beginning and end of every shift. So they seem to do all the things they could do. And yet this was still a nightmare.   [ARSHY]  So how is it that a facility that everyone agrees is one of the best ones out there could be the site of so much death? The first thing to understand is that, like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia has serious systemic problems with long-term care.   [HENDERSON] Well, prior to the pandemic, it was well-known that Northwood and every nursing home in Nova Scotia had chronic staff shortages. When people were sick, they simply worked short. This was documented by the expert panel. Numerous reports. It was a given.   [ARSHY]  That expert panel put out its findings in 2019, and the chair of it was Janice Keefe.   [JANICE KEEFE] My name’s Janice Keefe. I’m, uh, director of the Nova Scotia Center on Aging. I’m professor and chair of the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount St. Vincent University.   [ARSHY]  The panel was put together after a number of deaths due to neglect in Nova Scotia’s long-term care homes.   [KEEFE]  The impetus was, uh, bedsores. There were a number of residents in long-term care who actually died because of, uh, inappropriate care around bedsores.    [ARSHY]  And the broad takeaways would be familiar to anyone who’s been listening to this podcast.   [KEEFE]  What we basically found was that this was a sector that needed resources, that needed immediate attention. There were a lot of issues around staffing.   [ARSHY]  Staff were constantly working short-handed. And the long-term care sector was viewed as a much worse place to work than other parts of the healthcare system.    [KEEFE]  But for the main part, the staff themselves were really frustrated about not being able to do the best care that they should be doing, because they didn’t have enough time.   [ARSHY]  And as with other provinces, there are massive waitlists, especially because Nova Scotians tend to be older on average than the rest of the country.    [KEEFE]  When people from Ontario talk about, you know, when the population is going to hit, uh, 20 percent, uh, 65 and over, we’ve been dealing with that for over five years.    [ARSHY]  And the residents had increasingly complex health problems. Janice Keefe has seen that first-hand over the last thirty years.   [KEEFE]  So the biggest change… I will tell you, the biggest change is the residents. I worked in a municipality in Nova Scotia and the people going to the facilities would drive their cars. They lived in the nursing homes, but they… They went out to visit. They were mobile. They were not at the end of their life.    [ARSHY]  But these are problems across all long-term care homes. It still doesn’t answer why Northwood, in particular, has experienced such a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.   PART TWO It was March 15 when the first three Nova Scotians tested positive for COVID-19. Only a day later, Northwood barred all visitors to their facilities. But, as in the rest of Canada, the provincial government and the health authority, they weren’t talking about what would happen if the virus actually got into a long-term care facility.   [HENDERSON] My memory of those briefings with our chief medical officer of health and the premier, which happened daily at the beginning of the pandemic, was that all the focus was on the hospitals.   [ARSHY]  By the end of March, social distancing was put into effect across the province. And it wasn’t until early April that Northwood knew that virus was in the facility.   [HENDERSON] The first staff member to test positive for COVID at Northwood was April 5th. The first three residents followed on April 7th. The virus was brought into the Northwood Center building by workers who were asymptomatic and did not suspect they were ill.   [ARSHY]  The day after an employee tested positive, Northwood mandated that all staff had to wear a mask. That was actually two days before Canada’s chief public health officer recommended the same thing, and a full six days before the provincial government made it mandatory for all long-term care workers.   [HENDERSON] But according to the CEO of Northwood, in hindsight, the horse was already out of the barn, so to speak. Although they were ahead of both the provincial and federal guidelines with respect to wearing masks, it came too late to prevent the spread of infection at Northwood.   [ARSHY]  Over the next five days, more residents and staff members began to test positive. And workers who had previously been told to self-isolate were asked to return to Northwood if they tested negative. That was a mistake.   [HENDERSON] So, we know that in the period where people were becoming infected, that staff who were supposed to be out for 14 days, self isolating, were allowed to return to work because they needed them so desperately, if they tested negative. And then Northwood and the public health officials in Nova Scotia learned that you could test negative one day and positive the next.   [ARSHY]  Northwood had prepared a quarantine area for residents who tested positive. It could fit 20 people. But by April 15, just ten days after the first staff member tested positive, they had to open another area. And the virus continued to spread amongst the workers.    [HENDERSON] And you can see that because, by April 18th, they had so many staff who either wouldn’t come to work because they were afraid of getting sick, or they were self isolating because they had come in contact by providing direct care to one of these sick residents. They were told to stay home for 14 days.   [ARSHY]  Around 80 long-term care workers were off work, and the staffing levels were down to just 60 percent of what they normally would be. Then came the horrific weekend of April 18th and 19th. That was the same weekend a mass shooter killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia. At Northwood, residents began to die. Five people died of COVID-19 in just two days. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil held an emergency press conference that Sunday.   [STEPHEN MCNEIL] We weren’t scheduled to have a news conference today, but I felt the need to be here to provide you with an update on one of our long-term care facilities, Northwood, that’s dealing with an outbreak of COVID. I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia. This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history. There are a number of other families who are dealing with their own loss after–after their loved ones died of COVID, five people over the weekend who lived at Northwood. And I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, and my heart goes out to all of you.   [ARSHY]  That weekend, the province really began to act. The Halifax Infirmary COVID-19 unit was redeployed from their hospital to Northwood; additional workers were brought in from the Red Cross, Victorian Order of Nurses and Emergency Health Services; the province set up a hotel as an off-site ward for Northwood residents who recovered for COVID-19… But people kept dying. Six more residents died in three days. And the union representing Nova Scotia’s nurses said that workers who were brought in to help staff Northwood found a total lack of infection controls and not enough PPE. They said it was like “walking into a war zone.” Here’s NSGEU president Jason MacLean speaking to Global News.   [JASON MACLEAN]  Well, when they got to Northwood, there was no supplies for them. Uh, actually, even yesterday morning, they had… They were down to three gowns. A lot of residents up and walking around, both that are sick and those that are presumed sick. So they’re up and they’re–they’re–they’re trying to use the phone at–at the counter, and they’re touching everything that’s around there.   [HENDERSON] Now, Northwood officials said that these were nurses used to infection control in a hospital setting, and that simply wasn’t appropriate or possible in an old nursing home like Northwood; that, basically, it was apples and oranges.   [ARSHY]  And Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Robert Strang, blasted the union and essentially accused them of lying.   [ROBERT STRANG]  They’re using, frankly, fear, fear mongering and hyperbole in terms of the way they’re describing this situation. When we talk to frontline people who are in Northwood, they… What–what the NSGU is saying is actually inaccurate.   [ARSHY]  Over the next week, another twelve people died at Northwood. And during that time, the Nova Scotian government declined to increase the wages of front-line workers, like other provinces had been doing. Another 16 people died in the first week of May and infections amongst residents and staff continued to inch up. On May 8th, Nova Scotia finally agreed to give a pay bump to health care workers on the front lines. But it would only be a one-time payment of $2000. Since then, another 18 people have died at Northwood, bringing the total number up to 52 dead in the facility. It’s clear today that some mistakes were made, both by Northwood and the provincial government. Like long-term care facilities across Canada, workers were a major vector for transmitting the virus. Workers should have been wearing masks the minute we knew the virus was in Nova Scotia. And if they were exposed, they shouldn’t have been allowed to come back to work before the two-week quarantine was up, even if they tested negative.  Whether or not care workers had adequate PPE, and the facility had proper infection controls, hasn’t been determined yet. The nurses union said it was totally unacceptable, but Northwood and the health authority maintain that it was all up to par. But what’s not in dispute is that one of the biggest factors at play during the Northwood outbreak is the building itself.   [HENDERSON] So there’s general agreement that the reason Northwood was so hard hit by COVID was because the rooms were smaller than in newer nursing homes. And it spread like wildfire.   [ARSHY]  In Northwood Centre, where the most disabled residents lived, the rooms and bathrooms were often shared.    [HENDERSON] It’s more like… More like a hospital. And the rooms are small, like hospital rooms for that time, and most of them are shared. So they’re double occupancy and there’s room for about one chair for a visitor and one walker. And there’s curtains between those beds. People are not only sharing a bathroom, they’re sharing a tight space.  But of course, most of our residents have dementia and they don’t respect those boundaries. They’re in each other’s faces and in each other’s stuff and borrowing their false teeth. You know that… That’s what goes on.   [ARSHY]  It’s those lack of single-occupancy rooms that Northwood CEO Janet Simm also places most of the blame on.   [HENDERSON] I asked her at one briefing, you know, “What could have been done in your view to prevent the rapid spread?” And she mentioned the double rooms, getting rid of those, and if employees, in hindsight, had put the masks on sooner.   [ARSHY]  Before the current Liberal government, the last two Nova Scotian premiers did make improvements to long-term care facilities. In the late 2010s, Rodney MacDonald’s Progressive Conservatives opened long-term care beds across the province and even upgraded some older buildings. And after that, Darrell Dexter’s NDP government had eleven long-term care homes slated for upgrades. But since Stephen McNeil was elected in 2013, only one of those facilities has been replaced. And overall, funding for long-term care has gone down.   [HENDERSON] For the last seven years, there haven’t been any new nursing home beds opened under the current Liberal government.   [ARSHY]  When we talk about long-term care and this pandemic, the numbers can get overwhelming. And the actual people at the centre of this story risk becoming just empty statistics.  But we want to tell you about some of the actual people who died in Northwood, because their lives are important, too. Not just where they died or what killed them, we want to mourn some of them as best we can, especially now as this virus has changed how we can do that. Paul Sullivan worked as an insurance salesman. But he was the kind of guy whose clients quickly became his friends. He loved to build things, like hockey rinks in his backyard. And he stayed married to his wife Irenaeus for 60 years. He died in Northwood, without his family able to be by his side. Gerald Jackson’s family had known tragedy before. His father had survived the Halifax Explosion, but it killed 46 of his family members. He was a cook in the navy for two decades, and then spent some time at Sears and then working for a museum. He lived out west in Victoria since the 1970s, but when he developed dementia, his daughters brought him back to Nova Scotia. They were able to speak to him on an iPad one last time on the day he died in Northwood. Bunny Tanner’s children remember her as a strong and strict mother, in a good way. But she really came into her own as a grandmother. She’d survived a bout with lung cancer in 2019 and she loved her private room in Northwood. But her last days in there were terrifying. She’d call her daughter begging to be able to get out of the facility, to go anywhere else. But she died on May 1st. COVID-19 took Gena Hemsworth that same day. She was afraid of flying, but loved sports cars. And she worked as a secretary at the Halifax Regional Vocational School for thirty years, where she put her exceptionally fast typing abilities to use. When she was away from home, Gena would call her house so she could talk to her cats. She cared for her partner Neil Mosher through ALS, and she died at Northwood a little over a month after she’d arrived. Hilda Weber’s husband left her alone with three young children. But she worked multiple jobs to make sure they’d get by. When times were really bad, her children would split a can of soup, while she ate nothing. Derrick Carvey loved taking drives with his dad and going on boat cruises. And he was a big Michael Jackson fan. And because of his cerebral palsy, the doctors said he wouldn’t live past thirty. But at 37, he was still alive and at Northwood, where his 98-year-old grandmother also lived. They once did a fashion show together. But both of them came down with COVID-19. His grandmother fought off the virus, but Derrick died. His father was in the room with him. He played him Michael Jackson before his son’s breathing stopped.  Thelma Coward-Ince was the first black naval reservist in Canadian history. She eventually became secretary to the chief of staff to the admiral of the Canadian navy. And she did all of that while raising two kids on her own. One of them, Tony Ince, is today a cabinet minister in the Nova Scotian government. Tony was on his way to visit his mother again when he got the call. She had died just before he could arrive. And then there’s Evelina Upshaw. She ran a hot lunch program for over three decades in the North End of Halifax. A few years ago, some young people from her neighbourhood made a short documentary about her. They called her a hero. Here she is speaking in that video.   [EVELINA UPSHAW] I said, well, if I can do something to help those mothers, that they can go off to work feeling free, that the children are going to get a hot noon meal, then that was what I wanted to do. So that’s what I did for 33 years.   [ARSHY]  On her last day, one of her daughters, covered in protective equipment, climbed into bed with her. She was able to be there for her mother at the very end.    OUTRO [ARSHY]  For the last three years, Northwood has been asking the provincial government for money so that fewer people had to live in double or triple rooms.   [HENDERSON] The board of Governors was well aware of the potential for a flu outbreak or a pandemic because they had petitioned the provincial government three separate years for money to expand. They wanted to build a few stories higher, keep the same number of beds, but create more single rooms. And the… And the reason they asked for this money was because they wanted to prevent infection. The provincial government never said no. But they never said yes. And nothing got done for three years.   [ARSHY]  Premier Stephen McNeil has so far resisted the calls for a public inquiry. Some family members of the people who have died at Northwood are publicly blaming both the facility and the government. But we won’t know exactly who or what is to blame unless there are independent investigations. For now, Nova Scotians just want the deaths to stop.   [HENDERSON] I’m not sure what people want is to lay blame and finger-point. They want to fix the problem before the next wave of COVID hits. What we’ve seen, mostly, is praise and compassion for Northwood workers. You see that in the obituaries. You see that in terms of letters to the editor. In fact, people honk their horns as they pass by Northwood to support the workers. Donations of food and gifts continue to flow   [ARSHY]  People volunteering to speak with Northwood residents over the phone and keep them company has doubled. The local mosque has been donating meals to workers. Medical students have been signing up to help in the facility. After all the tragedies of the last two months, Nova Scotians are still finding ways to come together.   END CREDITS [ARSHY]  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 Jennifer Henderson and Tim Bousquet at the Halifax Examiner, Cassidy Chisolm, Taryn Grant, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke at CBC Nova Scotia, John McPhee and Jim Vibert at the Chronicle Herald, Global News and many others. Right now CBC Nova Scotia is putting together profiles of as many of the Northwood residents who have died as they can. I recommend you go give those a read.  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 additional production 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. Click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com 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. 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 Snowbirds’ pilot. And all the while, COVID-19 ravaged the biggest long-term care home in Atlantic Canada. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Jennifer Henderson (Halifax Examiner), Janice Keefe To learn more: “Nova Scotia’s lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic” by Taryn Grant, Cassidy Chisholm, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke in CBC Nova Scotia “The Northwood board has been expressing “grave concern” about double occupancy rooms for years” by Jennifer Henderson in the Halifax Examiner “Strang, union clash over COVID-19 concerns at Northwood” by John McPhee in The Chronicle Herald   This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar  Additional music from Audio Network “I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor” by Chris Zabriskie, adapted.   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 6 – “NORTHWOOD”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  One of the most difficult things about the last two months is that people can’t mourn collectively. If someone is dying of COVID-19, the whole family can’t gather around their bed and be with them. Funerals have been curtailed. Memorials are taking place mostly online. And when something truly awful happens, the kind of event that cuts right to the heart of a whole community, there’s little we can do. Nova Scotians have been experiencing that reality over and over again in the last two months. Like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia locked itself down on March 22 to stop the growth of coronavirus infections.   [JENNIFER HENDERSON] You start to think, “Can the news get any worse?”   [ARSHY]  That’s Jennifer Henderson, a freelance journalist who’s been covering the pandemic for the Halifax Examiner.    [HENDERSON] You know, you’re in the midst of a pandemic and there are people dying every day at one nursing home in your backyard, and people are worried, you know, about going to work. And then we have this mass shooting that you couldn’t even imagine in a very quiet, rural part of the province.   [NEWS CLIP 1, MALE] Nova Scotians this morning are in a state of shock as this quiet province comes to grips with the fact that it now owns the grim title of the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history.   [HENDERSON] You know, you see the “Nova Scotia Strong” everywhere. And, you know, sometimes I have to think, “Is that about the pandemic or is that about the mass murder?” We’ve been through a great deal in the last eight weeks.   [ARSHY]  The tragedies in Nova Scotia have just been piling up, one on top of the other. People haven’t even been given the chance to come to terms with one of them, before another hits. But they’ve been trying to find a way through. Tributes poured out online. People shared videos, made signs, wrote songs.  Abbigail Cowbrough was one of those people. Standing on the deck of the HMCS Fredericton, she played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Her performance was part of a video put together by the Nova Scotia Pipers’ Tribute to honour the victims of the shooting.  Five days later, on April 29th, Abbigail died. She and five Canadian Armed forces members were killed in a helicopter crash near Greece. Three of the victims, including Abigail, called Nova Scotia home. The province once again mourned.   On May 3rd, the Snowbirds launched Operation: Inspiration, a cross-country tour meant to boost morale amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They started off in Nova Scotia, first flying over Halifax to honour Abbigail and five others killed in the helicopter crash. And then they did it again, this time over Portapique.    [NEWS CLIP 2, FEMALE] A much-needed moral boost on this sunny Sunday. The fames aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, launched a coast-to-coast tour in our region today, something especially appreciated after two devastating tragedies.   [ARSHY]  Flying with them that day was Capt. Jenn Casey. Casey died on May 17th when a Snowbird jet crashed in Kamloops, B.C. And again, the province did their best to honour her life.    [NEWS CLIP 3, MALE] The body of Captain Jennifer Casey returned to Halifax, the city where her life began. Important for the people of Halifax, hundreds of whom lined the streets as the motorcade passed by the places that were significant to Casey. The home where she grew up, and the radio station where she worked before joining the armed forces.    [ARSHY]  The province’s grief has been undercut by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mourning has to be governed by strict rules for the public’s own protection. A community can come together in some ways, but only so far.  And while these shocking tragedies transpired, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept pace. It’s doesn’t feel as sudden as the others. Instead, it’s been unfolding relentlessly over months, taking the lives of 59 Nova Scotians.  Today Nova Scotia is the third-hardest hit province per capita. There have been around a dozen outbreaks at Nova Scotia long-term care homes. But almost all of those deaths, 51 people out of those 59 have taken place at a single facility: The Northwood Centre in Halifax. I’m Arshy Mann, and from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   PART ONE [NEWS CLIP 4, MALE] Our coverage begins tonight in Nova Scotia, where the province has recorded the Maritimes’ first death related to the virus.   [NEWS CLIP 5, MALE] Yesterday, we announced, uh, three residents at Northwood, uh, who had died of COVID-19. We unfortunately have to announce, uh, two more.    [NEWS CLIP 6, FEMALE] The individual who passed away was a resident at Northwood, and marks the tenth death in the province, and sixth at that facility.   [NEWS CLIP 7, MALE] Today I’m sad to say that we’ve lost two more of our seniors at Northwood.    [NEWS CLIP 8, FEMALE] Thirty-five people at the facility have now died of COVID.   [NEWS CLIP 9, MALE] Unfortunately, we have to report three additional deaths at Northwood. We now have 51 Nova Scotians who have died of COVID-19.   [NEWS CLIP 10, MALE] Today, we mourn another loss of an individual at Northwood. We now have 56 Nova Scotians who have died.   [ARSHY]  In some ways, the pandemic in Nova Scotia is playing out in much the same way as the rest of the country. Like the other provinces, the vast majority of deaths are related to long-term care. In Nova Scotia’s case, that number is 95 percent. But almost all of those people died at Northwood.   [HENDERSON] Northwood is the largest nursing home in Atlantic Canada. It’s really a campus. There are three main buildings. It’s right near the Macdonald Bridge, which crosses Halifax Harbor   [ARSHY]  Northwood is run by a non-profit with a long history in Halifax. Here’s Janet Simm, Northwood’s CEO, speaking in a recent video.   [JANET SIMM]  The organization first began as a social movement in response to the plight of seniors living alone in Halifax, a real community effort to make this organization come together and respond to those unmet needs.   [ARSHY]  In 1962, 285 people gathered at a school in the south end of Halifax to talk about the need for affordable housing for seniors. And, by the end of that meeting, Northwood was founded. Northwood Towers opened up five years later, offering cheap apartments for older Haligonians. Three years after that, they began to build Northwood Manor, which was for seniors who needed some assistance. And then in 1970, they started construction on Northwood Centre, which was a nursing home for people who needed more serious care.    [HENDERSON] It is a combination of a retirement-living community and a nursing home, as many places are these days.   [ARSHY]  And since then, Northwood has been very well-regarded in Nova Scotia.   [HENDERSON] The place has a terrific reputation in the community because it’s a home. They have a radio station.   [BOB MARKS] Good morning. This is NWBC, your Seniors Community Broadcasting Club, thanks to Northward Care Inc. Your host this morning, Bob Marks with my “Down Memory Lane” program. It’s time to have a little bit of a request in here. So, Bernice of Summerside, and a selection from 1942.   [HENDERSON] They have a radio station, they have a bar. They have a fitness center for people with dementia. It has a well-deserved reputation in the community. This is not a, uh, for-profit commercially run. This is a not-for-profit community board of governors, which did have the top rating from the accreditation agency prior to the pandemic.   [ARSHY]  Henderson says that everyday Nova Scotians haven’t been putting the blame on Northwood.    [HENDERSON] Imagine, despite the headlines and despite the knowledge that all these people have died, people are still publicly supporting Northwood. As I say, I’m struggling to think of a single negative letter that blamed Northwood.    [ARSHY]  Part of the reason why people aren’t blaming management is that Northwood has been pretty forthcoming about what’s been happening.   [HENDERSON] Northwood management has been more than transparent with the public. They’ve published a timeline. They’ve done daily information updates. They took worker’s temperatures beginning and end of every shift. So they seem to do all the things they could do. And yet this was still a nightmare.   [ARSHY]  So how is it that a facility that everyone agrees is one of the best ones out there could be the site of so much death? The first thing to understand is that, like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia has serious systemic problems with long-term care.   [HENDERSON] Well, prior to the pandemic, it was well-known that Northwood and every nursing home in Nova Scotia had chronic staff shortages. When people were sick, they simply worked short. This was documented by the expert panel. Numerous reports. It was a given.   [ARSHY]  That expert panel put out its findings in 2019, and the chair of it was Janice Keefe.   [JANICE KEEFE] My name’s Janice Keefe. I’m, uh, director of the Nova Scotia Center on Aging. I’m professor and chair of the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount St. Vincent University.   [ARSHY]  The panel was put together after a number of deaths due to neglect in Nova Scotia’s long-term care homes.   [KEEFE]  The impetus was, uh, bedsores. There were a number of residents in long-term care who actually died because of, uh, inappropriate care around bedsores.    [ARSHY]  And the broad takeaways would be familiar to anyone who’s been listening to this podcast.   [KEEFE]  What we basically found was that this was a sector that needed resources, that needed immediate attention. There were a lot of issues around staffing.   [ARSHY]  Staff were constantly working short-handed. And the long-term care sector was viewed as a much worse place to work than other parts of the healthcare system.    [KEEFE]  But for the main part, the staff themselves were really frustrated about not being able to do the best care that they should be doing, because they didn’t have enough time.   [ARSHY]  And as with other provinces, there are massive waitlists, especially because Nova Scotians tend to be older on average than the rest of the country.    [KEEFE]  When people from Ontario talk about, you know, when the population is going to hit, uh, 20 percent, uh, 65 and over, we’ve been dealing with that for over five years.    [ARSHY]  And the residents had increasingly complex health problems. Janice Keefe has seen that first-hand over the last thirty years.   [KEEFE]  So the biggest change… I will tell you, the biggest change is the residents. I worked in a municipality in Nova Scotia and the people going to the facilities would drive their cars. They lived in the nursing homes, but they… They went out to visit. They were mobile. They were not at the end of their life.    [ARSHY]  But these are problems across all long-term care homes. It still doesn’t answer why Northwood, in particular, has experienced such a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.   PART TWO It was March 15 when the first three Nova Scotians tested positive for COVID-19. Only a day later, Northwood barred all visitors to their facilities. But, as in the rest of Canada, the provincial government and the health authority, they weren’t talking about what would happen if the virus actually got into a long-term care facility.   [HENDERSON] My memory of those briefings with our chief medical officer of health and the premier, which happened daily at the beginning of the pandemic, was that all the focus was on the hospitals.   [ARSHY]  By the end of March, social distancing was put into effect across the province. And it wasn’t until early April that Northwood knew that virus was in the facility.   [HENDERSON] The first staff member to test positive for COVID at Northwood was April 5th. The first three residents followed on April 7th. The virus was brought into the Northwood Center building by workers who were asymptomatic and did not suspect they were ill.   [ARSHY]  The day after an employee tested positive, Northwood mandated that all staff had to wear a mask. That was actually two days before Canada’s chief public health officer recommended the same thing, and a full six days before the provincial government made it mandatory for all long-term care workers.   [HENDERSON] But according to the CEO of Northwood, in hindsight, the horse was already out of the barn, so to speak. Although they were ahead of both the provincial and federal guidelines with respect to wearing masks, it came too late to prevent the spread of infection at Northwood.   [ARSHY]  Over the next five days, more residents and staff members began to test positive. And workers who had previously been told to self-isolate were asked to return to Northwood if they tested negative. That was a mistake.   [HENDERSON] So, we know that in the period where people were becoming infected, that staff who were supposed to be out for 14 days, self isolating, were allowed to return to work because they needed them so desperately, if they tested negative. And then Northwood and the public health officials in Nova Scotia learned that you could test negative one day and positive the next.   [ARSHY]  Northwood had prepared a quarantine area for residents who tested positive. It could fit 20 people. But by April 15, just ten days after the first staff member tested positive, they had to open another area. And the virus continued to spread amongst the workers.    [HENDERSON] And you can see that because, by April 18th, they had so many staff who either wouldn’t come to work because they were afraid of getting sick, or they were self isolating because they had come in contact by providing direct care to one of these sick residents. They were told to stay home for 14 days.   [ARSHY]  Around 80 long-term care workers were off work, and the staffing levels were down to just 60 percent of what they normally would be. Then came the horrific weekend of April 18th and 19th. That was the same weekend a mass shooter killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia. At Northwood, residents began to die. Five people died of COVID-19 in just two days. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil held an emergency press conference that Sunday.   [STEPHEN MCNEIL] We weren’t scheduled to have a news conference today, but I felt the need to be here to provide you with an update on one of our long-term care facilities, Northwood, that’s dealing with an outbreak of COVID. I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia. This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history. There are a number of other families who are dealing with their own loss after–after their loved ones died of COVID, five people over the weekend who lived at Northwood. And I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, and my heart goes out to all of you.   [ARSHY]  That weekend, the province really began to act. The Halifax Infirmary COVID-19 unit was redeployed from their hospital to Northwood; additional workers were brought in from the Red Cross, Victorian Order of Nurses and Emergency Health Services; the province set up a hotel as an off-site ward for Northwood residents who recovered for COVID-19… But people kept dying. Six more residents died in three days. And the union representing Nova Scotia’s nurses said that workers who were brought in to help staff Northwood found a total lack of infection controls and not enough PPE. They said it was like “walking into a war zone.” Here’s NSGEU president Jason MacLean speaking to Global News.   [JASON MACLEAN]  Well, when they got to Northwood, there was no supplies for them. Uh, actually, even yesterday morning, they had… They were down to three gowns. A lot of residents up and walking around, both that are sick and those that are presumed sick. So they’re up and they’re–they’re–they’re trying to use the phone at–at the counter, and they’re touching everything that’s around there.   [HENDERSON] Now, Northwood officials said that these were nurses used to infection control in a hospital setting, and that simply wasn’t appropriate or possible in an old nursing home like Northwood; that, basically, it was apples and oranges.   [ARSHY]  And Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Robert Strang, blasted the union and essentially accused them of lying.   [ROBERT STRANG]  They’re using, frankly, fear, fear mongering and hyperbole in terms of the way they’re describing this situation. When we talk to frontline people who are in Northwood, they… What–what the NSGU is saying is actually inaccurate.   [ARSHY]  Over the next week, another twelve people died at Northwood. And during that time, the Nova Scotian government declined to increase the wages of front-line workers, like other provinces had been doing. Another 16 people died in the first week of May and infections amongst residents and staff continued to inch up. On May 8th, Nova Scotia finally agreed to give a pay bump to health care workers on the front lines. But it would only be a one-time payment of $2000. Since then, another 18 people have died at Northwood, bringing the total number up to 52 dead in the facility. It’s clear today that some mistakes were made, both by Northwood and the provincial government. Like long-term care facilities across Canada, workers were a major vector for transmitting the virus. Workers should have been wearing masks the minute we knew the virus was in Nova Scotia. And if they were exposed, they shouldn’t have been allowed to come back to work before the two-week quarantine was up, even if they tested negative.  Whether or not care workers had adequate PPE, and the facility had proper infection controls, hasn’t been determined yet. The nurses union said it was totally unacceptable, but Northwood and the health authority maintain that it was all up to par. But what’s not in dispute is that one of the biggest factors at play during the Northwood outbreak is the building itself.   [HENDERSON] So there’s general agreement that the reason Northwood was so hard hit by COVID was because the rooms were smaller than in newer nursing homes. And it spread like wildfire.   [ARSHY]  In Northwood Centre, where the most disabled residents lived, the rooms and bathrooms were often shared.    [HENDERSON] It’s more like… More like a hospital. And the rooms are small, like hospital rooms for that time, and most of them are shared. So they’re double occupancy and there’s room for about one chair for a visitor and one walker. And there’s curtains between those beds. People are not only sharing a bathroom, they’re sharing a tight space.  But of course, most of our residents have dementia and they don’t respect those boundaries. They’re in each other’s faces and in each other’s stuff and borrowing their false teeth. You know that… That’s what goes on.   [ARSHY]  It’s those lack of single-occupancy rooms that Northwood CEO Janet Simm also places most of the blame on.   [HENDERSON] I asked her at one briefing, you know, “What could have been done in your view to prevent the rapid spread?” And she mentioned the double rooms, getting rid of those, and if employees, in hindsight, had put the masks on sooner.   [ARSHY]  Before the current Liberal government, the last two Nova Scotian premiers did make improvements to long-term care facilities. In the late 2010s, Rodney MacDonald’s Progressive Conservatives opened long-term care beds across the province and even upgraded some older buildings. And after that, Darrell Dexter’s NDP government had eleven long-term care homes slated for upgrades. But since Stephen McNeil was elected in 2013, only one of those facilities has been replaced. And overall, funding for long-term care has gone down.   [HENDERSON] For the last seven years, there haven’t been any new nursing home beds opened under the current Liberal government.   [ARSHY]  When we talk about long-term care and this pandemic, the numbers can get overwhelming. And the actual people at the centre of this story risk becoming just empty statistics.  But we want to tell you about some of the actual people who died in Northwood, because their lives are important, too. Not just where they died or what killed them, we want to mourn some of them as best we can, especially now as this virus has changed how we can do that. Paul Sullivan worked as an insurance salesman. But he was the kind of guy whose clients quickly became his friends. He loved to build things, like hockey rinks in his backyard. And he stayed married to his wife Irenaeus for 60 years. He died in Northwood, without his family able to be by his side. Gerald Jackson’s family had known tragedy before. His father had survived the Halifax Explosion, but it killed 46 of his family members. He was a cook in the navy for two decades, and then spent some time at Sears and then working for a museum. He lived out west in Victoria since the 1970s, but when he developed dementia, his daughters brought him back to Nova Scotia. They were able to speak to him on an iPad one last time on the day he died in Northwood. Bunny Tanner’s children remember her as a strong and strict mother, in a good way. But she really came into her own as a grandmother. She’d survived a bout with lung cancer in 2019 and she loved her private room in Northwood. But her last days in there were terrifying. She’d call her daughter begging to be able to get out of the facility, to go anywhere else. But she died on May 1st. COVID-19 took Gena Hemsworth that same day. She was afraid of flying, but loved sports cars. And she worked as a secretary at the Halifax Regional Vocational School for thirty years, where she put her exceptionally fast typing abilities to use. When she was away from home, Gena would call her house so she could talk to her cats. She cared for her partner Neil Mosher through ALS, and she died at Northwood a little over a month after she’d arrived. Hilda Weber’s husband left her alone with three young children. But she worked multiple jobs to make sure they’d get by. When times were really bad, her children would split a can of soup, while she ate nothing. Derrick Carvey loved taking drives with his dad and going on boat cruises. And he was a big Michael Jackson fan. And because of his cerebral palsy, the doctors said he wouldn’t live past thirty. But at 37, he was still alive and at Northwood, where his 98-year-old grandmother also lived. They once did a fashion show together. But both of them came down with COVID-19. His grandmother fought off the virus, but Derrick died. His father was in the room with him. He played him Michael Jackson before his son’s breathing stopped.  Thelma Coward-Ince was the first black naval reservist in Canadian history. She eventually became secretary to the chief of staff to the admiral of the Canadian navy. And she did all of that while raising two kids on her own. One of them, Tony Ince, is today a cabinet minister in the Nova Scotian government. Tony was on his way to visit his mother again when he got the call. She had died just before he could arrive. And then there’s Evelina Upshaw. She ran a hot lunch program for over three decades in the North End of Halifax. A few years ago, some young people from her neighbourhood made a short documentary about her. They called her a hero. Here she is speaking in that video.   [EVELINA UPSHAW] I said, well, if I can do something to help those mothers, that they can go off to work feeling free, that the children are going to get a hot noon meal, then that was what I wanted to do. So that’s what I did for 33 years.   [ARSHY]  On her last day, one of her daughters, covered in protective equipment, climbed into bed with her. She was able to be there for her mother at the very end.    OUTRO [ARSHY]  For the last three years, Northwood has been asking the provincial government for money so that fewer people had to live in double or triple rooms.   [HENDERSON] The board of Governors was well aware of the potential for a flu outbreak or a pandemic because they had petitioned the provincial government three separate years for money to expand. They wanted to build a few stories higher, keep the same number of beds, but create more single rooms. And the… And the reason they asked for this money was because they wanted to prevent infection. The provincial government never said no. But they never said yes. And nothing got done for three years.   [ARSHY]  Premier Stephen McNeil has so far resisted the calls for a public inquiry. Some family members of the people who have died at Northwood are publicly blaming both the facility and the government. But we won’t know exactly who or what is to blame unless there are independent investigations. For now, Nova Scotians just want the deaths to stop.   [HENDERSON] I’m not sure what people want is to lay blame and finger-point. They want to fix the problem before the next wave of COVID hits. What we’ve seen, mostly, is praise and compassion for Northwood workers. You see that in the obituaries. You see that in terms of letters to the editor. In fact, people honk their horns as they pass by Northwood to support the workers. Donations of food and gifts continue to flow   [ARSHY]  People volunteering to speak with Northwood residents over the phone and keep them company has doubled. The local mosque has been donating meals to workers. Medical students have been signing up to help in the facility. After all the tragedies of the last two months, Nova Scotians are still finding ways to come together.   END CREDITS [ARSHY]  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 Jennifer Henderson and Tim Bousquet at the Halifax Examiner, Cassidy Chisolm, Taryn Grant, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke at CBC Nova Scotia, John McPhee and Jim Vibert at the Chronicle Herald, Global News and many others. Right now CBC Nova Scotia is putting together profiles of as many of the Northwood residents who have died as they can. I recommend you go give those a read.  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 additional production 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. Click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com 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. 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 Snowbirds’ pilot. And all the while, COVID-19 ravaged the biggest long-term care home in Atlantic Canada. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Jennifer Henderson (Halifax Examiner), Janice Keefe To learn more: “Nova Scotia’s lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic” by Taryn Grant, Cassidy Chisholm, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke in CBC Nova Scotia “The Northwood board has been expressing “grave concern” about double occupancy rooms for years” by Jennifer Henderson in the Halifax Examiner “Strang, union clash over COVID-19 concerns at Northwood” by John McPhee in The Chronicle Herald   This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar  Additional music from Audio Network “I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor” by Chris Zabriskie, adapted.   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 6 – “NORTHWOOD”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  One of the most difficult things about the last two months is that people can’t mourn collectively. If someone is dying of COVID-19, the whole family can’t gather around their bed and be with them. Funerals have been curtailed. Memorials are taking place mostly online. And when something truly awful happens, the kind of event that cuts right to the heart of a whole community, there’s little we can do. Nova Scotians have been experiencing that reality over and over again in the last two months. Like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia locked itself down on March 22 to stop the growth of coronavirus infections.   [JENNIFER HENDERSON] You start to think, “Can the news get any worse?”   [ARSHY]  That’s Jennifer Henderson, a freelance journalist who’s been covering the pandemic for the Halifax Examiner.    [HENDERSON] You know, you’re in the midst of a pandemic and there are people dying every day at one nursing home in your backyard, and people are worried, you know, about going to work. And then we have this mass shooting that you couldn’t even imagine in a very quiet, rural part of the province.   [NEWS CLIP 1, MALE] Nova Scotians this morning are in a state of shock as this quiet province comes to grips with the fact that it now owns the grim title of the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history.   [HENDERSON] You know, you see the “Nova Scotia Strong” everywhere. And, you know, sometimes I have to think, “Is that about the pandemic or is that about the mass murder?” We’ve been through a great deal in the last eight weeks.   [ARSHY]  The tragedies in Nova Scotia have just been piling up, one on top of the other. People haven’t even been given the chance to come to terms with one of them, before another hits. But they’ve been trying to find a way through. Tributes poured out online. People shared videos, made signs, wrote songs.  Abbigail Cowbrough was one of those people. Standing on the deck of the HMCS Fredericton, she played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Her performance was part of a video put together by the Nova Scotia Pipers’ Tribute to honour the victims of the shooting.  Five days later, on April 29th, Abbigail died. She and five Canadian Armed forces members were killed in a helicopter crash near Greece. Three of the victims, including Abigail, called Nova Scotia home. The province once again mourned.   On May 3rd, the Snowbirds launched Operation: Inspiration, a cross-country tour meant to boost morale amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They started off in Nova Scotia, first flying over Halifax to honour Abbigail and five others killed in the helicopter crash. And then they did it again, this time over Portapique.    [NEWS CLIP 2, FEMALE] A much-needed moral boost on this sunny Sunday. The fames aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, launched a coast-to-coast tour in our region today, something especially appreciated after two devastating tragedies.   [ARSHY]  Flying with them that day was Capt. Jenn Casey. Casey died on May 17th when a Snowbird jet crashed in Kamloops, B.C. And again, the province did their best to honour her life.    [NEWS CLIP 3, MALE] The body of Captain Jennifer Casey returned to Halifax, the city where her life began. Important for the people of Halifax, hundreds of whom lined the streets as the motorcade passed by the places that were significant to Casey. The home where she grew up, and the radio station where she worked before joining the armed forces.    [ARSHY]  The province’s grief has been undercut by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mourning has to be governed by strict rules for the public’s own protection. A community can come together in some ways, but only so far.  And while these shocking tragedies transpired, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept pace. It’s doesn’t feel as sudden as the others. Instead, it’s been unfolding relentlessly over months, taking the lives of 59 Nova Scotians.  Today Nova Scotia is the third-hardest hit province per capita. There have been around a dozen outbreaks at Nova Scotia long-term care homes. But almost all of those deaths, 51 people out of those 59 have taken place at a single facility: The Northwood Centre in Halifax. I’m Arshy Mann, and from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   PART ONE [NEWS CLIP 4, MALE] Our coverage begins tonight in Nova Scotia, where the province has recorded the Maritimes’ first death related to the virus.   [NEWS CLIP 5, MALE] Yesterday, we announced, uh, three residents at Northwood, uh, who had died of COVID-19. We unfortunately have to announce, uh, two more.    [NEWS CLIP 6, FEMALE] The individual who passed away was a resident at Northwood, and marks the tenth death in the province, and sixth at that facility.   [NEWS CLIP 7, MALE] Today I’m sad to say that we’ve lost two more of our seniors at Northwood.    [NEWS CLIP 8, FEMALE] Thirty-five people at the facility have now died of COVID.   [NEWS CLIP 9, MALE] Unfortunately, we have to report three additional deaths at Northwood. We now have 51 Nova Scotians who have died of COVID-19.   [NEWS CLIP 10, MALE] Today, we mourn another loss of an individual at Northwood. We now have 56 Nova Scotians who have died.   [ARSHY]  In some ways, the pandemic in Nova Scotia is playing out in much the same way as the rest of the country. Like the other provinces, the vast majority of deaths are related to long-term care. In Nova Scotia’s case, that number is 95 percent. But almost all of those people died at Northwood.   [HENDERSON] Northwood is the largest nursing home in Atlantic Canada. It’s really a campus. There are three main buildings. It’s right near the Macdonald Bridge, which crosses Halifax Harbor   [ARSHY]  Northwood is run by a non-profit with a long history in Halifax. Here’s Janet Simm, Northwood’s CEO, speaking in a recent video.   [JANET SIMM]  The organization first began as a social movement in response to the plight of seniors living alone in Halifax, a real community effort to make this organization come together and respond to those unmet needs.   [ARSHY]  In 1962, 285 people gathered at a school in the south end of Halifax to talk about the need for affordable housing for seniors. And, by the end of that meeting, Northwood was founded. Northwood Towers opened up five years later, offering cheap apartments for older Haligonians. Three years after that, they began to build Northwood Manor, which was for seniors who needed some assistance. And then in 1970, they started construction on Northwood Centre, which was a nursing home for people who needed more serious care.    [HENDERSON] It is a combination of a retirement-living community and a nursing home, as many places are these days.   [ARSHY]  And since then, Northwood has been very well-regarded in Nova Scotia.   [HENDERSON] The place has a terrific reputation in the community because it’s a home. They have a radio station.   [BOB MARKS] Good morning. This is NWBC, your Seniors Community Broadcasting Club, thanks to Northward Care Inc. Your host this morning, Bob Marks with my “Down Memory Lane” program. It’s time to have a little bit of a request in here. So, Bernice of Summerside, and a selection from 1942.   [HENDERSON] They have a radio station, they have a bar. They have a fitness center for people with dementia. It has a well-deserved reputation in the community. This is not a, uh, for-profit commercially run. This is a not-for-profit community board of governors, which did have the top rating from the accreditation agency prior to the pandemic.   [ARSHY]  Henderson says that everyday Nova Scotians haven’t been putting the blame on Northwood.    [HENDERSON] Imagine, despite the headlines and despite the knowledge that all these people have died, people are still publicly supporting Northwood. As I say, I’m struggling to think of a single negative letter that blamed Northwood.    [ARSHY]  Part of the reason why people aren’t blaming management is that Northwood has been pretty forthcoming about what’s been happening.   [HENDERSON] Northwood management has been more than transparent with the public. They’ve published a timeline. They’ve done daily information updates. They took worker’s temperatures beginning and end of every shift. So they seem to do all the things they could do. And yet this was still a nightmare.   [ARSHY]  So how is it that a facility that everyone agrees is one of the best ones out there could be the site of so much death? The first thing to understand is that, like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia has serious systemic problems with long-term care.   [HENDERSON] Well, prior to the pandemic, it was well-known that Northwood and every nursing home in Nova Scotia had chronic staff shortages. When people were sick, they simply worked short. This was documented by the expert panel. Numerous reports. It was a given.   [ARSHY]  That expert panel put out its findings in 2019, and the chair of it was Janice Keefe.   [JANICE KEEFE] My name’s Janice Keefe. I’m, uh, director of the Nova Scotia Center on Aging. I’m professor and chair of the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount St. Vincent University.   [ARSHY]  The panel was put together after a number of deaths due to neglect in Nova Scotia’s long-term care homes.   [KEEFE]  The impetus was, uh, bedsores. There were a number of residents in long-term care who actually died because of, uh, inappropriate care around bedsores.    [ARSHY]  And the broad takeaways would be familiar to anyone who’s been listening to this podcast.   [KEEFE]  What we basically found was that this was a sector that needed resources, that needed immediate attention. There were a lot of issues around staffing.   [ARSHY]  Staff were constantly working short-handed. And the long-term care sector was viewed as a much worse place to work than other parts of the healthcare system.    [KEEFE]  But for the main part, the staff themselves were really frustrated about not being able to do the best care that they should be doing, because they didn’t have enough time.   [ARSHY]  And as with other provinces, there are massive waitlists, especially because Nova Scotians tend to be older on average than the rest of the country.    [KEEFE]  When people from Ontario talk about, you know, when the population is going to hit, uh, 20 percent, uh, 65 and over, we’ve been dealing with that for over five years.    [ARSHY]  And the residents had increasingly complex health problems. Janice Keefe has seen that first-hand over the last thirty years.   [KEEFE]  So the biggest change… I will tell you, the biggest change is the residents. I worked in a municipality in Nova Scotia and the people going to the facilities would drive their cars. They lived in the nursing homes, but they… They went out to visit. They were mobile. They were not at the end of their life.    [ARSHY]  But these are problems across all long-term care homes. It still doesn’t answer why Northwood, in particular, has experienced such a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.   PART TWO It was March 15 when the first three Nova Scotians tested positive for COVID-19. Only a day later, Northwood barred all visitors to their facilities. But, as in the rest of Canada, the provincial government and the health authority, they weren’t talking about what would happen if the virus actually got into a long-term care facility.   [HENDERSON] My memory of those briefings with our chief medical officer of health and the premier, which happened daily at the beginning of the pandemic, was that all the focus was on the hospitals.   [ARSHY]  By the end of March, social distancing was put into effect across the province. And it wasn’t until early April that Northwood knew that virus was in the facility.   [HENDERSON] The first staff member to test positive for COVID at Northwood was April 5th. The first three residents followed on April 7th. The virus was brought into the Northwood Center building by workers who were asymptomatic and did not suspect they were ill.   [ARSHY]  The day after an employee tested positive, Northwood mandated that all staff had to wear a mask. That was actually two days before Canada’s chief public health officer recommended the same thing, and a full six days before the provincial government made it mandatory for all long-term care workers.   [HENDERSON] But according to the CEO of Northwood, in hindsight, the horse was already out of the barn, so to speak. Although they were ahead of both the provincial and federal guidelines with respect to wearing masks, it came too late to prevent the spread of infection at Northwood.   [ARSHY]  Over the next five days, more residents and staff members began to test positive. And workers who had previously been told to self-isolate were asked to return to Northwood if they tested negative. That was a mistake.   [HENDERSON] So, we know that in the period where people were becoming infected, that staff who were supposed to be out for 14 days, self isolating, were allowed to return to work because they needed them so desperately, if they tested negative. And then Northwood and the public health officials in Nova Scotia learned that you could test negative one day and positive the next.   [ARSHY]  Northwood had prepared a quarantine area for residents who tested positive. It could fit 20 people. But by April 15, just ten days after the first staff member tested positive, they had to open another area. And the virus continued to spread amongst the workers.    [HENDERSON] And you can see that because, by April 18th, they had so many staff who either wouldn’t come to work because they were afraid of getting sick, or they were self isolating because they had come in contact by providing direct care to one of these sick residents. They were told to stay home for 14 days.   [ARSHY]  Around 80 long-term care workers were off work, and the staffing levels were down to just 60 percent of what they normally would be. Then came the horrific weekend of April 18th and 19th. That was the same weekend a mass shooter killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia. At Northwood, residents began to die. Five people died of COVID-19 in just two days. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil held an emergency press conference that Sunday.   [STEPHEN MCNEIL] We weren’t scheduled to have a news conference today, but I felt the need to be here to provide you with an update on one of our long-term care facilities, Northwood, that’s dealing with an outbreak of COVID. I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia. This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history. There are a number of other families who are dealing with their own loss after–after their loved ones died of COVID, five people over the weekend who lived at Northwood. And I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, and my heart goes out to all of you.   [ARSHY]  That weekend, the province really began to act. The Halifax Infirmary COVID-19 unit was redeployed from their hospital to Northwood; additional workers were brought in from the Red Cross, Victorian Order of Nurses and Emergency Health Services; the province set up a hotel as an off-site ward for Northwood residents who recovered for COVID-19… But people kept dying. Six more residents died in three days. And the union representing Nova Scotia’s nurses said that workers who were brought in to help staff Northwood found a total lack of infection controls and not enough PPE. They said it was like “walking into a war zone.” Here’s NSGEU president Jason MacLean speaking to Global News.   [JASON MACLEAN]  Well, when they got to Northwood, there was no supplies for them. Uh, actually, even yesterday morning, they had… They were down to three gowns. A lot of residents up and walking around, both that are sick and those that are presumed sick. So they’re up and they’re–they’re–they’re trying to use the phone at–at the counter, and they’re touching everything that’s around there.   [HENDERSON] Now, Northwood officials said that these were nurses used to infection control in a hospital setting, and that simply wasn’t appropriate or possible in an old nursing home like Northwood; that, basically, it was apples and oranges.   [ARSHY]  And Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Robert Strang, blasted the union and essentially accused them of lying.   [ROBERT STRANG]  They’re using, frankly, fear, fear mongering and hyperbole in terms of the way they’re describing this situation. When we talk to frontline people who are in Northwood, they… What–what the NSGU is saying is actually inaccurate.   [ARSHY]  Over the next week, another twelve people died at Northwood. And during that time, the Nova Scotian government declined to increase the wages of front-line workers, like other provinces had been doing. Another 16 people died in the first week of May and infections amongst residents and staff continued to inch up. On May 8th, Nova Scotia finally agreed to give a pay bump to health care workers on the front lines. But it would only be a one-time payment of $2000. Since then, another 18 people have died at Northwood, bringing the total number up to 52 dead in the facility. It’s clear today that some mistakes were made, both by Northwood and the provincial government. Like long-term care facilities across Canada, workers were a major vector for transmitting the virus. Workers should have been wearing masks the minute we knew the virus was in Nova Scotia. And if they were exposed, they shouldn’t have been allowed to come back to work before the two-week quarantine was up, even if they tested negative.  Whether or not care workers had adequate PPE, and the facility had proper infection controls, hasn’t been determined yet. The nurses union said it was totally unacceptable, but Northwood and the health authority maintain that it was all up to par. But what’s not in dispute is that one of the biggest factors at play during the Northwood outbreak is the building itself.   [HENDERSON] So there’s general agreement that the reason Northwood was so hard hit by COVID was because the rooms were smaller than in newer nursing homes. And it spread like wildfire.   [ARSHY]  In Northwood Centre, where the most disabled residents lived, the rooms and bathrooms were often shared.    [HENDERSON] It’s more like… More like a hospital. And the rooms are small, like hospital rooms for that time, and most of them are shared. So they’re double occupancy and there’s room for about one chair for a visitor and one walker. And there’s curtains between those beds. People are not only sharing a bathroom, they’re sharing a tight space.  But of course, most of our residents have dementia and they don’t respect those boundaries. They’re in each other’s faces and in each other’s stuff and borrowing their false teeth. You know that… That’s what goes on.   [ARSHY]  It’s those lack of single-occupancy rooms that Northwood CEO Janet Simm also places most of the blame on.   [HENDERSON] I asked her at one briefing, you know, “What could have been done in your view to prevent the rapid spread?” And she mentioned the double rooms, getting rid of those, and if employees, in hindsight, had put the masks on sooner.   [ARSHY]  Before the current Liberal government, the last two Nova Scotian premiers did make improvements to long-term care facilities. In the late 2010s, Rodney MacDonald’s Progressive Conservatives opened long-term care beds across the province and even upgraded some older buildings. And after that, Darrell Dexter’s NDP government had eleven long-term care homes slated for upgrades. But since Stephen McNeil was elected in 2013, only one of those facilities has been replaced. And overall, funding for long-term care has gone down.   [HENDERSON] For the last seven years, there haven’t been any new nursing home beds opened under the current Liberal government.   [ARSHY]  When we talk about long-term care and this pandemic, the numbers can get overwhelming. And the actual people at the centre of this story risk becoming just empty statistics.  But we want to tell you about some of the actual people who died in Northwood, because their lives are important, too. Not just where they died or what killed them, we want to mourn some of them as best we can, especially now as this virus has changed how we can do that. Paul Sullivan worked as an insurance salesman. But he was the kind of guy whose clients quickly became his friends. He loved to build things, like hockey rinks in his backyard. And he stayed married to his wife Irenaeus for 60 years. He died in Northwood, without his family able to be by his side. Gerald Jackson’s family had known tragedy before. His father had survived the Halifax Explosion, but it killed 46 of his family members. He was a cook in the navy for two decades, and then spent some time at Sears and then working for a museum. He lived out west in Victoria since the 1970s, but when he developed dementia, his daughters brought him back to Nova Scotia. They were able to speak to him on an iPad one last time on the day he died in Northwood. Bunny Tanner’s children remember her as a strong and strict mother, in a good way. But she really came into her own as a grandmother. She’d survived a bout with lung cancer in 2019 and she loved her private room in Northwood. But her last days in there were terrifying. She’d call her daughter begging to be able to get out of the facility, to go anywhere else. But she died on May 1st. COVID-19 took Gena Hemsworth that same day. She was afraid of flying, but loved sports cars. And she worked as a secretary at the Halifax Regional Vocational School for thirty years, where she put her exceptionally fast typing abilities to use. When she was away from home, Gena would call her house so she could talk to her cats. She cared for her partner Neil Mosher through ALS, and she died at Northwood a little over a month after she’d arrived. Hilda Weber’s husband left her alone with three young children. But she worked multiple jobs to make sure they’d get by. When times were really bad, her children would split a can of soup, while she ate nothing. Derrick Carvey loved taking drives with his dad and going on boat cruises. And he was a big Michael Jackson fan. And because of his cerebral palsy, the doctors said he wouldn’t live past thirty. But at 37, he was still alive and at Northwood, where his 98-year-old grandmother also lived. They once did a fashion show together. But both of them came down with COVID-19. His grandmother fought off the virus, but Derrick died. His father was in the room with him. He played him Michael Jackson before his son’s breathing stopped.  Thelma Coward-Ince was the first black naval reservist in Canadian history. She eventually became secretary to the chief of staff to the admiral of the Canadian navy. And she did all of that while raising two kids on her own. One of them, Tony Ince, is today a cabinet minister in the Nova Scotian government. Tony was on his way to visit his mother again when he got the call. She had died just before he could arrive. And then there’s Evelina Upshaw. She ran a hot lunch program for over three decades in the North End of Halifax. A few years ago, some young people from her neighbourhood made a short documentary about her. They called her a hero. Here she is speaking in that video.   [EVELINA UPSHAW] I said, well, if I can do something to help those mothers, that they can go off to work feeling free, that the children are going to get a hot noon meal, then that was what I wanted to do. So that’s what I did for 33 years.   [ARSHY]  On her last day, one of her daughters, covered in protective equipment, climbed into bed with her. She was able to be there for her mother at the very end.    OUTRO [ARSHY]  For the last three years, Northwood has been asking the provincial government for money so that fewer people had to live in double or triple rooms.   [HENDERSON] The board of Governors was well aware of the potential for a flu outbreak or a pandemic because they had petitioned the provincial government three separate years for money to expand. They wanted to build a few stories higher, keep the same number of beds, but create more single rooms. And the… And the reason they asked for this money was because they wanted to prevent infection. The provincial government never said no. But they never said yes. And nothing got done for three years.   [ARSHY]  Premier Stephen McNeil has so far resisted the calls for a public inquiry. Some family members of the people who have died at Northwood are publicly blaming both the facility and the government. But we won’t know exactly who or what is to blame unless there are independent investigations. For now, Nova Scotians just want the deaths to stop.   [HENDERSON] I’m not sure what people want is to lay blame and finger-point. They want to fix the problem before the next wave of COVID hits. What we’ve seen, mostly, is praise and compassion for Northwood workers. You see that in the obituaries. You see that in terms of letters to the editor. In fact, people honk their horns as they pass by Northwood to support the workers. Donations of food and gifts continue to flow   [ARSHY]  People volunteering to speak with Northwood residents over the phone and keep them company has doubled. The local mosque has been donating meals to workers. Medical students have been signing up to help in the facility. After all the tragedies of the last two months, Nova Scotians are still finding ways to come together.   END CREDITS [ARSHY]  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 Jennifer Henderson and Tim Bousquet at the Halifax Examiner, Cassidy Chisolm, Taryn Grant, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke at CBC Nova Scotia, John McPhee and Jim Vibert at the Chronicle Herald, Global News and many others. Right now CBC Nova Scotia is putting together profiles of as many of the Northwood residents who have died as they can. I recommend you go give those a read.  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 additional production 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. Click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com 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. 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 Snowbirds’ pilot. And all the while, COVID-19 ravaged the biggest long-term care home in Atlantic Canada. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Jennifer Henderson (Halifax Examiner), Janice Keefe To learn more: “Nova Scotia’s lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic” by Taryn Grant, Cassidy Chisholm, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke in CBC Nova Scotia “The Northwood board has been expressing “grave concern” about double occupancy rooms for years” by Jennifer Henderson in the Halifax Examiner “Strang, union clash over COVID-19 concerns at Northwood” by John McPhee in The Chronicle Herald   This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar  Additional music from Audio Network “I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor” by Chris Zabriskie, adapted.   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 6 – “NORTHWOOD”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  One of the most difficult things about the last two months is that people can’t mourn collectively. If someone is dying of COVID-19, the whole family can’t gather around their bed and be with them. Funerals have been curtailed. Memorials are taking place mostly online. And when something truly awful happens, the kind of event that cuts right to the heart of a whole community, there’s little we can do. Nova Scotians have been experiencing that reality over and over again in the last two months. Like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia locked itself down on March 22 to stop the growth of coronavirus infections.   [JENNIFER HENDERSON] You start to think, “Can the news get any worse?”   [ARSHY]  That’s Jennifer Henderson, a freelance journalist who’s been covering the pandemic for the Halifax Examiner.    [HENDERSON] You know, you’re in the midst of a pandemic and there are people dying every day at one nursing home in your backyard, and people are worried, you know, about going to work. And then we have this mass shooting that you couldn’t even imagine in a very quiet, rural part of the province.   [NEWS CLIP 1, MALE] Nova Scotians this morning are in a state of shock as this quiet province comes to grips with the fact that it now owns the grim title of the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history.   [HENDERSON] You know, you see the “Nova Scotia Strong” everywhere. And, you know, sometimes I have to think, “Is that about the pandemic or is that about the mass murder?” We’ve been through a great deal in the last eight weeks.   [ARSHY]  The tragedies in Nova Scotia have just been piling up, one on top of the other. People haven’t even been given the chance to come to terms with one of them, before another hits. But they’ve been trying to find a way through. Tributes poured out online. People shared videos, made signs, wrote songs.  Abbigail Cowbrough was one of those people. Standing on the deck of the HMCS Fredericton, she played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Her performance was part of a video put together by the Nova Scotia Pipers’ Tribute to honour the victims of the shooting.  Five days later, on April 29th, Abbigail died. She and five Canadian Armed forces members were killed in a helicopter crash near Greece. Three of the victims, including Abigail, called Nova Scotia home. The province once again mourned.   On May 3rd, the Snowbirds launched Operation: Inspiration, a cross-country tour meant to boost morale amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They started off in Nova Scotia, first flying over Halifax to honour Abbigail and five others killed in the helicopter crash. And then they did it again, this time over Portapique.    [NEWS CLIP 2, FEMALE] A much-needed moral boost on this sunny Sunday. The fames aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, launched a coast-to-coast tour in our region today, something especially appreciated after two devastating tragedies.   [ARSHY]  Flying with them that day was Capt. Jenn Casey. Casey died on May 17th when a Snowbird jet crashed in Kamloops, B.C. And again, the province did their best to honour her life.    [NEWS CLIP 3, MALE] The body of Captain Jennifer Casey returned to Halifax, the city where her life began. Important for the people of Halifax, hundreds of whom lined the streets as the motorcade passed by the places that were significant to Casey. The home where she grew up, and the radio station where she worked before joining the armed forces.    [ARSHY]  The province’s grief has been undercut by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mourning has to be governed by strict rules for the public’s own protection. A community can come together in some ways, but only so far.  And while these shocking tragedies transpired, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept pace. It’s doesn’t feel as sudden as the others. Instead, it’s been unfolding relentlessly over months, taking the lives of 59 Nova Scotians.  Today Nova Scotia is the third-hardest hit province per capita. There have been around a dozen outbreaks at Nova Scotia long-term care homes. But almost all of those deaths, 51 people out of those 59 have taken place at a single facility: The Northwood Centre in Halifax. I’m Arshy Mann, and from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   PART ONE [NEWS CLIP 4, MALE] Our coverage begins tonight in Nova Scotia, where the province has recorded the Maritimes’ first death related to the virus.   [NEWS CLIP 5, MALE] Yesterday, we announced, uh, three residents at Northwood, uh, who had died of COVID-19. We unfortunately have to announce, uh, two more.    [NEWS CLIP 6, FEMALE] The individual who passed away was a resident at Northwood, and marks the tenth death in the province, and sixth at that facility.   [NEWS CLIP 7, MALE] Today I’m sad to say that we’ve lost two more of our seniors at Northwood.    [NEWS CLIP 8, FEMALE] Thirty-five people at the facility have now died of COVID.   [NEWS CLIP 9, MALE] Unfortunately, we have to report three additional deaths at Northwood. We now have 51 Nova Scotians who have died of COVID-19.   [NEWS CLIP 10, MALE] Today, we mourn another loss of an individual at Northwood. We now have 56 Nova Scotians who have died.   [ARSHY]  In some ways, the pandemic in Nova Scotia is playing out in much the same way as the rest of the country. Like the other provinces, the vast majority of deaths are related to long-term care. In Nova Scotia’s case, that number is 95 percent. But almost all of those people died at Northwood.   [HENDERSON] Northwood is the largest nursing home in Atlantic Canada. It’s really a campus. There are three main buildings. It’s right near the Macdonald Bridge, which crosses Halifax Harbor   [ARSHY]  Northwood is run by a non-profit with a long history in Halifax. Here’s Janet Simm, Northwood’s CEO, speaking in a recent video.   [JANET SIMM]  The organization first began as a social movement in response to the plight of seniors living alone in Halifax, a real community effort to make this organization come together and respond to those unmet needs.   [ARSHY]  In 1962, 285 people gathered at a school in the south end of Halifax to talk about the need for affordable housing for seniors. And, by the end of that meeting, Northwood was founded. Northwood Towers opened up five years later, offering cheap apartments for older Haligonians. Three years after that, they began to build Northwood Manor, which was for seniors who needed some assistance. And then in 1970, they started construction on Northwood Centre, which was a nursing home for people who needed more serious care.    [HENDERSON] It is a combination of a retirement-living community and a nursing home, as many places are these days.   [ARSHY]  And since then, Northwood has been very well-regarded in Nova Scotia.   [HENDERSON] The place has a terrific reputation in the community because it’s a home. They have a radio station.   [BOB MARKS] Good morning. This is NWBC, your Seniors Community Broadcasting Club, thanks to Northward Care Inc. Your host this morning, Bob Marks with my “Down Memory Lane” program. It’s time to have a little bit of a request in here. So, Bernice of Summerside, and a selection from 1942.   [HENDERSON] They have a radio station, they have a bar. They have a fitness center for people with dementia. It has a well-deserved reputation in the community. This is not a, uh, for-profit commercially run. This is a not-for-profit community board of governors, which did have the top rating from the accreditation agency prior to the pandemic.   [ARSHY]  Henderson says that everyday Nova Scotians haven’t been putting the blame on Northwood.    [HENDERSON] Imagine, despite the headlines and despite the knowledge that all these people have died, people are still publicly supporting Northwood. As I say, I’m struggling to think of a single negative letter that blamed Northwood.    [ARSHY]  Part of the reason why people aren’t blaming management is that Northwood has been pretty forthcoming about what’s been happening.   [HENDERSON] Northwood management has been more than transparent with the public. They’ve published a timeline. They’ve done daily information updates. They took worker’s temperatures beginning and end of every shift. So they seem to do all the things they could do. And yet this was still a nightmare.   [ARSHY]  So how is it that a facility that everyone agrees is one of the best ones out there could be the site of so much death? The first thing to understand is that, like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia has serious systemic problems with long-term care.   [HENDERSON] Well, prior to the pandemic, it was well-known that Northwood and every nursing home in Nova Scotia had chronic staff shortages. When people were sick, they simply worked short. This was documented by the expert panel. Numerous reports. It was a given.   [ARSHY]  That expert panel put out its findings in 2019, and the chair of it was Janice Keefe.   [JANICE KEEFE] My name’s Janice Keefe. I’m, uh, director of the Nova Scotia Center on Aging. I’m professor and chair of the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount St. Vincent University.   [ARSHY]  The panel was put together after a number of deaths due to neglect in Nova Scotia’s long-term care homes.   [KEEFE]  The impetus was, uh, bedsores. There were a number of residents in long-term care who actually died because of, uh, inappropriate care around bedsores.    [ARSHY]  And the broad takeaways would be familiar to anyone who’s been listening to this podcast.   [KEEFE]  What we basically found was that this was a sector that needed resources, that needed immediate attention. There were a lot of issues around staffing.   [ARSHY]  Staff were constantly working short-handed. And the long-term care sector was viewed as a much worse place to work than other parts of the healthcare system.    [KEEFE]  But for the main part, the staff themselves were really frustrated about not being able to do the best care that they should be doing, because they didn’t have enough time.   [ARSHY]  And as with other provinces, there are massive waitlists, especially because Nova Scotians tend to be older on average than the rest of the country.    [KEEFE]  When people from Ontario talk about, you know, when the population is going to hit, uh, 20 percent, uh, 65 and over, we’ve been dealing with that for over five years.    [ARSHY]  And the residents had increasingly complex health problems. Janice Keefe has seen that first-hand over the last thirty years.   [KEEFE]  So the biggest change… I will tell you, the biggest change is the residents. I worked in a municipality in Nova Scotia and the people going to the facilities would drive their cars. They lived in the nursing homes, but they… They went out to visit. They were mobile. They were not at the end of their life.    [ARSHY]  But these are problems across all long-term care homes. It still doesn’t answer why Northwood, in particular, has experienced such a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.   PART TWO It was March 15 when the first three Nova Scotians tested positive for COVID-19. Only a day later, Northwood barred all visitors to their facilities. But, as in the rest of Canada, the provincial government and the health authority, they weren’t talking about what would happen if the virus actually got into a long-term care facility.   [HENDERSON] My memory of those briefings with our chief medical officer of health and the premier, which happened daily at the beginning of the pandemic, was that all the focus was on the hospitals.   [ARSHY]  By the end of March, social distancing was put into effect across the province. And it wasn’t until early April that Northwood knew that virus was in the facility.   [HENDERSON] The first staff member to test positive for COVID at Northwood was April 5th. The first three residents followed on April 7th. The virus was brought into the Northwood Center building by workers who were asymptomatic and did not suspect they were ill.   [ARSHY]  The day after an employee tested positive, Northwood mandated that all staff had to wear a mask. That was actually two days before Canada’s chief public health officer recommended the same thing, and a full six days before the provincial government made it mandatory for all long-term care workers.   [HENDERSON] But according to the CEO of Northwood, in hindsight, the horse was already out of the barn, so to speak. Although they were ahead of both the provincial and federal guidelines with respect to wearing masks, it came too late to prevent the spread of infection at Northwood.   [ARSHY]  Over the next five days, more residents and staff members began to test positive. And workers who had previously been told to self-isolate were asked to return to Northwood if they tested negative. That was a mistake.   [HENDERSON] So, we know that in the period where people were becoming infected, that staff who were supposed to be out for 14 days, self isolating, were allowed to return to work because they needed them so desperately, if they tested negative. And then Northwood and the public health officials in Nova Scotia learned that you could test negative one day and positive the next.   [ARSHY]  Northwood had prepared a quarantine area for residents who tested positive. It could fit 20 people. But by April 15, just ten days after the first staff member tested positive, they had to open another area. And the virus continued to spread amongst the workers.    [HENDERSON] And you can see that because, by April 18th, they had so many staff who either wouldn’t come to work because they were afraid of getting sick, or they were self isolating because they had come in contact by providing direct care to one of these sick residents. They were told to stay home for 14 days.   [ARSHY]  Around 80 long-term care workers were off work, and the staffing levels were down to just 60 percent of what they normally would be. Then came the horrific weekend of April 18th and 19th. That was the same weekend a mass shooter killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia. At Northwood, residents began to die. Five people died of COVID-19 in just two days. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil held an emergency press conference that Sunday.   [STEPHEN MCNEIL] We weren’t scheduled to have a news conference today, but I felt the need to be here to provide you with an update on one of our long-term care facilities, Northwood, that’s dealing with an outbreak of COVID. I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia. This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history. There are a number of other families who are dealing with their own loss after–after their loved ones died of COVID, five people over the weekend who lived at Northwood. And I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, and my heart goes out to all of you.   [ARSHY]  That weekend, the province really began to act. The Halifax Infirmary COVID-19 unit was redeployed from their hospital to Northwood; additional workers were brought in from the Red Cross, Victorian Order of Nurses and Emergency Health Services; the province set up a hotel as an off-site ward for Northwood residents who recovered for COVID-19… But people kept dying. Six more residents died in three days. And the union representing Nova Scotia’s nurses said that workers who were brought in to help staff Northwood found a total lack of infection controls and not enough PPE. They said it was like “walking into a war zone.” Here’s NSGEU president Jason MacLean speaking to Global News.   [JASON MACLEAN]  Well, when they got to Northwood, there was no supplies for them. Uh, actually, even yesterday morning, they had… They were down to three gowns. A lot of residents up and walking around, both that are sick and those that are presumed sick. So they’re up and they’re–they’re–they’re trying to use the phone at–at the counter, and they’re touching everything that’s around there.   [HENDERSON] Now, Northwood officials said that these were nurses used to infection control in a hospital setting, and that simply wasn’t appropriate or possible in an old nursing home like Northwood; that, basically, it was apples and oranges.   [ARSHY]  And Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Robert Strang, blasted the union and essentially accused them of lying.   [ROBERT STRANG]  They’re using, frankly, fear, fear mongering and hyperbole in terms of the way they’re describing this situation. When we talk to frontline people who are in Northwood, they… What–what the NSGU is saying is actually inaccurate.   [ARSHY]  Over the next week, another twelve people died at Northwood. And during that time, the Nova Scotian government declined to increase the wages of front-line workers, like other provinces had been doing. Another 16 people died in the first week of May and infections amongst residents and staff continued to inch up. On May 8th, Nova Scotia finally agreed to give a pay bump to health care workers on the front lines. But it would only be a one-time payment of $2000. Since then, another 18 people have died at Northwood, bringing the total number up to 52 dead in the facility. It’s clear today that some mistakes were made, both by Northwood and the provincial government. Like long-term care facilities across Canada, workers were a major vector for transmitting the virus. Workers should have been wearing masks the minute we knew the virus was in Nova Scotia. And if they were exposed, they shouldn’t have been allowed to come back to work before the two-week quarantine was up, even if they tested negative.  Whether or not care workers had adequate PPE, and the facility had proper infection controls, hasn’t been determined yet. The nurses union said it was totally unacceptable, but Northwood and the health authority maintain that it was all up to par. But what’s not in dispute is that one of the biggest factors at play during the Northwood outbreak is the building itself.   [HENDERSON] So there’s general agreement that the reason Northwood was so hard hit by COVID was because the rooms were smaller than in newer nursing homes. And it spread like wildfire.   [ARSHY]  In Northwood Centre, where the most disabled residents lived, the rooms and bathrooms were often shared.    [HENDERSON] It’s more like… More like a hospital. And the rooms are small, like hospital rooms for that time, and most of them are shared. So they’re double occupancy and there’s room for about one chair for a visitor and one walker. And there’s curtains between those beds. People are not only sharing a bathroom, they’re sharing a tight space.  But of course, most of our residents have dementia and they don’t respect those boundaries. They’re in each other’s faces and in each other’s stuff and borrowing their false teeth. You know that… That’s what goes on.   [ARSHY]  It’s those lack of single-occupancy rooms that Northwood CEO Janet Simm also places most of the blame on.   [HENDERSON] I asked her at one briefing, you know, “What could have been done in your view to prevent the rapid spread?” And she mentioned the double rooms, getting rid of those, and if employees, in hindsight, had put the masks on sooner.   [ARSHY]  Before the current Liberal government, the last two Nova Scotian premiers did make improvements to long-term care facilities. In the late 2010s, Rodney MacDonald’s Progressive Conservatives opened long-term care beds across the province and even upgraded some older buildings. And after that, Darrell Dexter’s NDP government had eleven long-term care homes slated for upgrades. But since Stephen McNeil was elected in 2013, only one of those facilities has been replaced. And overall, funding for long-term care has gone down.   [HENDERSON] For the last seven years, there haven’t been any new nursing home beds opened under the current Liberal government.   [ARSHY]  When we talk about long-term care and this pandemic, the numbers can get overwhelming. And the actual people at the centre of this story risk becoming just empty statistics.  But we want to tell you about some of the actual people who died in Northwood, because their lives are important, too. Not just where they died or what killed them, we want to mourn some of them as best we can, especially now as this virus has changed how we can do that. Paul Sullivan worked as an insurance salesman. But he was the kind of guy whose clients quickly became his friends. He loved to build things, like hockey rinks in his backyard. And he stayed married to his wife Irenaeus for 60 years. He died in Northwood, without his family able to be by his side. Gerald Jackson’s family had known tragedy before. His father had survived the Halifax Explosion, but it killed 46 of his family members. He was a cook in the navy for two decades, and then spent some time at Sears and then working for a museum. He lived out west in Victoria since the 1970s, but when he developed dementia, his daughters brought him back to Nova Scotia. They were able to speak to him on an iPad one last time on the day he died in Northwood. Bunny Tanner’s children remember her as a strong and strict mother, in a good way. But she really came into her own as a grandmother. She’d survived a bout with lung cancer in 2019 and she loved her private room in Northwood. But her last days in there were terrifying. She’d call her daughter begging to be able to get out of the facility, to go anywhere else. But she died on May 1st. COVID-19 took Gena Hemsworth that same day. She was afraid of flying, but loved sports cars. And she worked as a secretary at the Halifax Regional Vocational School for thirty years, where she put her exceptionally fast typing abilities to use. When she was away from home, Gena would call her house so she could talk to her cats. She cared for her partner Neil Mosher through ALS, and she died at Northwood a little over a month after she’d arrived. Hilda Weber’s husband left her alone with three young children. But she worked multiple jobs to make sure they’d get by. When times were really bad, her children would split a can of soup, while she ate nothing. Derrick Carvey loved taking drives with his dad and going on boat cruises. And he was a big Michael Jackson fan. And because of his cerebral palsy, the doctors said he wouldn’t live past thirty. But at 37, he was still alive and at Northwood, where his 98-year-old grandmother also lived. They once did a fashion show together. But both of them came down with COVID-19. His grandmother fought off the virus, but Derrick died. His father was in the room with him. He played him Michael Jackson before his son’s breathing stopped.  Thelma Coward-Ince was the first black naval reservist in Canadian history. She eventually became secretary to the chief of staff to the admiral of the Canadian navy. And she did all of that while raising two kids on her own. One of them, Tony Ince, is today a cabinet minister in the Nova Scotian government. Tony was on his way to visit his mother again when he got the call. She had died just before he could arrive. And then there’s Evelina Upshaw. She ran a hot lunch program for over three decades in the North End of Halifax. A few years ago, some young people from her neighbourhood made a short documentary about her. They called her a hero. Here she is speaking in that video.   [EVELINA UPSHAW] I said, well, if I can do something to help those mothers, that they can go off to work feeling free, that the children are going to get a hot noon meal, then that was what I wanted to do. So that’s what I did for 33 years.   [ARSHY]  On her last day, one of her daughters, covered in protective equipment, climbed into bed with her. She was able to be there for her mother at the very end.    OUTRO [ARSHY]  For the last three years, Northwood has been asking the provincial government for money so that fewer people had to live in double or triple rooms.   [HENDERSON] The board of Governors was well aware of the potential for a flu outbreak or a pandemic because they had petitioned the provincial government three separate years for money to expand. They wanted to build a few stories higher, keep the same number of beds, but create more single rooms. And the… And the reason they asked for this money was because they wanted to prevent infection. The provincial government never said no. But they never said yes. And nothing got done for three years.   [ARSHY]  Premier Stephen McNeil has so far resisted the calls for a public inquiry. Some family members of the people who have died at Northwood are publicly blaming both the facility and the government. But we won’t know exactly who or what is to blame unless there are independent investigations. For now, Nova Scotians just want the deaths to stop.   [HENDERSON] I’m not sure what people want is to lay blame and finger-point. They want to fix the problem before the next wave of COVID hits. What we’ve seen, mostly, is praise and compassion for Northwood workers. You see that in the obituaries. You see that in terms of letters to the editor. In fact, people honk their horns as they pass by Northwood to support the workers. Donations of food and gifts continue to flow   [ARSHY]  People volunteering to speak with Northwood residents over the phone and keep them company has doubled. The local mosque has been donating meals to workers. Medical students have been signing up to help in the facility. After all the tragedies of the last two months, Nova Scotians are still finding ways to come together.   END CREDITS [ARSHY]  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 Jennifer Henderson and Tim Bousquet at the Halifax Examiner, Cassidy Chisolm, Taryn Grant, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke at CBC Nova Scotia, John McPhee and Jim Vibert at the Chronicle Herald, Global News and many others. Right now CBC Nova Scotia is putting together profiles of as many of the Northwood residents who have died as they can. I recommend you go give those a read.  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 additional production 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. Click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com 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. 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 Snowbirds’ pilot. And all the while, COVID-19 ravaged the biggest long-term care home in Atlantic Canada. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Jennifer Henderson (Halifax Examiner), Janice Keefe To learn more: “Nova Scotia’s lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic” by Taryn Grant, Cassidy Chisholm, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke in CBC Nova Scotia “The Northwood board has been expressing “grave concern” about double occupancy rooms for years” by Jennifer Henderson in the Halifax Examiner “Strang, union clash over COVID-19 concerns at Northwood” by John McPhee in The Chronicle Herald   This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar  Additional music from Audio Network “I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor” by Chris Zabriskie, adapted.   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 6 – “NORTHWOOD”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  One of the most difficult things about the last two months is that people can’t mourn collectively. If someone is dying of COVID-19, the whole family can’t gather around their bed and be with them. Funerals have been curtailed. Memorials are taking place mostly online. And when something truly awful happens, the kind of event that cuts right to the heart of a whole community, there’s little we can do. Nova Scotians have been experiencing that reality over and over again in the last two months. Like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia locked itself down on March 22 to stop the growth of coronavirus infections.   [JENNIFER HENDERSON] You start to think, “Can the news get any worse?”   [ARSHY]  That’s Jennifer Henderson, a freelance journalist who’s been covering the pandemic for the Halifax Examiner.    [HENDERSON] You know, you’re in the midst of a pandemic and there are people dying every day at one nursing home in your backyard, and people are worried, you know, about going to work. And then we have this mass shooting that you couldn’t even imagine in a very quiet, rural part of the province.   [NEWS CLIP 1, MALE] Nova Scotians this morning are in a state of shock as this quiet province comes to grips with the fact that it now owns the grim title of the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history.   [HENDERSON] You know, you see the “Nova Scotia Strong” everywhere. And, you know, sometimes I have to think, “Is that about the pandemic or is that about the mass murder?” We’ve been through a great deal in the last eight weeks.   [ARSHY]  The tragedies in Nova Scotia have just been piling up, one on top of the other. People haven’t even been given the chance to come to terms with one of them, before another hits. But they’ve been trying to find a way through. Tributes poured out online. People shared videos, made signs, wrote songs.  Abbigail Cowbrough was one of those people. Standing on the deck of the HMCS Fredericton, she played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Her performance was part of a video put together by the Nova Scotia Pipers’ Tribute to honour the victims of the shooting.  Five days later, on April 29th, Abbigail died. She and five Canadian Armed forces members were killed in a helicopter crash near Greece. Three of the victims, including Abigail, called Nova Scotia home. The province once again mourned.   On May 3rd, the Snowbirds launched Operation: Inspiration, a cross-country tour meant to boost morale amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They started off in Nova Scotia, first flying over Halifax to honour Abbigail and five others killed in the helicopter crash. And then they did it again, this time over Portapique.    [NEWS CLIP 2, FEMALE] A much-needed moral boost on this sunny Sunday. The fames aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, launched a coast-to-coast tour in our region today, something especially appreciated after two devastating tragedies.   [ARSHY]  Flying with them that day was Capt. Jenn Casey. Casey died on May 17th when a Snowbird jet crashed in Kamloops, B.C. And again, the province did their best to honour her life.    [NEWS CLIP 3, MALE] The body of Captain Jennifer Casey returned to Halifax, the city where her life began. Important for the people of Halifax, hundreds of whom lined the streets as the motorcade passed by the places that were significant to Casey. The home where she grew up, and the radio station where she worked before joining the armed forces.    [ARSHY]  The province’s grief has been undercut by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mourning has to be governed by strict rules for the public’s own protection. A community can come together in some ways, but only so far.  And while these shocking tragedies transpired, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept pace. It’s doesn’t feel as sudden as the others. Instead, it’s been unfolding relentlessly over months, taking the lives of 59 Nova Scotians.  Today Nova Scotia is the third-hardest hit province per capita. There have been around a dozen outbreaks at Nova Scotia long-term care homes. But almost all of those deaths, 51 people out of those 59 have taken place at a single facility: The Northwood Centre in Halifax. I’m Arshy Mann, and from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   PART ONE [NEWS CLIP 4, MALE] Our coverage begins tonight in Nova Scotia, where the province has recorded the Maritimes’ first death related to the virus.   [NEWS CLIP 5, MALE] Yesterday, we announced, uh, three residents at Northwood, uh, who had died of COVID-19. We unfortunately have to announce, uh, two more.    [NEWS CLIP 6, FEMALE] The individual who passed away was a resident at Northwood, and marks the tenth death in the province, and sixth at that facility.   [NEWS CLIP 7, MALE] Today I’m sad to say that we’ve lost two more of our seniors at Northwood.    [NEWS CLIP 8, FEMALE] Thirty-five people at the facility have now died of COVID.   [NEWS CLIP 9, MALE] Unfortunately, we have to report three additional deaths at Northwood. We now have 51 Nova Scotians who have died of COVID-19.   [NEWS CLIP 10, MALE] Today, we mourn another loss of an individual at Northwood. We now have 56 Nova Scotians who have died.   [ARSHY]  In some ways, the pandemic in Nova Scotia is playing out in much the same way as the rest of the country. Like the other provinces, the vast majority of deaths are related to long-term care. In Nova Scotia’s case, that number is 95 percent. But almost all of those people died at Northwood.   [HENDERSON] Northwood is the largest nursing home in Atlantic Canada. It’s really a campus. There are three main buildings. It’s right near the Macdonald Bridge, which crosses Halifax Harbor   [ARSHY]  Northwood is run by a non-profit with a long history in Halifax. Here’s Janet Simm, Northwood’s CEO, speaking in a recent video.   [JANET SIMM]  The organization first began as a social movement in response to the plight of seniors living alone in Halifax, a real community effort to make this organization come together and respond to those unmet needs.   [ARSHY]  In 1962, 285 people gathered at a school in the south end of Halifax to talk about the need for affordable housing for seniors. And, by the end of that meeting, Northwood was founded. Northwood Towers opened up five years later, offering cheap apartments for older Haligonians. Three years after that, they began to build Northwood Manor, which was for seniors who needed some assistance. And then in 1970, they started construction on Northwood Centre, which was a nursing home for people who needed more serious care.    [HENDERSON] It is a combination of a retirement-living community and a nursing home, as many places are these days.   [ARSHY]  And since then, Northwood has been very well-regarded in Nova Scotia.   [HENDERSON] The place has a terrific reputation in the community because it’s a home. They have a radio station.   [BOB MARKS] Good morning. This is NWBC, your Seniors Community Broadcasting Club, thanks to Northward Care Inc. Your host this morning, Bob Marks with my “Down Memory Lane” program. It’s time to have a little bit of a request in here. So, Bernice of Summerside, and a selection from 1942.   [HENDERSON] They have a radio station, they have a bar. They have a fitness center for people with dementia. It has a well-deserved reputation in the community. This is not a, uh, for-profit commercially run. This is a not-for-profit community board of governors, which did have the top rating from the accreditation agency prior to the pandemic.   [ARSHY]  Henderson says that everyday Nova Scotians haven’t been putting the blame on Northwood.    [HENDERSON] Imagine, despite the headlines and despite the knowledge that all these people have died, people are still publicly supporting Northwood. As I say, I’m struggling to think of a single negative letter that blamed Northwood.    [ARSHY]  Part of the reason why people aren’t blaming management is that Northwood has been pretty forthcoming about what’s been happening.   [HENDERSON] Northwood management has been more than transparent with the public. They’ve published a timeline. They’ve done daily information updates. They took worker’s temperatures beginning and end of every shift. So they seem to do all the things they could do. And yet this was still a nightmare.   [ARSHY]  So how is it that a facility that everyone agrees is one of the best ones out there could be the site of so much death? The first thing to understand is that, like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia has serious systemic problems with long-term care.   [HENDERSON] Well, prior to the pandemic, it was well-known that Northwood and every nursing home in Nova Scotia had chronic staff shortages. When people were sick, they simply worked short. This was documented by the expert panel. Numerous reports. It was a given.   [ARSHY]  That expert panel put out its findings in 2019, and the chair of it was Janice Keefe.   [JANICE KEEFE] My name’s Janice Keefe. I’m, uh, director of the Nova Scotia Center on Aging. I’m professor and chair of the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount St. Vincent University.   [ARSHY]  The panel was put together after a number of deaths due to neglect in Nova Scotia’s long-term care homes.   [KEEFE]  The impetus was, uh, bedsores. There were a number of residents in long-term care who actually died because of, uh, inappropriate care around bedsores.    [ARSHY]  And the broad takeaways would be familiar to anyone who’s been listening to this podcast.   [KEEFE]  What we basically found was that this was a sector that needed resources, that needed immediate attention. There were a lot of issues around staffing.   [ARSHY]  Staff were constantly working short-handed. And the long-term care sector was viewed as a much worse place to work than other parts of the healthcare system.    [KEEFE]  But for the main part, the staff themselves were really frustrated about not being able to do the best care that they should be doing, because they didn’t have enough time.   [ARSHY]  And as with other provinces, there are massive waitlists, especially because Nova Scotians tend to be older on average than the rest of the country.    [KEEFE]  When people from Ontario talk about, you know, when the population is going to hit, uh, 20 percent, uh, 65 and over, we’ve been dealing with that for over five years.    [ARSHY]  And the residents had increasingly complex health problems. Janice Keefe has seen that first-hand over the last thirty years.   [KEEFE]  So the biggest change… I will tell you, the biggest change is the residents. I worked in a municipality in Nova Scotia and the people going to the facilities would drive their cars. They lived in the nursing homes, but they… They went out to visit. They were mobile. They were not at the end of their life.    [ARSHY]  But these are problems across all long-term care homes. It still doesn’t answer why Northwood, in particular, has experienced such a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.   PART TWO It was March 15 when the first three Nova Scotians tested positive for COVID-19. Only a day later, Northwood barred all visitors to their facilities. But, as in the rest of Canada, the provincial government and the health authority, they weren’t talking about what would happen if the virus actually got into a long-term care facility.   [HENDERSON] My memory of those briefings with our chief medical officer of health and the premier, which happened daily at the beginning of the pandemic, was that all the focus was on the hospitals.   [ARSHY]  By the end of March, social distancing was put into effect across the province. And it wasn’t until early April that Northwood knew that virus was in the facility.   [HENDERSON] The first staff member to test positive for COVID at Northwood was April 5th. The first three residents followed on April 7th. The virus was brought into the Northwood Center building by workers who were asymptomatic and did not suspect they were ill.   [ARSHY]  The day after an employee tested positive, Northwood mandated that all staff had to wear a mask. That was actually two days before Canada’s chief public health officer recommended the same thing, and a full six days before the provincial government made it mandatory for all long-term care workers.   [HENDERSON] But according to the CEO of Northwood, in hindsight, the horse was already out of the barn, so to speak. Although they were ahead of both the provincial and federal guidelines with respect to wearing masks, it came too late to prevent the spread of infection at Northwood.   [ARSHY]  Over the next five days, more residents and staff members began to test positive. And workers who had previously been told to self-isolate were asked to return to Northwood if they tested negative. That was a mistake.   [HENDERSON] So, we know that in the period where people were becoming infected, that staff who were supposed to be out for 14 days, self isolating, were allowed to return to work because they needed them so desperately, if they tested negative. And then Northwood and the public health officials in Nova Scotia learned that you could test negative one day and positive the next.   [ARSHY]  Northwood had prepared a quarantine area for residents who tested positive. It could fit 20 people. But by April 15, just ten days after the first staff member tested positive, they had to open another area. And the virus continued to spread amongst the workers.    [HENDERSON] And you can see that because, by April 18th, they had so many staff who either wouldn’t come to work because they were afraid of getting sick, or they were self isolating because they had come in contact by providing direct care to one of these sick residents. They were told to stay home for 14 days.   [ARSHY]  Around 80 long-term care workers were off work, and the staffing levels were down to just 60 percent of what they normally would be. Then came the horrific weekend of April 18th and 19th. That was the same weekend a mass shooter killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia. At Northwood, residents began to die. Five people died of COVID-19 in just two days. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil held an emergency press conference that Sunday.   [STEPHEN MCNEIL] We weren’t scheduled to have a news conference today, but I felt the need to be here to provide you with an update on one of our long-term care facilities, Northwood, that’s dealing with an outbreak of COVID. I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia. This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history. There are a number of other families who are dealing with their own loss after–after their loved ones died of COVID, five people over the weekend who lived at Northwood. And I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, and my heart goes out to all of you.   [ARSHY]  That weekend, the province really began to act. The Halifax Infirmary COVID-19 unit was redeployed from their hospital to Northwood; additional workers were brought in from the Red Cross, Victorian Order of Nurses and Emergency Health Services; the province set up a hotel as an off-site ward for Northwood residents who recovered for COVID-19… But people kept dying. Six more residents died in three days. And the union representing Nova Scotia’s nurses said that workers who were brought in to help staff Northwood found a total lack of infection controls and not enough PPE. They said it was like “walking into a war zone.” Here’s NSGEU president Jason MacLean speaking to Global News.   [JASON MACLEAN]  Well, when they got to Northwood, there was no supplies for them. Uh, actually, even yesterday morning, they had… They were down to three gowns. A lot of residents up and walking around, both that are sick and those that are presumed sick. So they’re up and they’re–they’re–they’re trying to use the phone at–at the counter, and they’re touching everything that’s around there.   [HENDERSON] Now, Northwood officials said that these were nurses used to infection control in a hospital setting, and that simply wasn’t appropriate or possible in an old nursing home like Northwood; that, basically, it was apples and oranges.   [ARSHY]  And Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Robert Strang, blasted the union and essentially accused them of lying.   [ROBERT STRANG]  They’re using, frankly, fear, fear mongering and hyperbole in terms of the way they’re describing this situation. When we talk to frontline people who are in Northwood, they… What–what the NSGU is saying is actually inaccurate.   [ARSHY]  Over the next week, another twelve people died at Northwood. And during that time, the Nova Scotian government declined to increase the wages of front-line workers, like other provinces had been doing. Another 16 people died in the first week of May and infections amongst residents and staff continued to inch up. On May 8th, Nova Scotia finally agreed to give a pay bump to health care workers on the front lines. But it would only be a one-time payment of $2000. Since then, another 18 people have died at Northwood, bringing the total number up to 52 dead in the facility. It’s clear today that some mistakes were made, both by Northwood and the provincial government. Like long-term care facilities across Canada, workers were a major vector for transmitting the virus. Workers should have been wearing masks the minute we knew the virus was in Nova Scotia. And if they were exposed, they shouldn’t have been allowed to come back to work before the two-week quarantine was up, even if they tested negative.  Whether or not care workers had adequate PPE, and the facility had proper infection controls, hasn’t been determined yet. The nurses union said it was totally unacceptable, but Northwood and the health authority maintain that it was all up to par. But what’s not in dispute is that one of the biggest factors at play during the Northwood outbreak is the building itself.   [HENDERSON] So there’s general agreement that the reason Northwood was so hard hit by COVID was because the rooms were smaller than in newer nursing homes. And it spread like wildfire.   [ARSHY]  In Northwood Centre, where the most disabled residents lived, the rooms and bathrooms were often shared.    [HENDERSON] It’s more like… More like a hospital. And the rooms are small, like hospital rooms for that time, and most of them are shared. So they’re double occupancy and there’s room for about one chair for a visitor and one walker. And there’s curtains between those beds. People are not only sharing a bathroom, they’re sharing a tight space.  But of course, most of our residents have dementia and they don’t respect those boundaries. They’re in each other’s faces and in each other’s stuff and borrowing their false teeth. You know that… That’s what goes on.   [ARSHY]  It’s those lack of single-occupancy rooms that Northwood CEO Janet Simm also places most of the blame on.   [HENDERSON] I asked her at one briefing, you know, “What could have been done in your view to prevent the rapid spread?” And she mentioned the double rooms, getting rid of those, and if employees, in hindsight, had put the masks on sooner.   [ARSHY]  Before the current Liberal government, the last two Nova Scotian premiers did make improvements to long-term care facilities. In the late 2010s, Rodney MacDonald’s Progressive Conservatives opened long-term care beds across the province and even upgraded some older buildings. And after that, Darrell Dexter’s NDP government had eleven long-term care homes slated for upgrades. But since Stephen McNeil was elected in 2013, only one of those facilities has been replaced. And overall, funding for long-term care has gone down.   [HENDERSON] For the last seven years, there haven’t been any new nursing home beds opened under the current Liberal government.   [ARSHY]  When we talk about long-term care and this pandemic, the numbers can get overwhelming. And the actual people at the centre of this story risk becoming just empty statistics.  But we want to tell you about some of the actual people who died in Northwood, because their lives are important, too. Not just where they died or what killed them, we want to mourn some of them as best we can, especially now as this virus has changed how we can do that. Paul Sullivan worked as an insurance salesman. But he was the kind of guy whose clients quickly became his friends. He loved to build things, like hockey rinks in his backyard. And he stayed married to his wife Irenaeus for 60 years. He died in Northwood, without his family able to be by his side. Gerald Jackson’s family had known tragedy before. His father had survived the Halifax Explosion, but it killed 46 of his family members. He was a cook in the navy for two decades, and then spent some time at Sears and then working for a museum. He lived out west in Victoria since the 1970s, but when he developed dementia, his daughters brought him back to Nova Scotia. They were able to speak to him on an iPad one last time on the day he died in Northwood. Bunny Tanner’s children remember her as a strong and strict mother, in a good way. But she really came into her own as a grandmother. She’d survived a bout with lung cancer in 2019 and she loved her private room in Northwood. But her last days in there were terrifying. She’d call her daughter begging to be able to get out of the facility, to go anywhere else. But she died on May 1st. COVID-19 took Gena Hemsworth that same day. She was afraid of flying, but loved sports cars. And she worked as a secretary at the Halifax Regional Vocational School for thirty years, where she put her exceptionally fast typing abilities to use. When she was away from home, Gena would call her house so she could talk to her cats. She cared for her partner Neil Mosher through ALS, and she died at Northwood a little over a month after she’d arrived. Hilda Weber’s husband left her alone with three young children. But she worked multiple jobs to make sure they’d get by. When times were really bad, her children would split a can of soup, while she ate nothing. Derrick Carvey loved taking drives with his dad and going on boat cruises. And he was a big Michael Jackson fan. And because of his cerebral palsy, the doctors said he wouldn’t live past thirty. But at 37, he was still alive and at Northwood, where his 98-year-old grandmother also lived. They once did a fashion show together. But both of them came down with COVID-19. His grandmother fought off the virus, but Derrick died. His father was in the room with him. He played him Michael Jackson before his son’s breathing stopped.  Thelma Coward-Ince was the first black naval reservist in Canadian history. She eventually became secretary to the chief of staff to the admiral of the Canadian navy. And she did all of that while raising two kids on her own. One of them, Tony Ince, is today a cabinet minister in the Nova Scotian government. Tony was on his way to visit his mother again when he got the call. She had died just before he could arrive. And then there’s Evelina Upshaw. She ran a hot lunch program for over three decades in the North End of Halifax. A few years ago, some young people from her neighbourhood made a short documentary about her. They called her a hero. Here she is speaking in that video.   [EVELINA UPSHAW] I said, well, if I can do something to help those mothers, that they can go off to work feeling free, that the children are going to get a hot noon meal, then that was what I wanted to do. So that’s what I did for 33 years.   [ARSHY]  On her last day, one of her daughters, covered in protective equipment, climbed into bed with her. She was able to be there for her mother at the very end.    OUTRO [ARSHY]  For the last three years, Northwood has been asking the provincial government for money so that fewer people had to live in double or triple rooms.   [HENDERSON] The board of Governors was well aware of the potential for a flu outbreak or a pandemic because they had petitioned the provincial government three separate years for money to expand. They wanted to build a few stories higher, keep the same number of beds, but create more single rooms. And the… And the reason they asked for this money was because they wanted to prevent infection. The provincial government never said no. But they never said yes. And nothing got done for three years.   [ARSHY]  Premier Stephen McNeil has so far resisted the calls for a public inquiry. Some family members of the people who have died at Northwood are publicly blaming both the facility and the government. But we won’t know exactly who or what is to blame unless there are independent investigations. For now, Nova Scotians just want the deaths to stop.   [HENDERSON] I’m not sure what people want is to lay blame and finger-point. They want to fix the problem before the next wave of COVID hits. What we’ve seen, mostly, is praise and compassion for Northwood workers. You see that in the obituaries. You see that in terms of letters to the editor. In fact, people honk their horns as they pass by Northwood to support the workers. Donations of food and gifts continue to flow   [ARSHY]  People volunteering to speak with Northwood residents over the phone and keep them company has doubled. The local mosque has been donating meals to workers. Medical students have been signing up to help in the facility. After all the tragedies of the last two months, Nova Scotians are still finding ways to come together.   END CREDITS [ARSHY]  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 Jennifer Henderson and Tim Bousquet at the Halifax Examiner, Cassidy Chisolm, Taryn Grant, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke at CBC Nova Scotia, John McPhee and Jim Vibert at the Chronicle Herald, Global News and many others. Right now CBC Nova Scotia is putting together profiles of as many of the Northwood residents who have died as they can. I recommend you go give those a read.  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 additional production 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. Click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com 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. 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 Snowbirds’ pilot. And all the while, COVID-19 ravaged the biggest long-term care home in Atlantic Canada. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Jennifer Henderson (Halifax Examiner), Janice Keefe To learn more: “Nova Scotia’s lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic” by Taryn Grant, Cassidy Chisholm, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke in CBC Nova Scotia “The Northwood board has been expressing “grave concern” about double occupancy rooms for years” by Jennifer Henderson in the Halifax Examiner “Strang, union clash over COVID-19 concerns at Northwood” by John McPhee in The Chronicle Herald   This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar  Additional music from Audio Network “I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor” by Chris Zabriskie, adapted.   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 6 – “NORTHWOOD”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  One of the most difficult things about the last two months is that people can’t mourn collectively. If someone is dying of COVID-19, the whole family can’t gather around their bed and be with them. Funerals have been curtailed. Memorials are taking place mostly online. And when something truly awful happens, the kind of event that cuts right to the heart of a whole community, there’s little we can do. Nova Scotians have been experiencing that reality over and over again in the last two months. Like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia locked itself down on March 22 to stop the growth of coronavirus infections.   [JENNIFER HENDERSON] You start to think, “Can the news get any worse?”   [ARSHY]  That’s Jennifer Henderson, a freelance journalist who’s been covering the pandemic for the Halifax Examiner.    [HENDERSON] You know, you’re in the midst of a pandemic and there are people dying every day at one nursing home in your backyard, and people are worried, you know, about going to work. And then we have this mass shooting that you couldn’t even imagine in a very quiet, rural part of the province.   [NEWS CLIP 1, MALE] Nova Scotians this morning are in a state of shock as this quiet province comes to grips with the fact that it now owns the grim title of the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history.   [HENDERSON] You know, you see the “Nova Scotia Strong” everywhere. And, you know, sometimes I have to think, “Is that about the pandemic or is that about the mass murder?” We’ve been through a great deal in the last eight weeks.   [ARSHY]  The tragedies in Nova Scotia have just been piling up, one on top of the other. People haven’t even been given the chance to come to terms with one of them, before another hits. But they’ve been trying to find a way through. Tributes poured out online. People shared videos, made signs, wrote songs.  Abbigail Cowbrough was one of those people. Standing on the deck of the HMCS Fredericton, she played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Her performance was part of a video put together by the Nova Scotia Pipers’ Tribute to honour the victims of the shooting.  Five days later, on April 29th, Abbigail died. She and five Canadian Armed forces members were killed in a helicopter crash near Greece. Three of the victims, including Abigail, called Nova Scotia home. The province once again mourned.   On May 3rd, the Snowbirds launched Operation: Inspiration, a cross-country tour meant to boost morale amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They started off in Nova Scotia, first flying over Halifax to honour Abbigail and five others killed in the helicopter crash. And then they did it again, this time over Portapique.    [NEWS CLIP 2, FEMALE] A much-needed moral boost on this sunny Sunday. The fames aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, launched a coast-to-coast tour in our region today, something especially appreciated after two devastating tragedies.   [ARSHY]  Flying with them that day was Capt. Jenn Casey. Casey died on May 17th when a Snowbird jet crashed in Kamloops, B.C. And again, the province did their best to honour her life.    [NEWS CLIP 3, MALE] The body of Captain Jennifer Casey returned to Halifax, the city where her life began. Important for the people of Halifax, hundreds of whom lined the streets as the motorcade passed by the places that were significant to Casey. The home where she grew up, and the radio station where she worked before joining the armed forces.    [ARSHY]  The province’s grief has been undercut by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mourning has to be governed by strict rules for the public’s own protection. A community can come together in some ways, but only so far.  And while these shocking tragedies transpired, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept pace. It’s doesn’t feel as sudden as the others. Instead, it’s been unfolding relentlessly over months, taking the lives of 59 Nova Scotians.  Today Nova Scotia is the third-hardest hit province per capita. There have been around a dozen outbreaks at Nova Scotia long-term care homes. But almost all of those deaths, 51 people out of those 59 have taken place at a single facility: The Northwood Centre in Halifax. I’m Arshy Mann, and from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   PART ONE [NEWS CLIP 4, MALE] Our coverage begins tonight in Nova Scotia, where the province has recorded the Maritimes’ first death related to the virus.   [NEWS CLIP 5, MALE] Yesterday, we announced, uh, three residents at Northwood, uh, who had died of COVID-19. We unfortunately have to announce, uh, two more.    [NEWS CLIP 6, FEMALE] The individual who passed away was a resident at Northwood, and marks the tenth death in the province, and sixth at that facility.   [NEWS CLIP 7, MALE] Today I’m sad to say that we’ve lost two more of our seniors at Northwood.    [NEWS CLIP 8, FEMALE] Thirty-five people at the facility have now died of COVID.   [NEWS CLIP 9, MALE] Unfortunately, we have to report three additional deaths at Northwood. We now have 51 Nova Scotians who have died of COVID-19.   [NEWS CLIP 10, MALE] Today, we mourn another loss of an individual at Northwood. We now have 56 Nova Scotians who have died.   [ARSHY]  In some ways, the pandemic in Nova Scotia is playing out in much the same way as the rest of the country. Like the other provinces, the vast majority of deaths are related to long-term care. In Nova Scotia’s case, that number is 95 percent. But almost all of those people died at Northwood.   [HENDERSON] Northwood is the largest nursing home in Atlantic Canada. It’s really a campus. There are three main buildings. It’s right near the Macdonald Bridge, which crosses Halifax Harbor   [ARSHY]  Northwood is run by a non-profit with a long history in Halifax. Here’s Janet Simm, Northwood’s CEO, speaking in a recent video.   [JANET SIMM]  The organization first began as a social movement in response to the plight of seniors living alone in Halifax, a real community effort to make this organization come together and respond to those unmet needs.   [ARSHY]  In 1962, 285 people gathered at a school in the south end of Halifax to talk about the need for affordable housing for seniors. And, by the end of that meeting, Northwood was founded. Northwood Towers opened up five years later, offering cheap apartments for older Haligonians. Three years after that, they began to build Northwood Manor, which was for seniors who needed some assistance. And then in 1970, they started construction on Northwood Centre, which was a nursing home for people who needed more serious care.    [HENDERSON] It is a combination of a retirement-living community and a nursing home, as many places are these days.   [ARSHY]  And since then, Northwood has been very well-regarded in Nova Scotia.   [HENDERSON] The place has a terrific reputation in the community because it’s a home. They have a radio station.   [BOB MARKS] Good morning. This is NWBC, your Seniors Community Broadcasting Club, thanks to Northward Care Inc. Your host this morning, Bob Marks with my “Down Memory Lane” program. It’s time to have a little bit of a request in here. So, Bernice of Summerside, and a selection from 1942.   [HENDERSON] They have a radio station, they have a bar. They have a fitness center for people with dementia. It has a well-deserved reputation in the community. This is not a, uh, for-profit commercially run. This is a not-for-profit community board of governors, which did have the top rating from the accreditation agency prior to the pandemic.   [ARSHY]  Henderson says that everyday Nova Scotians haven’t been putting the blame on Northwood.    [HENDERSON] Imagine, despite the headlines and despite the knowledge that all these people have died, people are still publicly supporting Northwood. As I say, I’m struggling to think of a single negative letter that blamed Northwood.    [ARSHY]  Part of the reason why people aren’t blaming management is that Northwood has been pretty forthcoming about what’s been happening.   [HENDERSON] Northwood management has been more than transparent with the public. They’ve published a timeline. They’ve done daily information updates. They took worker’s temperatures beginning and end of every shift. So they seem to do all the things they could do. And yet this was still a nightmare.   [ARSHY]  So how is it that a facility that everyone agrees is one of the best ones out there could be the site of so much death? The first thing to understand is that, like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia has serious systemic problems with long-term care.   [HENDERSON] Well, prior to the pandemic, it was well-known that Northwood and every nursing home in Nova Scotia had chronic staff shortages. When people were sick, they simply worked short. This was documented by the expert panel. Numerous reports. It was a given.   [ARSHY]  That expert panel put out its findings in 2019, and the chair of it was Janice Keefe.   [JANICE KEEFE] My name’s Janice Keefe. I’m, uh, director of the Nova Scotia Center on Aging. I’m professor and chair of the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount St. Vincent University.   [ARSHY]  The panel was put together after a number of deaths due to neglect in Nova Scotia’s long-term care homes.   [KEEFE]  The impetus was, uh, bedsores. There were a number of residents in long-term care who actually died because of, uh, inappropriate care around bedsores.    [ARSHY]  And the broad takeaways would be familiar to anyone who’s been listening to this podcast.   [KEEFE]  What we basically found was that this was a sector that needed resources, that needed immediate attention. There were a lot of issues around staffing.   [ARSHY]  Staff were constantly working short-handed. And the long-term care sector was viewed as a much worse place to work than other parts of the healthcare system.    [KEEFE]  But for the main part, the staff themselves were really frustrated about not being able to do the best care that they should be doing, because they didn’t have enough time.   [ARSHY]  And as with other provinces, there are massive waitlists, especially because Nova Scotians tend to be older on average than the rest of the country.    [KEEFE]  When people from Ontario talk about, you know, when the population is going to hit, uh, 20 percent, uh, 65 and over, we’ve been dealing with that for over five years.    [ARSHY]  And the residents had increasingly complex health problems. Janice Keefe has seen that first-hand over the last thirty years.   [KEEFE]  So the biggest change… I will tell you, the biggest change is the residents. I worked in a municipality in Nova Scotia and the people going to the facilities would drive their cars. They lived in the nursing homes, but they… They went out to visit. They were mobile. They were not at the end of their life.    [ARSHY]  But these are problems across all long-term care homes. It still doesn’t answer why Northwood, in particular, has experienced such a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.   PART TWO It was March 15 when the first three Nova Scotians tested positive for COVID-19. Only a day later, Northwood barred all visitors to their facilities. But, as in the rest of Canada, the provincial government and the health authority, they weren’t talking about what would happen if the virus actually got into a long-term care facility.   [HENDERSON] My memory of those briefings with our chief medical officer of health and the premier, which happened daily at the beginning of the pandemic, was that all the focus was on the hospitals.   [ARSHY]  By the end of March, social distancing was put into effect across the province. And it wasn’t until early April that Northwood knew that virus was in the facility.   [HENDERSON] The first staff member to test positive for COVID at Northwood was April 5th. The first three residents followed on April 7th. The virus was brought into the Northwood Center building by workers who were asymptomatic and did not suspect they were ill.   [ARSHY]  The day after an employee tested positive, Northwood mandated that all staff had to wear a mask. That was actually two days before Canada’s chief public health officer recommended the same thing, and a full six days before the provincial government made it mandatory for all long-term care workers.   [HENDERSON] But according to the CEO of Northwood, in hindsight, the horse was already out of the barn, so to speak. Although they were ahead of both the provincial and federal guidelines with respect to wearing masks, it came too late to prevent the spread of infection at Northwood.   [ARSHY]  Over the next five days, more residents and staff members began to test positive. And workers who had previously been told to self-isolate were asked to return to Northwood if they tested negative. That was a mistake.   [HENDERSON] So, we know that in the period where people were becoming infected, that staff who were supposed to be out for 14 days, self isolating, were allowed to return to work because they needed them so desperately, if they tested negative. And then Northwood and the public health officials in Nova Scotia learned that you could test negative one day and positive the next.   [ARSHY]  Northwood had prepared a quarantine area for residents who tested positive. It could fit 20 people. But by April 15, just ten days after the first staff member tested positive, they had to open another area. And the virus continued to spread amongst the workers.    [HENDERSON] And you can see that because, by April 18th, they had so many staff who either wouldn’t come to work because they were afraid of getting sick, or they were self isolating because they had come in contact by providing direct care to one of these sick residents. They were told to stay home for 14 days.   [ARSHY]  Around 80 long-term care workers were off work, and the staffing levels were down to just 60 percent of what they normally would be. Then came the horrific weekend of April 18th and 19th. That was the same weekend a mass shooter killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia. At Northwood, residents began to die. Five people died of COVID-19 in just two days. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil held an emergency press conference that Sunday.   [STEPHEN MCNEIL] We weren’t scheduled to have a news conference today, but I felt the need to be here to provide you with an update on one of our long-term care facilities, Northwood, that’s dealing with an outbreak of COVID. I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia. This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history. There are a number of other families who are dealing with their own loss after–after their loved ones died of COVID, five people over the weekend who lived at Northwood. And I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, and my heart goes out to all of you.   [ARSHY]  That weekend, the province really began to act. The Halifax Infirmary COVID-19 unit was redeployed from their hospital to Northwood; additional workers were brought in from the Red Cross, Victorian Order of Nurses and Emergency Health Services; the province set up a hotel as an off-site ward for Northwood residents who recovered for COVID-19… But people kept dying. Six more residents died in three days. And the union representing Nova Scotia’s nurses said that workers who were brought in to help staff Northwood found a total lack of infection controls and not enough PPE. They said it was like “walking into a war zone.” Here’s NSGEU president Jason MacLean speaking to Global News.   [JASON MACLEAN]  Well, when they got to Northwood, there was no supplies for them. Uh, actually, even yesterday morning, they had… They were down to three gowns. A lot of residents up and walking around, both that are sick and those that are presumed sick. So they’re up and they’re–they’re–they’re trying to use the phone at–at the counter, and they’re touching everything that’s around there.   [HENDERSON] Now, Northwood officials said that these were nurses used to infection control in a hospital setting, and that simply wasn’t appropriate or possible in an old nursing home like Northwood; that, basically, it was apples and oranges.   [ARSHY]  And Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Robert Strang, blasted the union and essentially accused them of lying.   [ROBERT STRANG]  They’re using, frankly, fear, fear mongering and hyperbole in terms of the way they’re describing this situation. When we talk to frontline people who are in Northwood, they… What–what the NSGU is saying is actually inaccurate.   [ARSHY]  Over the next week, another twelve people died at Northwood. And during that time, the Nova Scotian government declined to increase the wages of front-line workers, like other provinces had been doing. Another 16 people died in the first week of May and infections amongst residents and staff continued to inch up. On May 8th, Nova Scotia finally agreed to give a pay bump to health care workers on the front lines. But it would only be a one-time payment of $2000. Since then, another 18 people have died at Northwood, bringing the total number up to 52 dead in the facility. It’s clear today that some mistakes were made, both by Northwood and the provincial government. Like long-term care facilities across Canada, workers were a major vector for transmitting the virus. Workers should have been wearing masks the minute we knew the virus was in Nova Scotia. And if they were exposed, they shouldn’t have been allowed to come back to work before the two-week quarantine was up, even if they tested negative.  Whether or not care workers had adequate PPE, and the facility had proper infection controls, hasn’t been determined yet. The nurses union said it was totally unacceptable, but Northwood and the health authority maintain that it was all up to par. But what’s not in dispute is that one of the biggest factors at play during the Northwood outbreak is the building itself.   [HENDERSON] So there’s general agreement that the reason Northwood was so hard hit by COVID was because the rooms were smaller than in newer nursing homes. And it spread like wildfire.   [ARSHY]  In Northwood Centre, where the most disabled residents lived, the rooms and bathrooms were often shared.    [HENDERSON] It’s more like… More like a hospital. And the rooms are small, like hospital rooms for that time, and most of them are shared. So they’re double occupancy and there’s room for about one chair for a visitor and one walker. And there’s curtains between those beds. People are not only sharing a bathroom, they’re sharing a tight space.  But of course, most of our residents have dementia and they don’t respect those boundaries. They’re in each other’s faces and in each other’s stuff and borrowing their false teeth. You know that… That’s what goes on.   [ARSHY]  It’s those lack of single-occupancy rooms that Northwood CEO Janet Simm also places most of the blame on.   [HENDERSON] I asked her at one briefing, you know, “What could have been done in your view to prevent the rapid spread?” And she mentioned the double rooms, getting rid of those, and if employees, in hindsight, had put the masks on sooner.   [ARSHY]  Before the current Liberal government, the last two Nova Scotian premiers did make improvements to long-term care facilities. In the late 2010s, Rodney MacDonald’s Progressive Conservatives opened long-term care beds across the province and even upgraded some older buildings. And after that, Darrell Dexter’s NDP government had eleven long-term care homes slated for upgrades. But since Stephen McNeil was elected in 2013, only one of those facilities has been replaced. And overall, funding for long-term care has gone down.   [HENDERSON] For the last seven years, there haven’t been any new nursing home beds opened under the current Liberal government.   [ARSHY]  When we talk about long-term care and this pandemic, the numbers can get overwhelming. And the actual people at the centre of this story risk becoming just empty statistics.  But we want to tell you about some of the actual people who died in Northwood, because their lives are important, too. Not just where they died or what killed them, we want to mourn some of them as best we can, especially now as this virus has changed how we can do that. Paul Sullivan worked as an insurance salesman. But he was the kind of guy whose clients quickly became his friends. He loved to build things, like hockey rinks in his backyard. And he stayed married to his wife Irenaeus for 60 years. He died in Northwood, without his family able to be by his side. Gerald Jackson’s family had known tragedy before. His father had survived the Halifax Explosion, but it killed 46 of his family members. He was a cook in the navy for two decades, and then spent some time at Sears and then working for a museum. He lived out west in Victoria since the 1970s, but when he developed dementia, his daughters brought him back to Nova Scotia. They were able to speak to him on an iPad one last time on the day he died in Northwood. Bunny Tanner’s children remember her as a strong and strict mother, in a good way. But she really came into her own as a grandmother. She’d survived a bout with lung cancer in 2019 and she loved her private room in Northwood. But her last days in there were terrifying. She’d call her daughter begging to be able to get out of the facility, to go anywhere else. But she died on May 1st. COVID-19 took Gena Hemsworth that same day. She was afraid of flying, but loved sports cars. And she worked as a secretary at the Halifax Regional Vocational School for thirty years, where she put her exceptionally fast typing abilities to use. When she was away from home, Gena would call her house so she could talk to her cats. She cared for her partner Neil Mosher through ALS, and she died at Northwood a little over a month after she’d arrived. Hilda Weber’s husband left her alone with three young children. But she worked multiple jobs to make sure they’d get by. When times were really bad, her children would split a can of soup, while she ate nothing. Derrick Carvey loved taking drives with his dad and going on boat cruises. And he was a big Michael Jackson fan. And because of his cerebral palsy, the doctors said he wouldn’t live past thirty. But at 37, he was still alive and at Northwood, where his 98-year-old grandmother also lived. They once did a fashion show together. But both of them came down with COVID-19. His grandmother fought off the virus, but Derrick died. His father was in the room with him. He played him Michael Jackson before his son’s breathing stopped.  Thelma Coward-Ince was the first black naval reservist in Canadian history. She eventually became secretary to the chief of staff to the admiral of the Canadian navy. And she did all of that while raising two kids on her own. One of them, Tony Ince, is today a cabinet minister in the Nova Scotian government. Tony was on his way to visit his mother again when he got the call. She had died just before he could arrive. And then there’s Evelina Upshaw. She ran a hot lunch program for over three decades in the North End of Halifax. A few years ago, some young people from her neighbourhood made a short documentary about her. They called her a hero. Here she is speaking in that video.   [EVELINA UPSHAW] I said, well, if I can do something to help those mothers, that they can go off to work feeling free, that the children are going to get a hot noon meal, then that was what I wanted to do. So that’s what I did for 33 years.   [ARSHY]  On her last day, one of her daughters, covered in protective equipment, climbed into bed with her. She was able to be there for her mother at the very end.    OUTRO [ARSHY]  For the last three years, Northwood has been asking the provincial government for money so that fewer people had to live in double or triple rooms.   [HENDERSON] The board of Governors was well aware of the potential for a flu outbreak or a pandemic because they had petitioned the provincial government three separate years for money to expand. They wanted to build a few stories higher, keep the same number of beds, but create more single rooms. And the… And the reason they asked for this money was because they wanted to prevent infection. The provincial government never said no. But they never said yes. And nothing got done for three years.   [ARSHY]  Premier Stephen McNeil has so far resisted the calls for a public inquiry. Some family members of the people who have died at Northwood are publicly blaming both the facility and the government. But we won’t know exactly who or what is to blame unless there are independent investigations. For now, Nova Scotians just want the deaths to stop.   [HENDERSON] I’m not sure what people want is to lay blame and finger-point. They want to fix the problem before the next wave of COVID hits. What we’ve seen, mostly, is praise and compassion for Northwood workers. You see that in the obituaries. You see that in terms of letters to the editor. In fact, people honk their horns as they pass by Northwood to support the workers. Donations of food and gifts continue to flow   [ARSHY]  People volunteering to speak with Northwood residents over the phone and keep them company has doubled. The local mosque has been donating meals to workers. Medical students have been signing up to help in the facility. After all the tragedies of the last two months, Nova Scotians are still finding ways to come together.   END CREDITS [ARSHY]  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 Jennifer Henderson and Tim Bousquet at the Halifax Examiner, Cassidy Chisolm, Taryn Grant, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke at CBC Nova Scotia, John McPhee and Jim Vibert at the Chronicle Herald, Global News and many others. Right now CBC Nova Scotia is putting together profiles of as many of the Northwood residents who have died as they can. I recommend you go give those a read.  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 additional production 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. Click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com 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. 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 Snowbirds’ pilot. And all the while, COVID-19 ravaged the biggest long-term care home in Atlantic Canada. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Jennifer Henderson (Halifax Examiner), Janice Keefe To learn more: “Nova Scotia’s lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic” by Taryn Grant, Cassidy Chisholm, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke in CBC Nova Scotia “The Northwood board has been expressing “grave concern” about double occupancy rooms for years” by Jennifer Henderson in the Halifax Examiner “Strang, union clash over COVID-19 concerns at Northwood” by John McPhee in The Chronicle Herald   This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar  Additional music from Audio Network “I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor” by Chris Zabriskie, adapted.   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 6 – “NORTHWOOD”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  One of the most difficult things about the last two months is that people can’t mourn collectively. If someone is dying of COVID-19, the whole family can’t gather around their bed and be with them. Funerals have been curtailed. Memorials are taking place mostly online. And when something truly awful happens, the kind of event that cuts right to the heart of a whole community, there’s little we can do. Nova Scotians have been experiencing that reality over and over again in the last two months. Like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia locked itself down on March 22 to stop the growth of coronavirus infections.   [JENNIFER HENDERSON] You start to think, “Can the news get any worse?”   [ARSHY]  That’s Jennifer Henderson, a freelance journalist who’s been covering the pandemic for the Halifax Examiner.    [HENDERSON] You know, you’re in the midst of a pandemic and there are people dying every day at one nursing home in your backyard, and people are worried, you know, about going to work. And then we have this mass shooting that you couldn’t even imagine in a very quiet, rural part of the province.   [NEWS CLIP 1, MALE] Nova Scotians this morning are in a state of shock as this quiet province comes to grips with the fact that it now owns the grim title of the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history.   [HENDERSON] You know, you see the “Nova Scotia Strong” everywhere. And, you know, sometimes I have to think, “Is that about the pandemic or is that about the mass murder?” We’ve been through a great deal in the last eight weeks.   [ARSHY]  The tragedies in Nova Scotia have just been piling up, one on top of the other. People haven’t even been given the chance to come to terms with one of them, before another hits. But they’ve been trying to find a way through. Tributes poured out online. People shared videos, made signs, wrote songs.  Abbigail Cowbrough was one of those people. Standing on the deck of the HMCS Fredericton, she played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Her performance was part of a video put together by the Nova Scotia Pipers’ Tribute to honour the victims of the shooting.  Five days later, on April 29th, Abbigail died. She and five Canadian Armed forces members were killed in a helicopter crash near Greece. Three of the victims, including Abigail, called Nova Scotia home. The province once again mourned.   On May 3rd, the Snowbirds launched Operation: Inspiration, a cross-country tour meant to boost morale amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They started off in Nova Scotia, first flying over Halifax to honour Abbigail and five others killed in the helicopter crash. And then they did it again, this time over Portapique.    [NEWS CLIP 2, FEMALE] A much-needed moral boost on this sunny Sunday. The fames aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, launched a coast-to-coast tour in our region today, something especially appreciated after two devastating tragedies.   [ARSHY]  Flying with them that day was Capt. Jenn Casey. Casey died on May 17th when a Snowbird jet crashed in Kamloops, B.C. And again, the province did their best to honour her life.    [NEWS CLIP 3, MALE] The body of Captain Jennifer Casey returned to Halifax, the city where her life began. Important for the people of Halifax, hundreds of whom lined the streets as the motorcade passed by the places that were significant to Casey. The home where she grew up, and the radio station where she worked before joining the armed forces.    [ARSHY]  The province’s grief has been undercut by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mourning has to be governed by strict rules for the public’s own protection. A community can come together in some ways, but only so far.  And while these shocking tragedies transpired, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept pace. It’s doesn’t feel as sudden as the others. Instead, it’s been unfolding relentlessly over months, taking the lives of 59 Nova Scotians.  Today Nova Scotia is the third-hardest hit province per capita. There have been around a dozen outbreaks at Nova Scotia long-term care homes. But almost all of those deaths, 51 people out of those 59 have taken place at a single facility: The Northwood Centre in Halifax. I’m Arshy Mann, and from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   PART ONE [NEWS CLIP 4, MALE] Our coverage begins tonight in Nova Scotia, where the province has recorded the Maritimes’ first death related to the virus.   [NEWS CLIP 5, MALE] Yesterday, we announced, uh, three residents at Northwood, uh, who had died of COVID-19. We unfortunately have to announce, uh, two more.    [NEWS CLIP 6, FEMALE] The individual who passed away was a resident at Northwood, and marks the tenth death in the province, and sixth at that facility.   [NEWS CLIP 7, MALE] Today I’m sad to say that we’ve lost two more of our seniors at Northwood.    [NEWS CLIP 8, FEMALE] Thirty-five people at the facility have now died of COVID.   [NEWS CLIP 9, MALE] Unfortunately, we have to report three additional deaths at Northwood. We now have 51 Nova Scotians who have died of COVID-19.   [NEWS CLIP 10, MALE] Today, we mourn another loss of an individual at Northwood. We now have 56 Nova Scotians who have died.   [ARSHY]  In some ways, the pandemic in Nova Scotia is playing out in much the same way as the rest of the country. Like the other provinces, the vast majority of deaths are related to long-term care. In Nova Scotia’s case, that number is 95 percent. But almost all of those people died at Northwood.   [HENDERSON] Northwood is the largest nursing home in Atlantic Canada. It’s really a campus. There are three main buildings. It’s right near the Macdonald Bridge, which crosses Halifax Harbor   [ARSHY]  Northwood is run by a non-profit with a long history in Halifax. Here’s Janet Simm, Northwood’s CEO, speaking in a recent video.   [JANET SIMM]  The organization first began as a social movement in response to the plight of seniors living alone in Halifax, a real community effort to make this organization come together and respond to those unmet needs.   [ARSHY]  In 1962, 285 people gathered at a school in the south end of Halifax to talk about the need for affordable housing for seniors. And, by the end of that meeting, Northwood was founded. Northwood Towers opened up five years later, offering cheap apartments for older Haligonians. Three years after that, they began to build Northwood Manor, which was for seniors who needed some assistance. And then in 1970, they started construction on Northwood Centre, which was a nursing home for people who needed more serious care.    [HENDERSON] It is a combination of a retirement-living community and a nursing home, as many places are these days.   [ARSHY]  And since then, Northwood has been very well-regarded in Nova Scotia.   [HENDERSON] The place has a terrific reputation in the community because it’s a home. They have a radio station.   [BOB MARKS] Good morning. This is NWBC, your Seniors Community Broadcasting Club, thanks to Northward Care Inc. Your host this morning, Bob Marks with my “Down Memory Lane” program. It’s time to have a little bit of a request in here. So, Bernice of Summerside, and a selection from 1942.   [HENDERSON] They have a radio station, they have a bar. They have a fitness center for people with dementia. It has a well-deserved reputation in the community. This is not a, uh, for-profit commercially run. This is a not-for-profit community board of governors, which did have the top rating from the accreditation agency prior to the pandemic.   [ARSHY]  Henderson says that everyday Nova Scotians haven’t been putting the blame on Northwood.    [HENDERSON] Imagine, despite the headlines and despite the knowledge that all these people have died, people are still publicly supporting Northwood. As I say, I’m struggling to think of a single negative letter that blamed Northwood.    [ARSHY]  Part of the reason why people aren’t blaming management is that Northwood has been pretty forthcoming about what’s been happening.   [HENDERSON] Northwood management has been more than transparent with the public. They’ve published a timeline. They’ve done daily information updates. They took worker’s temperatures beginning and end of every shift. So they seem to do all the things they could do. And yet this was still a nightmare.   [ARSHY]  So how is it that a facility that everyone agrees is one of the best ones out there could be the site of so much death? The first thing to understand is that, like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia has serious systemic problems with long-term care.   [HENDERSON] Well, prior to the pandemic, it was well-known that Northwood and every nursing home in Nova Scotia had chronic staff shortages. When people were sick, they simply worked short. This was documented by the expert panel. Numerous reports. It was a given.   [ARSHY]  That expert panel put out its findings in 2019, and the chair of it was Janice Keefe.   [JANICE KEEFE] My name’s Janice Keefe. I’m, uh, director of the Nova Scotia Center on Aging. I’m professor and chair of the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount St. Vincent University.   [ARSHY]  The panel was put together after a number of deaths due to neglect in Nova Scotia’s long-term care homes.   [KEEFE]  The impetus was, uh, bedsores. There were a number of residents in long-term care who actually died because of, uh, inappropriate care around bedsores.    [ARSHY]  And the broad takeaways would be familiar to anyone who’s been listening to this podcast.   [KEEFE]  What we basically found was that this was a sector that needed resources, that needed immediate attention. There were a lot of issues around staffing.   [ARSHY]  Staff were constantly working short-handed. And the long-term care sector was viewed as a much worse place to work than other parts of the healthcare system.    [KEEFE]  But for the main part, the staff themselves were really frustrated about not being able to do the best care that they should be doing, because they didn’t have enough time.   [ARSHY]  And as with other provinces, there are massive waitlists, especially because Nova Scotians tend to be older on average than the rest of the country.    [KEEFE]  When people from Ontario talk about, you know, when the population is going to hit, uh, 20 percent, uh, 65 and over, we’ve been dealing with that for over five years.    [ARSHY]  And the residents had increasingly complex health problems. Janice Keefe has seen that first-hand over the last thirty years.   [KEEFE]  So the biggest change… I will tell you, the biggest change is the residents. I worked in a municipality in Nova Scotia and the people going to the facilities would drive their cars. They lived in the nursing homes, but they… They went out to visit. They were mobile. They were not at the end of their life.    [ARSHY]  But these are problems across all long-term care homes. It still doesn’t answer why Northwood, in particular, has experienced such a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.   PART TWO It was March 15 when the first three Nova Scotians tested positive for COVID-19. Only a day later, Northwood barred all visitors to their facilities. But, as in the rest of Canada, the provincial government and the health authority, they weren’t talking about what would happen if the virus actually got into a long-term care facility.   [HENDERSON] My memory of those briefings with our chief medical officer of health and the premier, which happened daily at the beginning of the pandemic, was that all the focus was on the hospitals.   [ARSHY]  By the end of March, social distancing was put into effect across the province. And it wasn’t until early April that Northwood knew that virus was in the facility.   [HENDERSON] The first staff member to test positive for COVID at Northwood was April 5th. The first three residents followed on April 7th. The virus was brought into the Northwood Center building by workers who were asymptomatic and did not suspect they were ill.   [ARSHY]  The day after an employee tested positive, Northwood mandated that all staff had to wear a mask. That was actually two days before Canada’s chief public health officer recommended the same thing, and a full six days before the provincial government made it mandatory for all long-term care workers.   [HENDERSON] But according to the CEO of Northwood, in hindsight, the horse was already out of the barn, so to speak. Although they were ahead of both the provincial and federal guidelines with respect to wearing masks, it came too late to prevent the spread of infection at Northwood.   [ARSHY]  Over the next five days, more residents and staff members began to test positive. And workers who had previously been told to self-isolate were asked to return to Northwood if they tested negative. That was a mistake.   [HENDERSON] So, we know that in the period where people were becoming infected, that staff who were supposed to be out for 14 days, self isolating, were allowed to return to work because they needed them so desperately, if they tested negative. And then Northwood and the public health officials in Nova Scotia learned that you could test negative one day and positive the next.   [ARSHY]  Northwood had prepared a quarantine area for residents who tested positive. It could fit 20 people. But by April 15, just ten days after the first staff member tested positive, they had to open another area. And the virus continued to spread amongst the workers.    [HENDERSON] And you can see that because, by April 18th, they had so many staff who either wouldn’t come to work because they were afraid of getting sick, or they were self isolating because they had come in contact by providing direct care to one of these sick residents. They were told to stay home for 14 days.   [ARSHY]  Around 80 long-term care workers were off work, and the staffing levels were down to just 60 percent of what they normally would be. Then came the horrific weekend of April 18th and 19th. That was the same weekend a mass shooter killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia. At Northwood, residents began to die. Five people died of COVID-19 in just two days. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil held an emergency press conference that Sunday.   [STEPHEN MCNEIL] We weren’t scheduled to have a news conference today, but I felt the need to be here to provide you with an update on one of our long-term care facilities, Northwood, that’s dealing with an outbreak of COVID. I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia. This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history. There are a number of other families who are dealing with their own loss after–after their loved ones died of COVID, five people over the weekend who lived at Northwood. And I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, and my heart goes out to all of you.   [ARSHY]  That weekend, the province really began to act. The Halifax Infirmary COVID-19 unit was redeployed from their hospital to Northwood; additional workers were brought in from the Red Cross, Victorian Order of Nurses and Emergency Health Services; the province set up a hotel as an off-site ward for Northwood residents who recovered for COVID-19… But people kept dying. Six more residents died in three days. And the union representing Nova Scotia’s nurses said that workers who were brought in to help staff Northwood found a total lack of infection controls and not enough PPE. They said it was like “walking into a war zone.” Here’s NSGEU president Jason MacLean speaking to Global News.   [JASON MACLEAN]  Well, when they got to Northwood, there was no supplies for them. Uh, actually, even yesterday morning, they had… They were down to three gowns. A lot of residents up and walking around, both that are sick and those that are presumed sick. So they’re up and they’re–they’re–they’re trying to use the phone at–at the counter, and they’re touching everything that’s around there.   [HENDERSON] Now, Northwood officials said that these were nurses used to infection control in a hospital setting, and that simply wasn’t appropriate or possible in an old nursing home like Northwood; that, basically, it was apples and oranges.   [ARSHY]  And Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Robert Strang, blasted the union and essentially accused them of lying.   [ROBERT STRANG]  They’re using, frankly, fear, fear mongering and hyperbole in terms of the way they’re describing this situation. When we talk to frontline people who are in Northwood, they… What–what the NSGU is saying is actually inaccurate.   [ARSHY]  Over the next week, another twelve people died at Northwood. And during that time, the Nova Scotian government declined to increase the wages of front-line workers, like other provinces had been doing. Another 16 people died in the first week of May and infections amongst residents and staff continued to inch up. On May 8th, Nova Scotia finally agreed to give a pay bump to health care workers on the front lines. But it would only be a one-time payment of $2000. Since then, another 18 people have died at Northwood, bringing the total number up to 52 dead in the facility. It’s clear today that some mistakes were made, both by Northwood and the provincial government. Like long-term care facilities across Canada, workers were a major vector for transmitting the virus. Workers should have been wearing masks the minute we knew the virus was in Nova Scotia. And if they were exposed, they shouldn’t have been allowed to come back to work before the two-week quarantine was up, even if they tested negative.  Whether or not care workers had adequate PPE, and the facility had proper infection controls, hasn’t been determined yet. The nurses union said it was totally unacceptable, but Northwood and the health authority maintain that it was all up to par. But what’s not in dispute is that one of the biggest factors at play during the Northwood outbreak is the building itself.   [HENDERSON] So there’s general agreement that the reason Northwood was so hard hit by COVID was because the rooms were smaller than in newer nursing homes. And it spread like wildfire.   [ARSHY]  In Northwood Centre, where the most disabled residents lived, the rooms and bathrooms were often shared.    [HENDERSON] It’s more like… More like a hospital. And the rooms are small, like hospital rooms for that time, and most of them are shared. So they’re double occupancy and there’s room for about one chair for a visitor and one walker. And there’s curtains between those beds. People are not only sharing a bathroom, they’re sharing a tight space.  But of course, most of our residents have dementia and they don’t respect those boundaries. They’re in each other’s faces and in each other’s stuff and borrowing their false teeth. You know that… That’s what goes on.   [ARSHY]  It’s those lack of single-occupancy rooms that Northwood CEO Janet Simm also places most of the blame on.   [HENDERSON] I asked her at one briefing, you know, “What could have been done in your view to prevent the rapid spread?” And she mentioned the double rooms, getting rid of those, and if employees, in hindsight, had put the masks on sooner.   [ARSHY]  Before the current Liberal government, the last two Nova Scotian premiers did make improvements to long-term care facilities. In the late 2010s, Rodney MacDonald’s Progressive Conservatives opened long-term care beds across the province and even upgraded some older buildings. And after that, Darrell Dexter’s NDP government had eleven long-term care homes slated for upgrades. But since Stephen McNeil was elected in 2013, only one of those facilities has been replaced. And overall, funding for long-term care has gone down.   [HENDERSON] For the last seven years, there haven’t been any new nursing home beds opened under the current Liberal government.   [ARSHY]  When we talk about long-term care and this pandemic, the numbers can get overwhelming. And the actual people at the centre of this story risk becoming just empty statistics.  But we want to tell you about some of the actual people who died in Northwood, because their lives are important, too. Not just where they died or what killed them, we want to mourn some of them as best we can, especially now as this virus has changed how we can do that. Paul Sullivan worked as an insurance salesman. But he was the kind of guy whose clients quickly became his friends. He loved to build things, like hockey rinks in his backyard. And he stayed married to his wife Irenaeus for 60 years. He died in Northwood, without his family able to be by his side. Gerald Jackson’s family had known tragedy before. His father had survived the Halifax Explosion, but it killed 46 of his family members. He was a cook in the navy for two decades, and then spent some time at Sears and then working for a museum. He lived out west in Victoria since the 1970s, but when he developed dementia, his daughters brought him back to Nova Scotia. They were able to speak to him on an iPad one last time on the day he died in Northwood. Bunny Tanner’s children remember her as a strong and strict mother, in a good way. But she really came into her own as a grandmother. She’d survived a bout with lung cancer in 2019 and she loved her private room in Northwood. But her last days in there were terrifying. She’d call her daughter begging to be able to get out of the facility, to go anywhere else. But she died on May 1st. COVID-19 took Gena Hemsworth that same day. She was afraid of flying, but loved sports cars. And she worked as a secretary at the Halifax Regional Vocational School for thirty years, where she put her exceptionally fast typing abilities to use. When she was away from home, Gena would call her house so she could talk to her cats. She cared for her partner Neil Mosher through ALS, and she died at Northwood a little over a month after she’d arrived. Hilda Weber’s husband left her alone with three young children. But she worked multiple jobs to make sure they’d get by. When times were really bad, her children would split a can of soup, while she ate nothing. Derrick Carvey loved taking drives with his dad and going on boat cruises. And he was a big Michael Jackson fan. And because of his cerebral palsy, the doctors said he wouldn’t live past thirty. But at 37, he was still alive and at Northwood, where his 98-year-old grandmother also lived. They once did a fashion show together. But both of them came down with COVID-19. His grandmother fought off the virus, but Derrick died. His father was in the room with him. He played him Michael Jackson before his son’s breathing stopped.  Thelma Coward-Ince was the first black naval reservist in Canadian history. She eventually became secretary to the chief of staff to the admiral of the Canadian navy. And she did all of that while raising two kids on her own. One of them, Tony Ince, is today a cabinet minister in the Nova Scotian government. Tony was on his way to visit his mother again when he got the call. She had died just before he could arrive. And then there’s Evelina Upshaw. She ran a hot lunch program for over three decades in the North End of Halifax. A few years ago, some young people from her neighbourhood made a short documentary about her. They called her a hero. Here she is speaking in that video.   [EVELINA UPSHAW] I said, well, if I can do something to help those mothers, that they can go off to work feeling free, that the children are going to get a hot noon meal, then that was what I wanted to do. So that’s what I did for 33 years.   [ARSHY]  On her last day, one of her daughters, covered in protective equipment, climbed into bed with her. She was able to be there for her mother at the very end.    OUTRO [ARSHY]  For the last three years, Northwood has been asking the provincial government for money so that fewer people had to live in double or triple rooms.   [HENDERSON] The board of Governors was well aware of the potential for a flu outbreak or a pandemic because they had petitioned the provincial government three separate years for money to expand. They wanted to build a few stories higher, keep the same number of beds, but create more single rooms. And the… And the reason they asked for this money was because they wanted to prevent infection. The provincial government never said no. But they never said yes. And nothing got done for three years.   [ARSHY]  Premier Stephen McNeil has so far resisted the calls for a public inquiry. Some family members of the people who have died at Northwood are publicly blaming both the facility and the government. But we won’t know exactly who or what is to blame unless there are independent investigations. For now, Nova Scotians just want the deaths to stop.   [HENDERSON] I’m not sure what people want is to lay blame and finger-point. They want to fix the problem before the next wave of COVID hits. What we’ve seen, mostly, is praise and compassion for Northwood workers. You see that in the obituaries. You see that in terms of letters to the editor. In fact, people honk their horns as they pass by Northwood to support the workers. Donations of food and gifts continue to flow   [ARSHY]  People volunteering to speak with Northwood residents over the phone and keep them company has doubled. The local mosque has been donating meals to workers. Medical students have been signing up to help in the facility. After all the tragedies of the last two months, Nova Scotians are still finding ways to come together.   END CREDITS [ARSHY]  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 Jennifer Henderson and Tim Bousquet at the Halifax Examiner, Cassidy Chisolm, Taryn Grant, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke at CBC Nova Scotia, John McPhee and Jim Vibert at the Chronicle Herald, Global News and many others. Right now CBC Nova Scotia is putting together profiles of as many of the Northwood residents who have died as they can. I recommend you go give those a read.  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 additional production 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. Click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com 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. 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 Snowbirds’ pilot. And all the while, COVID-19 ravaged the biggest long-term care home in Atlantic Canada. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Jennifer Henderson (Halifax Examiner), Janice Keefe To learn more: “Nova Scotia’s lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic” by Taryn Grant, Cassidy Chisholm, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke in CBC Nova Scotia “The Northwood board has been expressing “grave concern” about double occupancy rooms for years” by Jennifer Henderson in the Halifax Examiner “Strang, union clash over COVID-19 concerns at Northwood” by John McPhee in The Chronicle Herald   This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar  Additional music from Audio Network “I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor” by Chris Zabriskie, adapted.   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 6 – “NORTHWOOD”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  One of the most difficult things about the last two months is that people can’t mourn collectively. If someone is dying of COVID-19, the whole family can’t gather around their bed and be with them. Funerals have been curtailed. Memorials are taking place mostly online. And when something truly awful happens, the kind of event that cuts right to the heart of a whole community, there’s little we can do. Nova Scotians have been experiencing that reality over and over again in the last two months. Like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia locked itself down on March 22 to stop the growth of coronavirus infections.   [JENNIFER HENDERSON] You start to think, “Can the news get any worse?”   [ARSHY]  That’s Jennifer Henderson, a freelance journalist who’s been covering the pandemic for the Halifax Examiner.    [HENDERSON] You know, you’re in the midst of a pandemic and there are people dying every day at one nursing home in your backyard, and people are worried, you know, about going to work. And then we have this mass shooting that you couldn’t even imagine in a very quiet, rural part of the province.   [NEWS CLIP 1, MALE] Nova Scotians this morning are in a state of shock as this quiet province comes to grips with the fact that it now owns the grim title of the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history.   [HENDERSON] You know, you see the “Nova Scotia Strong” everywhere. And, you know, sometimes I have to think, “Is that about the pandemic or is that about the mass murder?” We’ve been through a great deal in the last eight weeks.   [ARSHY]  The tragedies in Nova Scotia have just been piling up, one on top of the other. People haven’t even been given the chance to come to terms with one of them, before another hits. But they’ve been trying to find a way through. Tributes poured out online. People shared videos, made signs, wrote songs.  Abbigail Cowbrough was one of those people. Standing on the deck of the HMCS Fredericton, she played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Her performance was part of a video put together by the Nova Scotia Pipers’ Tribute to honour the victims of the shooting.  Five days later, on April 29th, Abbigail died. She and five Canadian Armed forces members were killed in a helicopter crash near Greece. Three of the victims, including Abigail, called Nova Scotia home. The province once again mourned.   On May 3rd, the Snowbirds launched Operation: Inspiration, a cross-country tour meant to boost morale amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They started off in Nova Scotia, first flying over Halifax to honour Abbigail and five others killed in the helicopter crash. And then they did it again, this time over Portapique.    [NEWS CLIP 2, FEMALE] A much-needed moral boost on this sunny Sunday. The fames aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, launched a coast-to-coast tour in our region today, something especially appreciated after two devastating tragedies.   [ARSHY]  Flying with them that day was Capt. Jenn Casey. Casey died on May 17th when a Snowbird jet crashed in Kamloops, B.C. And again, the province did their best to honour her life.    [NEWS CLIP 3, MALE] The body of Captain Jennifer Casey returned to Halifax, the city where her life began. Important for the people of Halifax, hundreds of whom lined the streets as the motorcade passed by the places that were significant to Casey. The home where she grew up, and the radio station where she worked before joining the armed forces.    [ARSHY]  The province’s grief has been undercut by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mourning has to be governed by strict rules for the public’s own protection. A community can come together in some ways, but only so far.  And while these shocking tragedies transpired, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept pace. It’s doesn’t feel as sudden as the others. Instead, it’s been unfolding relentlessly over months, taking the lives of 59 Nova Scotians.  Today Nova Scotia is the third-hardest hit province per capita. There have been around a dozen outbreaks at Nova Scotia long-term care homes. But almost all of those deaths, 51 people out of those 59 have taken place at a single facility: The Northwood Centre in Halifax. I’m Arshy Mann, and from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   PART ONE [NEWS CLIP 4, MALE] Our coverage begins tonight in Nova Scotia, where the province has recorded the Maritimes’ first death related to the virus.   [NEWS CLIP 5, MALE] Yesterday, we announced, uh, three residents at Northwood, uh, who had died of COVID-19. We unfortunately have to announce, uh, two more.    [NEWS CLIP 6, FEMALE] The individual who passed away was a resident at Northwood, and marks the tenth death in the province, and sixth at that facility.   [NEWS CLIP 7, MALE] Today I’m sad to say that we’ve lost two more of our seniors at Northwood.    [NEWS CLIP 8, FEMALE] Thirty-five people at the facility have now died of COVID.   [NEWS CLIP 9, MALE] Unfortunately, we have to report three additional deaths at Northwood. We now have 51 Nova Scotians who have died of COVID-19.   [NEWS CLIP 10, MALE] Today, we mourn another loss of an individual at Northwood. We now have 56 Nova Scotians who have died.   [ARSHY]  In some ways, the pandemic in Nova Scotia is playing out in much the same way as the rest of the country. Like the other provinces, the vast majority of deaths are related to long-term care. In Nova Scotia’s case, that number is 95 percent. But almost all of those people died at Northwood.   [HENDERSON] Northwood is the largest nursing home in Atlantic Canada. It’s really a campus. There are three main buildings. It’s right near the Macdonald Bridge, which crosses Halifax Harbor   [ARSHY]  Northwood is run by a non-profit with a long history in Halifax. Here’s Janet Simm, Northwood’s CEO, speaking in a recent video.   [JANET SIMM]  The organization first began as a social movement in response to the plight of seniors living alone in Halifax, a real community effort to make this organization come together and respond to those unmet needs.   [ARSHY]  In 1962, 285 people gathered at a school in the south end of Halifax to talk about the need for affordable housing for seniors. And, by the end of that meeting, Northwood was founded. Northwood Towers opened up five years later, offering cheap apartments for older Haligonians. Three years after that, they began to build Northwood Manor, which was for seniors who needed some assistance. And then in 1970, they started construction on Northwood Centre, which was a nursing home for people who needed more serious care.    [HENDERSON] It is a combination of a retirement-living community and a nursing home, as many places are these days.   [ARSHY]  And since then, Northwood has been very well-regarded in Nova Scotia.   [HENDERSON] The place has a terrific reputation in the community because it’s a home. They have a radio station.   [BOB MARKS] Good morning. This is NWBC, your Seniors Community Broadcasting Club, thanks to Northward Care Inc. Your host this morning, Bob Marks with my “Down Memory Lane” program. It’s time to have a little bit of a request in here. So, Bernice of Summerside, and a selection from 1942.   [HENDERSON] They have a radio station, they have a bar. They have a fitness center for people with dementia. It has a well-deserved reputation in the community. This is not a, uh, for-profit commercially run. This is a not-for-profit community board of governors, which did have the top rating from the accreditation agency prior to the pandemic.   [ARSHY]  Henderson says that everyday Nova Scotians haven’t been putting the blame on Northwood.    [HENDERSON] Imagine, despite the headlines and despite the knowledge that all these people have died, people are still publicly supporting Northwood. As I say, I’m struggling to think of a single negative letter that blamed Northwood.    [ARSHY]  Part of the reason why people aren’t blaming management is that Northwood has been pretty forthcoming about what’s been happening.   [HENDERSON] Northwood management has been more than transparent with the public. They’ve published a timeline. They’ve done daily information updates. They took worker’s temperatures beginning and end of every shift. So they seem to do all the things they could do. And yet this was still a nightmare.   [ARSHY]  So how is it that a facility that everyone agrees is one of the best ones out there could be the site of so much death? The first thing to understand is that, like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia has serious systemic problems with long-term care.   [HENDERSON] Well, prior to the pandemic, it was well-known that Northwood and every nursing home in Nova Scotia had chronic staff shortages. When people were sick, they simply worked short. This was documented by the expert panel. Numerous reports. It was a given.   [ARSHY]  That expert panel put out its findings in 2019, and the chair of it was Janice Keefe.   [JANICE KEEFE] My name’s Janice Keefe. I’m, uh, director of the Nova Scotia Center on Aging. I’m professor and chair of the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount St. Vincent University.   [ARSHY]  The panel was put together after a number of deaths due to neglect in Nova Scotia’s long-term care homes.   [KEEFE]  The impetus was, uh, bedsores. There were a number of residents in long-term care who actually died because of, uh, inappropriate care around bedsores.    [ARSHY]  And the broad takeaways would be familiar to anyone who’s been listening to this podcast.   [KEEFE]  What we basically found was that this was a sector that needed resources, that needed immediate attention. There were a lot of issues around staffing.   [ARSHY]  Staff were constantly working short-handed. And the long-term care sector was viewed as a much worse place to work than other parts of the healthcare system.    [KEEFE]  But for the main part, the staff themselves were really frustrated about not being able to do the best care that they should be doing, because they didn’t have enough time.   [ARSHY]  And as with other provinces, there are massive waitlists, especially because Nova Scotians tend to be older on average than the rest of the country.    [KEEFE]  When people from Ontario talk about, you know, when the population is going to hit, uh, 20 percent, uh, 65 and over, we’ve been dealing with that for over five years.    [ARSHY]  And the residents had increasingly complex health problems. Janice Keefe has seen that first-hand over the last thirty years.   [KEEFE]  So the biggest change… I will tell you, the biggest change is the residents. I worked in a municipality in Nova Scotia and the people going to the facilities would drive their cars. They lived in the nursing homes, but they… They went out to visit. They were mobile. They were not at the end of their life.    [ARSHY]  But these are problems across all long-term care homes. It still doesn’t answer why Northwood, in particular, has experienced such a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.   PART TWO It was March 15 when the first three Nova Scotians tested positive for COVID-19. Only a day later, Northwood barred all visitors to their facilities. But, as in the rest of Canada, the provincial government and the health authority, they weren’t talking about what would happen if the virus actually got into a long-term care facility.   [HENDERSON] My memory of those briefings with our chief medical officer of health and the premier, which happened daily at the beginning of the pandemic, was that all the focus was on the hospitals.   [ARSHY]  By the end of March, social distancing was put into effect across the province. And it wasn’t until early April that Northwood knew that virus was in the facility.   [HENDERSON] The first staff member to test positive for COVID at Northwood was April 5th. The first three residents followed on April 7th. The virus was brought into the Northwood Center building by workers who were asymptomatic and did not suspect they were ill.   [ARSHY]  The day after an employee tested positive, Northwood mandated that all staff had to wear a mask. That was actually two days before Canada’s chief public health officer recommended the same thing, and a full six days before the provincial government made it mandatory for all long-term care workers.   [HENDERSON] But according to the CEO of Northwood, in hindsight, the horse was already out of the barn, so to speak. Although they were ahead of both the provincial and federal guidelines with respect to wearing masks, it came too late to prevent the spread of infection at Northwood.   [ARSHY]  Over the next five days, more residents and staff members began to test positive. And workers who had previously been told to self-isolate were asked to return to Northwood if they tested negative. That was a mistake.   [HENDERSON] So, we know that in the period where people were becoming infected, that staff who were supposed to be out for 14 days, self isolating, were allowed to return to work because they needed them so desperately, if they tested negative. And then Northwood and the public health officials in Nova Scotia learned that you could test negative one day and positive the next.   [ARSHY]  Northwood had prepared a quarantine area for residents who tested positive. It could fit 20 people. But by April 15, just ten days after the first staff member tested positive, they had to open another area. And the virus continued to spread amongst the workers.    [HENDERSON] And you can see that because, by April 18th, they had so many staff who either wouldn’t come to work because they were afraid of getting sick, or they were self isolating because they had come in contact by providing direct care to one of these sick residents. They were told to stay home for 14 days.   [ARSHY]  Around 80 long-term care workers were off work, and the staffing levels were down to just 60 percent of what they normally would be. Then came the horrific weekend of April 18th and 19th. That was the same weekend a mass shooter killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia. At Northwood, residents began to die. Five people died of COVID-19 in just two days. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil held an emergency press conference that Sunday.   [STEPHEN MCNEIL] We weren’t scheduled to have a news conference today, but I felt the need to be here to provide you with an update on one of our long-term care facilities, Northwood, that’s dealing with an outbreak of COVID. I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia. This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history. There are a number of other families who are dealing with their own loss after–after their loved ones died of COVID, five people over the weekend who lived at Northwood. And I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, and my heart goes out to all of you.   [ARSHY]  That weekend, the province really began to act. The Halifax Infirmary COVID-19 unit was redeployed from their hospital to Northwood; additional workers were brought in from the Red Cross, Victorian Order of Nurses and Emergency Health Services; the province set up a hotel as an off-site ward for Northwood residents who recovered for COVID-19… But people kept dying. Six more residents died in three days. And the union representing Nova Scotia’s nurses said that workers who were brought in to help staff Northwood found a total lack of infection controls and not enough PPE. They said it was like “walking into a war zone.” Here’s NSGEU president Jason MacLean speaking to Global News.   [JASON MACLEAN]  Well, when they got to Northwood, there was no supplies for them. Uh, actually, even yesterday morning, they had… They were down to three gowns. A lot of residents up and walking around, both that are sick and those that are presumed sick. So they’re up and they’re–they’re–they’re trying to use the phone at–at the counter, and they’re touching everything that’s around there.   [HENDERSON] Now, Northwood officials said that these were nurses used to infection control in a hospital setting, and that simply wasn’t appropriate or possible in an old nursing home like Northwood; that, basically, it was apples and oranges.   [ARSHY]  And Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Robert Strang, blasted the union and essentially accused them of lying.   [ROBERT STRANG]  They’re using, frankly, fear, fear mongering and hyperbole in terms of the way they’re describing this situation. When we talk to frontline people who are in Northwood, they… What–what the NSGU is saying is actually inaccurate.   [ARSHY]  Over the next week, another twelve people died at Northwood. And during that time, the Nova Scotian government declined to increase the wages of front-line workers, like other provinces had been doing. Another 16 people died in the first week of May and infections amongst residents and staff continued to inch up. On May 8th, Nova Scotia finally agreed to give a pay bump to health care workers on the front lines. But it would only be a one-time payment of $2000. Since then, another 18 people have died at Northwood, bringing the total number up to 52 dead in the facility. It’s clear today that some mistakes were made, both by Northwood and the provincial government. Like long-term care facilities across Canada, workers were a major vector for transmitting the virus. Workers should have been wearing masks the minute we knew the virus was in Nova Scotia. And if they were exposed, they shouldn’t have been allowed to come back to work before the two-week quarantine was up, even if they tested negative.  Whether or not care workers had adequate PPE, and the facility had proper infection controls, hasn’t been determined yet. The nurses union said it was totally unacceptable, but Northwood and the health authority maintain that it was all up to par. But what’s not in dispute is that one of the biggest factors at play during the Northwood outbreak is the building itself.   [HENDERSON] So there’s general agreement that the reason Northwood was so hard hit by COVID was because the rooms were smaller than in newer nursing homes. And it spread like wildfire.   [ARSHY]  In Northwood Centre, where the most disabled residents lived, the rooms and bathrooms were often shared.    [HENDERSON] It’s more like… More like a hospital. And the rooms are small, like hospital rooms for that time, and most of them are shared. So they’re double occupancy and there’s room for about one chair for a visitor and one walker. And there’s curtains between those beds. People are not only sharing a bathroom, they’re sharing a tight space.  But of course, most of our residents have dementia and they don’t respect those boundaries. They’re in each other’s faces and in each other’s stuff and borrowing their false teeth. You know that… That’s what goes on.   [ARSHY]  It’s those lack of single-occupancy rooms that Northwood CEO Janet Simm also places most of the blame on.   [HENDERSON] I asked her at one briefing, you know, “What could have been done in your view to prevent the rapid spread?” And she mentioned the double rooms, getting rid of those, and if employees, in hindsight, had put the masks on sooner.   [ARSHY]  Before the current Liberal government, the last two Nova Scotian premiers did make improvements to long-term care facilities. In the late 2010s, Rodney MacDonald’s Progressive Conservatives opened long-term care beds across the province and even upgraded some older buildings. And after that, Darrell Dexter’s NDP government had eleven long-term care homes slated for upgrades. But since Stephen McNeil was elected in 2013, only one of those facilities has been replaced. And overall, funding for long-term care has gone down.   [HENDERSON] For the last seven years, there haven’t been any new nursing home beds opened under the current Liberal government.   [ARSHY]  When we talk about long-term care and this pandemic, the numbers can get overwhelming. And the actual people at the centre of this story risk becoming just empty statistics.  But we want to tell you about some of the actual people who died in Northwood, because their lives are important, too. Not just where they died or what killed them, we want to mourn some of them as best we can, especially now as this virus has changed how we can do that. Paul Sullivan worked as an insurance salesman. But he was the kind of guy whose clients quickly became his friends. He loved to build things, like hockey rinks in his backyard. And he stayed married to his wife Irenaeus for 60 years. He died in Northwood, without his family able to be by his side. Gerald Jackson’s family had known tragedy before. His father had survived the Halifax Explosion, but it killed 46 of his family members. He was a cook in the navy for two decades, and then spent some time at Sears and then working for a museum. He lived out west in Victoria since the 1970s, but when he developed dementia, his daughters brought him back to Nova Scotia. They were able to speak to him on an iPad one last time on the day he died in Northwood. Bunny Tanner’s children remember her as a strong and strict mother, in a good way. But she really came into her own as a grandmother. She’d survived a bout with lung cancer in 2019 and she loved her private room in Northwood. But her last days in there were terrifying. She’d call her daughter begging to be able to get out of the facility, to go anywhere else. But she died on May 1st. COVID-19 took Gena Hemsworth that same day. She was afraid of flying, but loved sports cars. And she worked as a secretary at the Halifax Regional Vocational School for thirty years, where she put her exceptionally fast typing abilities to use. When she was away from home, Gena would call her house so she could talk to her cats. She cared for her partner Neil Mosher through ALS, and she died at Northwood a little over a month after she’d arrived. Hilda Weber’s husband left her alone with three young children. But she worked multiple jobs to make sure they’d get by. When times were really bad, her children would split a can of soup, while she ate nothing. Derrick Carvey loved taking drives with his dad and going on boat cruises. And he was a big Michael Jackson fan. And because of his cerebral palsy, the doctors said he wouldn’t live past thirty. But at 37, he was still alive and at Northwood, where his 98-year-old grandmother also lived. They once did a fashion show together. But both of them came down with COVID-19. His grandmother fought off the virus, but Derrick died. His father was in the room with him. He played him Michael Jackson before his son’s breathing stopped.  Thelma Coward-Ince was the first black naval reservist in Canadian history. She eventually became secretary to the chief of staff to the admiral of the Canadian navy. And she did all of that while raising two kids on her own. One of them, Tony Ince, is today a cabinet minister in the Nova Scotian government. Tony was on his way to visit his mother again when he got the call. She had died just before he could arrive. And then there’s Evelina Upshaw. She ran a hot lunch program for over three decades in the North End of Halifax. A few years ago, some young people from her neighbourhood made a short documentary about her. They called her a hero. Here she is speaking in that video.   [EVELINA UPSHAW] I said, well, if I can do something to help those mothers, that they can go off to work feeling free, that the children are going to get a hot noon meal, then that was what I wanted to do. So that’s what I did for 33 years.   [ARSHY]  On her last day, one of her daughters, covered in protective equipment, climbed into bed with her. She was able to be there for her mother at the very end.    OUTRO [ARSHY]  For the last three years, Northwood has been asking the provincial government for money so that fewer people had to live in double or triple rooms.   [HENDERSON] The board of Governors was well aware of the potential for a flu outbreak or a pandemic because they had petitioned the provincial government three separate years for money to expand. They wanted to build a few stories higher, keep the same number of beds, but create more single rooms. And the… And the reason they asked for this money was because they wanted to prevent infection. The provincial government never said no. But they never said yes. And nothing got done for three years.   [ARSHY]  Premier Stephen McNeil has so far resisted the calls for a public inquiry. Some family members of the people who have died at Northwood are publicly blaming both the facility and the government. But we won’t know exactly who or what is to blame unless there are independent investigations. For now, Nova Scotians just want the deaths to stop.   [HENDERSON] I’m not sure what people want is to lay blame and finger-point. They want to fix the problem before the next wave of COVID hits. What we’ve seen, mostly, is praise and compassion for Northwood workers. You see that in the obituaries. You see that in terms of letters to the editor. In fact, people honk their horns as they pass by Northwood to support the workers. Donations of food and gifts continue to flow   [ARSHY]  People volunteering to speak with Northwood residents over the phone and keep them company has doubled. The local mosque has been donating meals to workers. Medical students have been signing up to help in the facility. After all the tragedies of the last two months, Nova Scotians are still finding ways to come together.   END CREDITS [ARSHY]  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 Jennifer Henderson and Tim Bousquet at the Halifax Examiner, Cassidy Chisolm, Taryn Grant, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke at CBC Nova Scotia, John McPhee and Jim Vibert at the Chronicle Herald, Global News and many others. Right now CBC Nova Scotia is putting together profiles of as many of the Northwood residents who have died as they can. I recommend you go give those a read.  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 additional production 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. Click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com 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. 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 Snowbirds’ pilot. And all the while, COVID-19 ravaged the biggest long-term care home in Atlantic Canada. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Jennifer Henderson (Halifax Examiner), Janice Keefe To learn more: “Nova Scotia’s lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic” by Taryn Grant, Cassidy Chisholm, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke in CBC Nova Scotia “The Northwood board has been expressing “grave concern” about double occupancy rooms for years” by Jennifer Henderson in the Halifax Examiner “Strang, union clash over COVID-19 concerns at Northwood” by John McPhee in The Chronicle Herald   This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar  Additional music from Audio Network “I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor” by Chris Zabriskie, adapted.   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 6 – “NORTHWOOD”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  One of the most difficult things about the last two months is that people can’t mourn collectively. If someone is dying of COVID-19, the whole family can’t gather around their bed and be with them. Funerals have been curtailed. Memorials are taking place mostly online. And when something truly awful happens, the kind of event that cuts right to the heart of a whole community, there’s little we can do. Nova Scotians have been experiencing that reality over and over again in the last two months. Like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia locked itself down on March 22 to stop the growth of coronavirus infections.   [JENNIFER HENDERSON] You start to think, “Can the news get any worse?”   [ARSHY]  That’s Jennifer Henderson, a freelance journalist who’s been covering the pandemic for the Halifax Examiner.    [HENDERSON] You know, you’re in the midst of a pandemic and there are people dying every day at one nursing home in your backyard, and people are worried, you know, about going to work. And then we have this mass shooting that you couldn’t even imagine in a very quiet, rural part of the province.   [NEWS CLIP 1, MALE] Nova Scotians this morning are in a state of shock as this quiet province comes to grips with the fact that it now owns the grim title of the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history.   [HENDERSON] You know, you see the “Nova Scotia Strong” everywhere. And, you know, sometimes I have to think, “Is that about the pandemic or is that about the mass murder?” We’ve been through a great deal in the last eight weeks.   [ARSHY]  The tragedies in Nova Scotia have just been piling up, one on top of the other. People haven’t even been given the chance to come to terms with one of them, before another hits. But they’ve been trying to find a way through. Tributes poured out online. People shared videos, made signs, wrote songs.  Abbigail Cowbrough was one of those people. Standing on the deck of the HMCS Fredericton, she played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Her performance was part of a video put together by the Nova Scotia Pipers’ Tribute to honour the victims of the shooting.  Five days later, on April 29th, Abbigail died. She and five Canadian Armed forces members were killed in a helicopter crash near Greece. Three of the victims, including Abigail, called Nova Scotia home. The province once again mourned.   On May 3rd, the Snowbirds launched Operation: Inspiration, a cross-country tour meant to boost morale amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They started off in Nova Scotia, first flying over Halifax to honour Abbigail and five others killed in the helicopter crash. And then they did it again, this time over Portapique.    [NEWS CLIP 2, FEMALE] A much-needed moral boost on this sunny Sunday. The fames aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, launched a coast-to-coast tour in our region today, something especially appreciated after two devastating tragedies.   [ARSHY]  Flying with them that day was Capt. Jenn Casey. Casey died on May 17th when a Snowbird jet crashed in Kamloops, B.C. And again, the province did their best to honour her life.    [NEWS CLIP 3, MALE] The body of Captain Jennifer Casey returned to Halifax, the city where her life began. Important for the people of Halifax, hundreds of whom lined the streets as the motorcade passed by the places that were significant to Casey. The home where she grew up, and the radio station where she worked before joining the armed forces.    [ARSHY]  The province’s grief has been undercut by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mourning has to be governed by strict rules for the public’s own protection. A community can come together in some ways, but only so far.  And while these shocking tragedies transpired, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept pace. It’s doesn’t feel as sudden as the others. Instead, it’s been unfolding relentlessly over months, taking the lives of 59 Nova Scotians.  Today Nova Scotia is the third-hardest hit province per capita. There have been around a dozen outbreaks at Nova Scotia long-term care homes. But almost all of those deaths, 51 people out of those 59 have taken place at a single facility: The Northwood Centre in Halifax. I’m Arshy Mann, and from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   PART ONE [NEWS CLIP 4, MALE] Our coverage begins tonight in Nova Scotia, where the province has recorded the Maritimes’ first death related to the virus.   [NEWS CLIP 5, MALE] Yesterday, we announced, uh, three residents at Northwood, uh, who had died of COVID-19. We unfortunately have to announce, uh, two more.    [NEWS CLIP 6, FEMALE] The individual who passed away was a resident at Northwood, and marks the tenth death in the province, and sixth at that facility.   [NEWS CLIP 7, MALE] Today I’m sad to say that we’ve lost two more of our seniors at Northwood.    [NEWS CLIP 8, FEMALE] Thirty-five people at the facility have now died of COVID.   [NEWS CLIP 9, MALE] Unfortunately, we have to report three additional deaths at Northwood. We now have 51 Nova Scotians who have died of COVID-19.   [NEWS CLIP 10, MALE] Today, we mourn another loss of an individual at Northwood. We now have 56 Nova Scotians who have died.   [ARSHY]  In some ways, the pandemic in Nova Scotia is playing out in much the same way as the rest of the country. Like the other provinces, the vast majority of deaths are related to long-term care. In Nova Scotia’s case, that number is 95 percent. But almost all of those people died at Northwood.   [HENDERSON] Northwood is the largest nursing home in Atlantic Canada. It’s really a campus. There are three main buildings. It’s right near the Macdonald Bridge, which crosses Halifax Harbor   [ARSHY]  Northwood is run by a non-profit with a long history in Halifax. Here’s Janet Simm, Northwood’s CEO, speaking in a recent video.   [JANET SIMM]  The organization first began as a social movement in response to the plight of seniors living alone in Halifax, a real community effort to make this organization come together and respond to those unmet needs.   [ARSHY]  In 1962, 285 people gathered at a school in the south end of Halifax to talk about the need for affordable housing for seniors. And, by the end of that meeting, Northwood was founded. Northwood Towers opened up five years later, offering cheap apartments for older Haligonians. Three years after that, they began to build Northwood Manor, which was for seniors who needed some assistance. And then in 1970, they started construction on Northwood Centre, which was a nursing home for people who needed more serious care.    [HENDERSON] It is a combination of a retirement-living community and a nursing home, as many places are these days.   [ARSHY]  And since then, Northwood has been very well-regarded in Nova Scotia.   [HENDERSON] The place has a terrific reputation in the community because it’s a home. They have a radio station.   [BOB MARKS] Good morning. This is NWBC, your Seniors Community Broadcasting Club, thanks to Northward Care Inc. Your host this morning, Bob Marks with my “Down Memory Lane” program. It’s time to have a little bit of a request in here. So, Bernice of Summerside, and a selection from 1942.   [HENDERSON] They have a radio station, they have a bar. They have a fitness center for people with dementia. It has a well-deserved reputation in the community. This is not a, uh, for-profit commercially run. This is a not-for-profit community board of governors, which did have the top rating from the accreditation agency prior to the pandemic.   [ARSHY]  Henderson says that everyday Nova Scotians haven’t been putting the blame on Northwood.    [HENDERSON] Imagine, despite the headlines and despite the knowledge that all these people have died, people are still publicly supporting Northwood. As I say, I’m struggling to think of a single negative letter that blamed Northwood.    [ARSHY]  Part of the reason why people aren’t blaming management is that Northwood has been pretty forthcoming about what’s been happening.   [HENDERSON] Northwood management has been more than transparent with the public. They’ve published a timeline. They’ve done daily information updates. They took worker’s temperatures beginning and end of every shift. So they seem to do all the things they could do. And yet this was still a nightmare.   [ARSHY]  So how is it that a facility that everyone agrees is one of the best ones out there could be the site of so much death? The first thing to understand is that, like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia has serious systemic problems with long-term care.   [HENDERSON] Well, prior to the pandemic, it was well-known that Northwood and every nursing home in Nova Scotia had chronic staff shortages. When people were sick, they simply worked short. This was documented by the expert panel. Numerous reports. It was a given.   [ARSHY]  That expert panel put out its findings in 2019, and the chair of it was Janice Keefe.   [JANICE KEEFE] My name’s Janice Keefe. I’m, uh, director of the Nova Scotia Center on Aging. I’m professor and chair of the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount St. Vincent University.   [ARSHY]  The panel was put together after a number of deaths due to neglect in Nova Scotia’s long-term care homes.   [KEEFE]  The impetus was, uh, bedsores. There were a number of residents in long-term care who actually died because of, uh, inappropriate care around bedsores.    [ARSHY]  And the broad takeaways would be familiar to anyone who’s been listening to this podcast.   [KEEFE]  What we basically found was that this was a sector that needed resources, that needed immediate attention. There were a lot of issues around staffing.   [ARSHY]  Staff were constantly working short-handed. And the long-term care sector was viewed as a much worse place to work than other parts of the healthcare system.    [KEEFE]  But for the main part, the staff themselves were really frustrated about not being able to do the best care that they should be doing, because they didn’t have enough time.   [ARSHY]  And as with other provinces, there are massive waitlists, especially because Nova Scotians tend to be older on average than the rest of the country.    [KEEFE]  When people from Ontario talk about, you know, when the population is going to hit, uh, 20 percent, uh, 65 and over, we’ve been dealing with that for over five years.    [ARSHY]  And the residents had increasingly complex health problems. Janice Keefe has seen that first-hand over the last thirty years.   [KEEFE]  So the biggest change… I will tell you, the biggest change is the residents. I worked in a municipality in Nova Scotia and the people going to the facilities would drive their cars. They lived in the nursing homes, but they… They went out to visit. They were mobile. They were not at the end of their life.    [ARSHY]  But these are problems across all long-term care homes. It still doesn’t answer why Northwood, in particular, has experienced such a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.   PART TWO It was March 15 when the first three Nova Scotians tested positive for COVID-19. Only a day later, Northwood barred all visitors to their facilities. But, as in the rest of Canada, the provincial government and the health authority, they weren’t talking about what would happen if the virus actually got into a long-term care facility.   [HENDERSON] My memory of those briefings with our chief medical officer of health and the premier, which happened daily at the beginning of the pandemic, was that all the focus was on the hospitals.   [ARSHY]  By the end of March, social distancing was put into effect across the province. And it wasn’t until early April that Northwood knew that virus was in the facility.   [HENDERSON] The first staff member to test positive for COVID at Northwood was April 5th. The first three residents followed on April 7th. The virus was brought into the Northwood Center building by workers who were asymptomatic and did not suspect they were ill.   [ARSHY]  The day after an employee tested positive, Northwood mandated that all staff had to wear a mask. That was actually two days before Canada’s chief public health officer recommended the same thing, and a full six days before the provincial government made it mandatory for all long-term care workers.   [HENDERSON] But according to the CEO of Northwood, in hindsight, the horse was already out of the barn, so to speak. Although they were ahead of both the provincial and federal guidelines with respect to wearing masks, it came too late to prevent the spread of infection at Northwood.   [ARSHY]  Over the next five days, more residents and staff members began to test positive. And workers who had previously been told to self-isolate were asked to return to Northwood if they tested negative. That was a mistake.   [HENDERSON] So, we know that in the period where people were becoming infected, that staff who were supposed to be out for 14 days, self isolating, were allowed to return to work because they needed them so desperately, if they tested negative. And then Northwood and the public health officials in Nova Scotia learned that you could test negative one day and positive the next.   [ARSHY]  Northwood had prepared a quarantine area for residents who tested positive. It could fit 20 people. But by April 15, just ten days after the first staff member tested positive, they had to open another area. And the virus continued to spread amongst the workers.    [HENDERSON] And you can see that because, by April 18th, they had so many staff who either wouldn’t come to work because they were afraid of getting sick, or they were self isolating because they had come in contact by providing direct care to one of these sick residents. They were told to stay home for 14 days.   [ARSHY]  Around 80 long-term care workers were off work, and the staffing levels were down to just 60 percent of what they normally would be. Then came the horrific weekend of April 18th and 19th. That was the same weekend a mass shooter killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia. At Northwood, residents began to die. Five people died of COVID-19 in just two days. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil held an emergency press conference that Sunday.   [STEPHEN MCNEIL] We weren’t scheduled to have a news conference today, but I felt the need to be here to provide you with an update on one of our long-term care facilities, Northwood, that’s dealing with an outbreak of COVID. I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia. This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history. There are a number of other families who are dealing with their own loss after–after their loved ones died of COVID, five people over the weekend who lived at Northwood. And I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, and my heart goes out to all of you.   [ARSHY]  That weekend, the province really began to act. The Halifax Infirmary COVID-19 unit was redeployed from their hospital to Northwood; additional workers were brought in from the Red Cross, Victorian Order of Nurses and Emergency Health Services; the province set up a hotel as an off-site ward for Northwood residents who recovered for COVID-19… But people kept dying. Six more residents died in three days. And the union representing Nova Scotia’s nurses said that workers who were brought in to help staff Northwood found a total lack of infection controls and not enough PPE. They said it was like “walking into a war zone.” Here’s NSGEU president Jason MacLean speaking to Global News.   [JASON MACLEAN]  Well, when they got to Northwood, there was no supplies for them. Uh, actually, even yesterday morning, they had… They were down to three gowns. A lot of residents up and walking around, both that are sick and those that are presumed sick. So they’re up and they’re–they’re–they’re trying to use the phone at–at the counter, and they’re touching everything that’s around there.   [HENDERSON] Now, Northwood officials said that these were nurses used to infection control in a hospital setting, and that simply wasn’t appropriate or possible in an old nursing home like Northwood; that, basically, it was apples and oranges.   [ARSHY]  And Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Robert Strang, blasted the union and essentially accused them of lying.   [ROBERT STRANG]  They’re using, frankly, fear, fear mongering and hyperbole in terms of the way they’re describing this situation. When we talk to frontline people who are in Northwood, they… What–what the NSGU is saying is actually inaccurate.   [ARSHY]  Over the next week, another twelve people died at Northwood. And during that time, the Nova Scotian government declined to increase the wages of front-line workers, like other provinces had been doing. Another 16 people died in the first week of May and infections amongst residents and staff continued to inch up. On May 8th, Nova Scotia finally agreed to give a pay bump to health care workers on the front lines. But it would only be a one-time payment of $2000. Since then, another 18 people have died at Northwood, bringing the total number up to 52 dead in the facility. It’s clear today that some mistakes were made, both by Northwood and the provincial government. Like long-term care facilities across Canada, workers were a major vector for transmitting the virus. Workers should have been wearing masks the minute we knew the virus was in Nova Scotia. And if they were exposed, they shouldn’t have been allowed to come back to work before the two-week quarantine was up, even if they tested negative.  Whether or not care workers had adequate PPE, and the facility had proper infection controls, hasn’t been determined yet. The nurses union said it was totally unacceptable, but Northwood and the health authority maintain that it was all up to par. But what’s not in dispute is that one of the biggest factors at play during the Northwood outbreak is the building itself.   [HENDERSON] So there’s general agreement that the reason Northwood was so hard hit by COVID was because the rooms were smaller than in newer nursing homes. And it spread like wildfire.   [ARSHY]  In Northwood Centre, where the most disabled residents lived, the rooms and bathrooms were often shared.    [HENDERSON] It’s more like… More like a hospital. And the rooms are small, like hospital rooms for that time, and most of them are shared. So they’re double occupancy and there’s room for about one chair for a visitor and one walker. And there’s curtains between those beds. People are not only sharing a bathroom, they’re sharing a tight space.  But of course, most of our residents have dementia and they don’t respect those boundaries. They’re in each other’s faces and in each other’s stuff and borrowing their false teeth. You know that… That’s what goes on.   [ARSHY]  It’s those lack of single-occupancy rooms that Northwood CEO Janet Simm also places most of the blame on.   [HENDERSON] I asked her at one briefing, you know, “What could have been done in your view to prevent the rapid spread?” And she mentioned the double rooms, getting rid of those, and if employees, in hindsight, had put the masks on sooner.   [ARSHY]  Before the current Liberal government, the last two Nova Scotian premiers did make improvements to long-term care facilities. In the late 2010s, Rodney MacDonald’s Progressive Conservatives opened long-term care beds across the province and even upgraded some older buildings. And after that, Darrell Dexter’s NDP government had eleven long-term care homes slated for upgrades. But since Stephen McNeil was elected in 2013, only one of those facilities has been replaced. And overall, funding for long-term care has gone down.   [HENDERSON] For the last seven years, there haven’t been any new nursing home beds opened under the current Liberal government.   [ARSHY]  When we talk about long-term care and this pandemic, the numbers can get overwhelming. And the actual people at the centre of this story risk becoming just empty statistics.  But we want to tell you about some of the actual people who died in Northwood, because their lives are important, too. Not just where they died or what killed them, we want to mourn some of them as best we can, especially now as this virus has changed how we can do that. Paul Sullivan worked as an insurance salesman. But he was the kind of guy whose clients quickly became his friends. He loved to build things, like hockey rinks in his backyard. And he stayed married to his wife Irenaeus for 60 years. He died in Northwood, without his family able to be by his side. Gerald Jackson’s family had known tragedy before. His father had survived the Halifax Explosion, but it killed 46 of his family members. He was a cook in the navy for two decades, and then spent some time at Sears and then working for a museum. He lived out west in Victoria since the 1970s, but when he developed dementia, his daughters brought him back to Nova Scotia. They were able to speak to him on an iPad one last time on the day he died in Northwood. Bunny Tanner’s children remember her as a strong and strict mother, in a good way. But she really came into her own as a grandmother. She’d survived a bout with lung cancer in 2019 and she loved her private room in Northwood. But her last days in there were terrifying. She’d call her daughter begging to be able to get out of the facility, to go anywhere else. But she died on May 1st. COVID-19 took Gena Hemsworth that same day. She was afraid of flying, but loved sports cars. And she worked as a secretary at the Halifax Regional Vocational School for thirty years, where she put her exceptionally fast typing abilities to use. When she was away from home, Gena would call her house so she could talk to her cats. She cared for her partner Neil Mosher through ALS, and she died at Northwood a little over a month after she’d arrived. Hilda Weber’s husband left her alone with three young children. But she worked multiple jobs to make sure they’d get by. When times were really bad, her children would split a can of soup, while she ate nothing. Derrick Carvey loved taking drives with his dad and going on boat cruises. And he was a big Michael Jackson fan. And because of his cerebral palsy, the doctors said he wouldn’t live past thirty. But at 37, he was still alive and at Northwood, where his 98-year-old grandmother also lived. They once did a fashion show together. But both of them came down with COVID-19. His grandmother fought off the virus, but Derrick died. His father was in the room with him. He played him Michael Jackson before his son’s breathing stopped.  Thelma Coward-Ince was the first black naval reservist in Canadian history. She eventually became secretary to the chief of staff to the admiral of the Canadian navy. And she did all of that while raising two kids on her own. One of them, Tony Ince, is today a cabinet minister in the Nova Scotian government. Tony was on his way to visit his mother again when he got the call. She had died just before he could arrive. And then there’s Evelina Upshaw. She ran a hot lunch program for over three decades in the North End of Halifax. A few years ago, some young people from her neighbourhood made a short documentary about her. They called her a hero. Here she is speaking in that video.   [EVELINA UPSHAW] I said, well, if I can do something to help those mothers, that they can go off to work feeling free, that the children are going to get a hot noon meal, then that was what I wanted to do. So that’s what I did for 33 years.   [ARSHY]  On her last day, one of her daughters, covered in protective equipment, climbed into bed with her. She was able to be there for her mother at the very end.    OUTRO [ARSHY]  For the last three years, Northwood has been asking the provincial government for money so that fewer people had to live in double or triple rooms.   [HENDERSON] The board of Governors was well aware of the potential for a flu outbreak or a pandemic because they had petitioned the provincial government three separate years for money to expand. They wanted to build a few stories higher, keep the same number of beds, but create more single rooms. And the… And the reason they asked for this money was because they wanted to prevent infection. The provincial government never said no. But they never said yes. And nothing got done for three years.   [ARSHY]  Premier Stephen McNeil has so far resisted the calls for a public inquiry. Some family members of the people who have died at Northwood are publicly blaming both the facility and the government. But we won’t know exactly who or what is to blame unless there are independent investigations. For now, Nova Scotians just want the deaths to stop.   [HENDERSON] I’m not sure what people want is to lay blame and finger-point. They want to fix the problem before the next wave of COVID hits. What we’ve seen, mostly, is praise and compassion for Northwood workers. You see that in the obituaries. You see that in terms of letters to the editor. In fact, people honk their horns as they pass by Northwood to support the workers. Donations of food and gifts continue to flow   [ARSHY]  People volunteering to speak with Northwood residents over the phone and keep them company has doubled. The local mosque has been donating meals to workers. Medical students have been signing up to help in the facility. After all the tragedies of the last two months, Nova Scotians are still finding ways to come together.   END CREDITS [ARSHY]  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 Jennifer Henderson and Tim Bousquet at the Halifax Examiner, Cassidy Chisolm, Taryn Grant, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke at CBC Nova Scotia, John McPhee and Jim Vibert at the Chronicle Herald, Global News and many others. Right now CBC Nova Scotia is putting together profiles of as many of the Northwood residents who have died as they can. I recommend you go give those a read.  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 additional production 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. Click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com 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. 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 Snowbirds’ pilot. And all the while, COVID-19 ravaged the biggest long-term care home in Atlantic Canada. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Jennifer Henderson (Halifax Examiner), Janice Keefe To learn more: “Nova Scotia’s lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic” by Taryn Grant, Cassidy Chisholm, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke in CBC Nova Scotia “The Northwood board has been expressing “grave concern” about double occupancy rooms for years” by Jennifer Henderson in the Halifax Examiner “Strang, union clash over COVID-19 concerns at Northwood” by John McPhee in The Chronicle Herald   This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar  Additional music from Audio Network “I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor” by Chris Zabriskie, adapted.   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 6 – “NORTHWOOD”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  One of the most difficult things about the last two months is that people can’t mourn collectively. If someone is dying of COVID-19, the whole family can’t gather around their bed and be with them. Funerals have been curtailed. Memorials are taking place mostly online. And when something truly awful happens, the kind of event that cuts right to the heart of a whole community, there’s little we can do. Nova Scotians have been experiencing that reality over and over again in the last two months. Like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia locked itself down on March 22 to stop the growth of coronavirus infections.   [JENNIFER HENDERSON] You start to think, “Can the news get any worse?”   [ARSHY]  That’s Jennifer Henderson, a freelance journalist who’s been covering the pandemic for the Halifax Examiner.    [HENDERSON] You know, you’re in the midst of a pandemic and there are people dying every day at one nursing home in your backyard, and people are worried, you know, about going to work. And then we have this mass shooting that you couldn’t even imagine in a very quiet, rural part of the province.   [NEWS CLIP 1, MALE] Nova Scotians this morning are in a state of shock as this quiet province comes to grips with the fact that it now owns the grim title of the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history.   [HENDERSON] You know, you see the “Nova Scotia Strong” everywhere. And, you know, sometimes I have to think, “Is that about the pandemic or is that about the mass murder?” We’ve been through a great deal in the last eight weeks.   [ARSHY]  The tragedies in Nova Scotia have just been piling up, one on top of the other. People haven’t even been given the chance to come to terms with one of them, before another hits. But they’ve been trying to find a way through. Tributes poured out online. People shared videos, made signs, wrote songs.  Abbigail Cowbrough was one of those people. Standing on the deck of the HMCS Fredericton, she played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Her performance was part of a video put together by the Nova Scotia Pipers’ Tribute to honour the victims of the shooting.  Five days later, on April 29th, Abbigail died. She and five Canadian Armed forces members were killed in a helicopter crash near Greece. Three of the victims, including Abigail, called Nova Scotia home. The province once again mourned.   On May 3rd, the Snowbirds launched Operation: Inspiration, a cross-country tour meant to boost morale amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They started off in Nova Scotia, first flying over Halifax to honour Abbigail and five others killed in the helicopter crash. And then they did it again, this time over Portapique.    [NEWS CLIP 2, FEMALE] A much-needed moral boost on this sunny Sunday. The fames aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, launched a coast-to-coast tour in our region today, something especially appreciated after two devastating tragedies.   [ARSHY]  Flying with them that day was Capt. Jenn Casey. Casey died on May 17th when a Snowbird jet crashed in Kamloops, B.C. And again, the province did their best to honour her life.    [NEWS CLIP 3, MALE] The body of Captain Jennifer Casey returned to Halifax, the city where her life began. Important for the people of Halifax, hundreds of whom lined the streets as the motorcade passed by the places that were significant to Casey. The home where she grew up, and the radio station where she worked before joining the armed forces.    [ARSHY]  The province’s grief has been undercut by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mourning has to be governed by strict rules for the public’s own protection. A community can come together in some ways, but only so far.  And while these shocking tragedies transpired, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept pace. It’s doesn’t feel as sudden as the others. Instead, it’s been unfolding relentlessly over months, taking the lives of 59 Nova Scotians.  Today Nova Scotia is the third-hardest hit province per capita. There have been around a dozen outbreaks at Nova Scotia long-term care homes. But almost all of those deaths, 51 people out of those 59 have taken place at a single facility: The Northwood Centre in Halifax. I’m Arshy Mann, and from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   PART ONE [NEWS CLIP 4, MALE] Our coverage begins tonight in Nova Scotia, where the province has recorded the Maritimes’ first death related to the virus.   [NEWS CLIP 5, MALE] Yesterday, we announced, uh, three residents at Northwood, uh, who had died of COVID-19. We unfortunately have to announce, uh, two more.    [NEWS CLIP 6, FEMALE] The individual who passed away was a resident at Northwood, and marks the tenth death in the province, and sixth at that facility.   [NEWS CLIP 7, MALE] Today I’m sad to say that we’ve lost two more of our seniors at Northwood.    [NEWS CLIP 8, FEMALE] Thirty-five people at the facility have now died of COVID.   [NEWS CLIP 9, MALE] Unfortunately, we have to report three additional deaths at Northwood. We now have 51 Nova Scotians who have died of COVID-19.   [NEWS CLIP 10, MALE] Today, we mourn another loss of an individual at Northwood. We now have 56 Nova Scotians who have died.   [ARSHY]  In some ways, the pandemic in Nova Scotia is playing out in much the same way as the rest of the country. Like the other provinces, the vast majority of deaths are related to long-term care. In Nova Scotia’s case, that number is 95 percent. But almost all of those people died at Northwood.   [HENDERSON] Northwood is the largest nursing home in Atlantic Canada. It’s really a campus. There are three main buildings. It’s right near the Macdonald Bridge, which crosses Halifax Harbor   [ARSHY]  Northwood is run by a non-profit with a long history in Halifax. Here’s Janet Simm, Northwood’s CEO, speaking in a recent video.   [JANET SIMM]  The organization first began as a social movement in response to the plight of seniors living alone in Halifax, a real community effort to make this organization come together and respond to those unmet needs.   [ARSHY]  In 1962, 285 people gathered at a school in the south end of Halifax to talk about the need for affordable housing for seniors. And, by the end of that meeting, Northwood was founded. Northwood Towers opened up five years later, offering cheap apartments for older Haligonians. Three years after that, they began to build Northwood Manor, which was for seniors who needed some assistance. And then in 1970, they started construction on Northwood Centre, which was a nursing home for people who needed more serious care.    [HENDERSON] It is a combination of a retirement-living community and a nursing home, as many places are these days.   [ARSHY]  And since then, Northwood has been very well-regarded in Nova Scotia.   [HENDERSON] The place has a terrific reputation in the community because it’s a home. They have a radio station.   [BOB MARKS] Good morning. This is NWBC, your Seniors Community Broadcasting Club, thanks to Northward Care Inc. Your host this morning, Bob Marks with my “Down Memory Lane” program. It’s time to have a little bit of a request in here. So, Bernice of Summerside, and a selection from 1942.   [HENDERSON] They have a radio station, they have a bar. They have a fitness center for people with dementia. It has a well-deserved reputation in the community. This is not a, uh, for-profit commercially run. This is a not-for-profit community board of governors, which did have the top rating from the accreditation agency prior to the pandemic.   [ARSHY]  Henderson says that everyday Nova Scotians haven’t been putting the blame on Northwood.    [HENDERSON] Imagine, despite the headlines and despite the knowledge that all these people have died, people are still publicly supporting Northwood. As I say, I’m struggling to think of a single negative letter that blamed Northwood.    [ARSHY]  Part of the reason why people aren’t blaming management is that Northwood has been pretty forthcoming about what’s been happening.   [HENDERSON] Northwood management has been more than transparent with the public. They’ve published a timeline. They’ve done daily information updates. They took worker’s temperatures beginning and end of every shift. So they seem to do all the things they could do. And yet this was still a nightmare.   [ARSHY]  So how is it that a facility that everyone agrees is one of the best ones out there could be the site of so much death? The first thing to understand is that, like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia has serious systemic problems with long-term care.   [HENDERSON] Well, prior to the pandemic, it was well-known that Northwood and every nursing home in Nova Scotia had chronic staff shortages. When people were sick, they simply worked short. This was documented by the expert panel. Numerous reports. It was a given.   [ARSHY]  That expert panel put out its findings in 2019, and the chair of it was Janice Keefe.   [JANICE KEEFE] My name’s Janice Keefe. I’m, uh, director of the Nova Scotia Center on Aging. I’m professor and chair of the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount St. Vincent University.   [ARSHY]  The panel was put together after a number of deaths due to neglect in Nova Scotia’s long-term care homes.   [KEEFE]  The impetus was, uh, bedsores. There were a number of residents in long-term care who actually died because of, uh, inappropriate care around bedsores.    [ARSHY]  And the broad takeaways would be familiar to anyone who’s been listening to this podcast.   [KEEFE]  What we basically found was that this was a sector that needed resources, that needed immediate attention. There were a lot of issues around staffing.   [ARSHY]  Staff were constantly working short-handed. And the long-term care sector was viewed as a much worse place to work than other parts of the healthcare system.    [KEEFE]  But for the main part, the staff themselves were really frustrated about not being able to do the best care that they should be doing, because they didn’t have enough time.   [ARSHY]  And as with other provinces, there are massive waitlists, especially because Nova Scotians tend to be older on average than the rest of the country.    [KEEFE]  When people from Ontario talk about, you know, when the population is going to hit, uh, 20 percent, uh, 65 and over, we’ve been dealing with that for over five years.    [ARSHY]  And the residents had increasingly complex health problems. Janice Keefe has seen that first-hand over the last thirty years.   [KEEFE]  So the biggest change… I will tell you, the biggest change is the residents. I worked in a municipality in Nova Scotia and the people going to the facilities would drive their cars. They lived in the nursing homes, but they… They went out to visit. They were mobile. They were not at the end of their life.    [ARSHY]  But these are problems across all long-term care homes. It still doesn’t answer why Northwood, in particular, has experienced such a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.   PART TWO It was March 15 when the first three Nova Scotians tested positive for COVID-19. Only a day later, Northwood barred all visitors to their facilities. But, as in the rest of Canada, the provincial government and the health authority, they weren’t talking about what would happen if the virus actually got into a long-term care facility.   [HENDERSON] My memory of those briefings with our chief medical officer of health and the premier, which happened daily at the beginning of the pandemic, was that all the focus was on the hospitals.   [ARSHY]  By the end of March, social distancing was put into effect across the province. And it wasn’t until early April that Northwood knew that virus was in the facility.   [HENDERSON] The first staff member to test positive for COVID at Northwood was April 5th. The first three residents followed on April 7th. The virus was brought into the Northwood Center building by workers who were asymptomatic and did not suspect they were ill.   [ARSHY]  The day after an employee tested positive, Northwood mandated that all staff had to wear a mask. That was actually two days before Canada’s chief public health officer recommended the same thing, and a full six days before the provincial government made it mandatory for all long-term care workers.   [HENDERSON] But according to the CEO of Northwood, in hindsight, the horse was already out of the barn, so to speak. Although they were ahead of both the provincial and federal guidelines with respect to wearing masks, it came too late to prevent the spread of infection at Northwood.   [ARSHY]  Over the next five days, more residents and staff members began to test positive. And workers who had previously been told to self-isolate were asked to return to Northwood if they tested negative. That was a mistake.   [HENDERSON] So, we know that in the period where people were becoming infected, that staff who were supposed to be out for 14 days, self isolating, were allowed to return to work because they needed them so desperately, if they tested negative. And then Northwood and the public health officials in Nova Scotia learned that you could test negative one day and positive the next.   [ARSHY]  Northwood had prepared a quarantine area for residents who tested positive. It could fit 20 people. But by April 15, just ten days after the first staff member tested positive, they had to open another area. And the virus continued to spread amongst the workers.    [HENDERSON] And you can see that because, by April 18th, they had so many staff who either wouldn’t come to work because they were afraid of getting sick, or they were self isolating because they had come in contact by providing direct care to one of these sick residents. They were told to stay home for 14 days.   [ARSHY]  Around 80 long-term care workers were off work, and the staffing levels were down to just 60 percent of what they normally would be. Then came the horrific weekend of April 18th and 19th. That was the same weekend a mass shooter killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia. At Northwood, residents began to die. Five people died of COVID-19 in just two days. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil held an emergency press conference that Sunday.   [STEPHEN MCNEIL] We weren’t scheduled to have a news conference today, but I felt the need to be here to provide you with an update on one of our long-term care facilities, Northwood, that’s dealing with an outbreak of COVID. I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia. This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history. There are a number of other families who are dealing with their own loss after–after their loved ones died of COVID, five people over the weekend who lived at Northwood. And I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, and my heart goes out to all of you.   [ARSHY]  That weekend, the province really began to act. The Halifax Infirmary COVID-19 unit was redeployed from their hospital to Northwood; additional workers were brought in from the Red Cross, Victorian Order of Nurses and Emergency Health Services; the province set up a hotel as an off-site ward for Northwood residents who recovered for COVID-19… But people kept dying. Six more residents died in three days. And the union representing Nova Scotia’s nurses said that workers who were brought in to help staff Northwood found a total lack of infection controls and not enough PPE. They said it was like “walking into a war zone.” Here’s NSGEU president Jason MacLean speaking to Global News.   [JASON MACLEAN]  Well, when they got to Northwood, there was no supplies for them. Uh, actually, even yesterday morning, they had… They were down to three gowns. A lot of residents up and walking around, both that are sick and those that are presumed sick. So they’re up and they’re–they’re–they’re trying to use the phone at–at the counter, and they’re touching everything that’s around there.   [HENDERSON] Now, Northwood officials said that these were nurses used to infection control in a hospital setting, and that simply wasn’t appropriate or possible in an old nursing home like Northwood; that, basically, it was apples and oranges.   [ARSHY]  And Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Robert Strang, blasted the union and essentially accused them of lying.   [ROBERT STRANG]  They’re using, frankly, fear, fear mongering and hyperbole in terms of the way they’re describing this situation. When we talk to frontline people who are in Northwood, they… What–what the NSGU is saying is actually inaccurate.   [ARSHY]  Over the next week, another twelve people died at Northwood. And during that time, the Nova Scotian government declined to increase the wages of front-line workers, like other provinces had been doing. Another 16 people died in the first week of May and infections amongst residents and staff continued to inch up. On May 8th, Nova Scotia finally agreed to give a pay bump to health care workers on the front lines. But it would only be a one-time payment of $2000. Since then, another 18 people have died at Northwood, bringing the total number up to 52 dead in the facility. It’s clear today that some mistakes were made, both by Northwood and the provincial government. Like long-term care facilities across Canada, workers were a major vector for transmitting the virus. Workers should have been wearing masks the minute we knew the virus was in Nova Scotia. And if they were exposed, they shouldn’t have been allowed to come back to work before the two-week quarantine was up, even if they tested negative.  Whether or not care workers had adequate PPE, and the facility had proper infection controls, hasn’t been determined yet. The nurses union said it was totally unacceptable, but Northwood and the health authority maintain that it was all up to par. But what’s not in dispute is that one of the biggest factors at play during the Northwood outbreak is the building itself.   [HENDERSON] So there’s general agreement that the reason Northwood was so hard hit by COVID was because the rooms were smaller than in newer nursing homes. And it spread like wildfire.   [ARSHY]  In Northwood Centre, where the most disabled residents lived, the rooms and bathrooms were often shared.    [HENDERSON] It’s more like… More like a hospital. And the rooms are small, like hospital rooms for that time, and most of them are shared. So they’re double occupancy and there’s room for about one chair for a visitor and one walker. And there’s curtains between those beds. People are not only sharing a bathroom, they’re sharing a tight space.  But of course, most of our residents have dementia and they don’t respect those boundaries. They’re in each other’s faces and in each other’s stuff and borrowing their false teeth. You know that… That’s what goes on.   [ARSHY]  It’s those lack of single-occupancy rooms that Northwood CEO Janet Simm also places most of the blame on.   [HENDERSON] I asked her at one briefing, you know, “What could have been done in your view to prevent the rapid spread?” And she mentioned the double rooms, getting rid of those, and if employees, in hindsight, had put the masks on sooner.   [ARSHY]  Before the current Liberal government, the last two Nova Scotian premiers did make improvements to long-term care facilities. In the late 2010s, Rodney MacDonald’s Progressive Conservatives opened long-term care beds across the province and even upgraded some older buildings. And after that, Darrell Dexter’s NDP government had eleven long-term care homes slated for upgrades. But since Stephen McNeil was elected in 2013, only one of those facilities has been replaced. And overall, funding for long-term care has gone down.   [HENDERSON] For the last seven years, there haven’t been any new nursing home beds opened under the current Liberal government.   [ARSHY]  When we talk about long-term care and this pandemic, the numbers can get overwhelming. And the actual people at the centre of this story risk becoming just empty statistics.  But we want to tell you about some of the actual people who died in Northwood, because their lives are important, too. Not just where they died or what killed them, we want to mourn some of them as best we can, especially now as this virus has changed how we can do that. Paul Sullivan worked as an insurance salesman. But he was the kind of guy whose clients quickly became his friends. He loved to build things, like hockey rinks in his backyard. And he stayed married to his wife Irenaeus for 60 years. He died in Northwood, without his family able to be by his side. Gerald Jackson’s family had known tragedy before. His father had survived the Halifax Explosion, but it killed 46 of his family members. He was a cook in the navy for two decades, and then spent some time at Sears and then working for a museum. He lived out west in Victoria since the 1970s, but when he developed dementia, his daughters brought him back to Nova Scotia. They were able to speak to him on an iPad one last time on the day he died in Northwood. Bunny Tanner’s children remember her as a strong and strict mother, in a good way. But she really came into her own as a grandmother. She’d survived a bout with lung cancer in 2019 and she loved her private room in Northwood. But her last days in there were terrifying. She’d call her daughter begging to be able to get out of the facility, to go anywhere else. But she died on May 1st. COVID-19 took Gena Hemsworth that same day. She was afraid of flying, but loved sports cars. And she worked as a secretary at the Halifax Regional Vocational School for thirty years, where she put her exceptionally fast typing abilities to use. When she was away from home, Gena would call her house so she could talk to her cats. She cared for her partner Neil Mosher through ALS, and she died at Northwood a little over a month after she’d arrived. Hilda Weber’s husband left her alone with three young children. But she worked multiple jobs to make sure they’d get by. When times were really bad, her children would split a can of soup, while she ate nothing. Derrick Carvey loved taking drives with his dad and going on boat cruises. And he was a big Michael Jackson fan. And because of his cerebral palsy, the doctors said he wouldn’t live past thirty. But at 37, he was still alive and at Northwood, where his 98-year-old grandmother also lived. They once did a fashion show together. But both of them came down with COVID-19. His grandmother fought off the virus, but Derrick died. His father was in the room with him. He played him Michael Jackson before his son’s breathing stopped.  Thelma Coward-Ince was the first black naval reservist in Canadian history. She eventually became secretary to the chief of staff to the admiral of the Canadian navy. And she did all of that while raising two kids on her own. One of them, Tony Ince, is today a cabinet minister in the Nova Scotian government. Tony was on his way to visit his mother again when he got the call. She had died just before he could arrive. And then there’s Evelina Upshaw. She ran a hot lunch program for over three decades in the North End of Halifax. A few years ago, some young people from her neighbourhood made a short documentary about her. They called her a hero. Here she is speaking in that video.   [EVELINA UPSHAW] I said, well, if I can do something to help those mothers, that they can go off to work feeling free, that the children are going to get a hot noon meal, then that was what I wanted to do. So that’s what I did for 33 years.   [ARSHY]  On her last day, one of her daughters, covered in protective equipment, climbed into bed with her. She was able to be there for her mother at the very end.    OUTRO [ARSHY]  For the last three years, Northwood has been asking the provincial government for money so that fewer people had to live in double or triple rooms.   [HENDERSON] The board of Governors was well aware of the potential for a flu outbreak or a pandemic because they had petitioned the provincial government three separate years for money to expand. They wanted to build a few stories higher, keep the same number of beds, but create more single rooms. And the… And the reason they asked for this money was because they wanted to prevent infection. The provincial government never said no. But they never said yes. And nothing got done for three years.   [ARSHY]  Premier Stephen McNeil has so far resisted the calls for a public inquiry. Some family members of the people who have died at Northwood are publicly blaming both the facility and the government. But we won’t know exactly who or what is to blame unless there are independent investigations. For now, Nova Scotians just want the deaths to stop.   [HENDERSON] I’m not sure what people want is to lay blame and finger-point. They want to fix the problem before the next wave of COVID hits. What we’ve seen, mostly, is praise and compassion for Northwood workers. You see that in the obituaries. You see that in terms of letters to the editor. In fact, people honk their horns as they pass by Northwood to support the workers. Donations of food and gifts continue to flow   [ARSHY]  People volunteering to speak with Northwood residents over the phone and keep them company has doubled. The local mosque has been donating meals to workers. Medical students have been signing up to help in the facility. After all the tragedies of the last two months, Nova Scotians are still finding ways to come together.   END CREDITS [ARSHY]  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 Jennifer Henderson and Tim Bousquet at the Halifax Examiner, Cassidy Chisolm, Taryn Grant, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke at CBC Nova Scotia, John McPhee and Jim Vibert at the Chronicle Herald, Global News and many others. Right now CBC Nova Scotia is putting together profiles of as many of the Northwood residents who have died as they can. I recommend you go give those a read.  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 additional production 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. Click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com 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. 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 Snowbirds’ pilot. And all the while, COVID-19 ravaged the biggest long-term care home in Atlantic Canada. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Jennifer Henderson (Halifax Examiner), Janice Keefe To learn more: “Nova Scotia’s lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic” by Taryn Grant, Cassidy Chisholm, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke in CBC Nova Scotia “The Northwood board has been expressing “grave concern” about double occupancy rooms for years” by Jennifer Henderson in the Halifax Examiner “Strang, union clash over COVID-19 concerns at Northwood” by John McPhee in The Chronicle Herald   This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar  Additional music from Audio Network “I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor” by Chris Zabriskie, adapted.   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 6 – “NORTHWOOD”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  One of the most difficult things about the last two months is that people can’t mourn collectively. If someone is dying of COVID-19, the whole family can’t gather around their bed and be with them. Funerals have been curtailed. Memorials are taking place mostly online. And when something truly awful happens, the kind of event that cuts right to the heart of a whole community, there’s little we can do. Nova Scotians have been experiencing that reality over and over again in the last two months. Like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia locked itself down on March 22 to stop the growth of coronavirus infections.   [JENNIFER HENDERSON] You start to think, “Can the news get any worse?”   [ARSHY]  That’s Jennifer Henderson, a freelance journalist who’s been covering the pandemic for the Halifax Examiner.    [HENDERSON] You know, you’re in the midst of a pandemic and there are people dying every day at one nursing home in your backyard, and people are worried, you know, about going to work. And then we have this mass shooting that you couldn’t even imagine in a very quiet, rural part of the province.   [NEWS CLIP 1, MALE] Nova Scotians this morning are in a state of shock as this quiet province comes to grips with the fact that it now owns the grim title of the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history.   [HENDERSON] You know, you see the “Nova Scotia Strong” everywhere. And, you know, sometimes I have to think, “Is that about the pandemic or is that about the mass murder?” We’ve been through a great deal in the last eight weeks.   [ARSHY]  The tragedies in Nova Scotia have just been piling up, one on top of the other. People haven’t even been given the chance to come to terms with one of them, before another hits. But they’ve been trying to find a way through. Tributes poured out online. People shared videos, made signs, wrote songs.  Abbigail Cowbrough was one of those people. Standing on the deck of the HMCS Fredericton, she played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Her performance was part of a video put together by the Nova Scotia Pipers’ Tribute to honour the victims of the shooting.  Five days later, on April 29th, Abbigail died. She and five Canadian Armed forces members were killed in a helicopter crash near Greece. Three of the victims, including Abigail, called Nova Scotia home. The province once again mourned.   On May 3rd, the Snowbirds launched Operation: Inspiration, a cross-country tour meant to boost morale amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They started off in Nova Scotia, first flying over Halifax to honour Abbigail and five others killed in the helicopter crash. And then they did it again, this time over Portapique.    [NEWS CLIP 2, FEMALE] A much-needed moral boost on this sunny Sunday. The fames aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, launched a coast-to-coast tour in our region today, something especially appreciated after two devastating tragedies.   [ARSHY]  Flying with them that day was Capt. Jenn Casey. Casey died on May 17th when a Snowbird jet crashed in Kamloops, B.C. And again, the province did their best to honour her life.    [NEWS CLIP 3, MALE] The body of Captain Jennifer Casey returned to Halifax, the city where her life began. Important for the people of Halifax, hundreds of whom lined the streets as the motorcade passed by the places that were significant to Casey. The home where she grew up, and the radio station where she worked before joining the armed forces.    [ARSHY]  The province’s grief has been undercut by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mourning has to be governed by strict rules for the public’s own protection. A community can come together in some ways, but only so far.  And while these shocking tragedies transpired, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept pace. It’s doesn’t feel as sudden as the others. Instead, it’s been unfolding relentlessly over months, taking the lives of 59 Nova Scotians.  Today Nova Scotia is the third-hardest hit province per capita. There have been around a dozen outbreaks at Nova Scotia long-term care homes. But almost all of those deaths, 51 people out of those 59 have taken place at a single facility: The Northwood Centre in Halifax. I’m Arshy Mann, and from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   PART ONE [NEWS CLIP 4, MALE] Our coverage begins tonight in Nova Scotia, where the province has recorded the Maritimes’ first death related to the virus.   [NEWS CLIP 5, MALE] Yesterday, we announced, uh, three residents at Northwood, uh, who had died of COVID-19. We unfortunately have to announce, uh, two more.    [NEWS CLIP 6, FEMALE] The individual who passed away was a resident at Northwood, and marks the tenth death in the province, and sixth at that facility.   [NEWS CLIP 7, MALE] Today I’m sad to say that we’ve lost two more of our seniors at Northwood.    [NEWS CLIP 8, FEMALE] Thirty-five people at the facility have now died of COVID.   [NEWS CLIP 9, MALE] Unfortunately, we have to report three additional deaths at Northwood. We now have 51 Nova Scotians who have died of COVID-19.   [NEWS CLIP 10, MALE] Today, we mourn another loss of an individual at Northwood. We now have 56 Nova Scotians who have died.   [ARSHY]  In some ways, the pandemic in Nova Scotia is playing out in much the same way as the rest of the country. Like the other provinces, the vast majority of deaths are related to long-term care. In Nova Scotia’s case, that number is 95 percent. But almost all of those people died at Northwood.   [HENDERSON] Northwood is the largest nursing home in Atlantic Canada. It’s really a campus. There are three main buildings. It’s right near the Macdonald Bridge, which crosses Halifax Harbor   [ARSHY]  Northwood is run by a non-profit with a long history in Halifax. Here’s Janet Simm, Northwood’s CEO, speaking in a recent video.   [JANET SIMM]  The organization first began as a social movement in response to the plight of seniors living alone in Halifax, a real community effort to make this organization come together and respond to those unmet needs.   [ARSHY]  In 1962, 285 people gathered at a school in the south end of Halifax to talk about the need for affordable housing for seniors. And, by the end of that meeting, Northwood was founded. Northwood Towers opened up five years later, offering cheap apartments for older Haligonians. Three years after that, they began to build Northwood Manor, which was for seniors who needed some assistance. And then in 1970, they started construction on Northwood Centre, which was a nursing home for people who needed more serious care.    [HENDERSON] It is a combination of a retirement-living community and a nursing home, as many places are these days.   [ARSHY]  And since then, Northwood has been very well-regarded in Nova Scotia.   [HENDERSON] The place has a terrific reputation in the community because it’s a home. They have a radio station.   [BOB MARKS] Good morning. This is NWBC, your Seniors Community Broadcasting Club, thanks to Northward Care Inc. Your host this morning, Bob Marks with my “Down Memory Lane” program. It’s time to have a little bit of a request in here. So, Bernice of Summerside, and a selection from 1942.   [HENDERSON] They have a radio station, they have a bar. They have a fitness center for people with dementia. It has a well-deserved reputation in the community. This is not a, uh, for-profit commercially run. This is a not-for-profit community board of governors, which did have the top rating from the accreditation agency prior to the pandemic.   [ARSHY]  Henderson says that everyday Nova Scotians haven’t been putting the blame on Northwood.    [HENDERSON] Imagine, despite the headlines and despite the knowledge that all these people have died, people are still publicly supporting Northwood. As I say, I’m struggling to think of a single negative letter that blamed Northwood.    [ARSHY]  Part of the reason why people aren’t blaming management is that Northwood has been pretty forthcoming about what’s been happening.   [HENDERSON] Northwood management has been more than transparent with the public. They’ve published a timeline. They’ve done daily information updates. They took worker’s temperatures beginning and end of every shift. So they seem to do all the things they could do. And yet this was still a nightmare.   [ARSHY]  So how is it that a facility that everyone agrees is one of the best ones out there could be the site of so much death? The first thing to understand is that, like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia has serious systemic problems with long-term care.   [HENDERSON] Well, prior to the pandemic, it was well-known that Northwood and every nursing home in Nova Scotia had chronic staff shortages. When people were sick, they simply worked short. This was documented by the expert panel. Numerous reports. It was a given.   [ARSHY]  That expert panel put out its findings in 2019, and the chair of it was Janice Keefe.   [JANICE KEEFE] My name’s Janice Keefe. I’m, uh, director of the Nova Scotia Center on Aging. I’m professor and chair of the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount St. Vincent University.   [ARSHY]  The panel was put together after a number of deaths due to neglect in Nova Scotia’s long-term care homes.   [KEEFE]  The impetus was, uh, bedsores. There were a number of residents in long-term care who actually died because of, uh, inappropriate care around bedsores.    [ARSHY]  And the broad takeaways would be familiar to anyone who’s been listening to this podcast.   [KEEFE]  What we basically found was that this was a sector that needed resources, that needed immediate attention. There were a lot of issues around staffing.   [ARSHY]  Staff were constantly working short-handed. And the long-term care sector was viewed as a much worse place to work than other parts of the healthcare system.    [KEEFE]  But for the main part, the staff themselves were really frustrated about not being able to do the best care that they should be doing, because they didn’t have enough time.   [ARSHY]  And as with other provinces, there are massive waitlists, especially because Nova Scotians tend to be older on average than the rest of the country.    [KEEFE]  When people from Ontario talk about, you know, when the population is going to hit, uh, 20 percent, uh, 65 and over, we’ve been dealing with that for over five years.    [ARSHY]  And the residents had increasingly complex health problems. Janice Keefe has seen that first-hand over the last thirty years.   [KEEFE]  So the biggest change… I will tell you, the biggest change is the residents. I worked in a municipality in Nova Scotia and the people going to the facilities would drive their cars. They lived in the nursing homes, but they… They went out to visit. They were mobile. They were not at the end of their life.    [ARSHY]  But these are problems across all long-term care homes. It still doesn’t answer why Northwood, in particular, has experienced such a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.   PART TWO It was March 15 when the first three Nova Scotians tested positive for COVID-19. Only a day later, Northwood barred all visitors to their facilities. But, as in the rest of Canada, the provincial government and the health authority, they weren’t talking about what would happen if the virus actually got into a long-term care facility.   [HENDERSON] My memory of those briefings with our chief medical officer of health and the premier, which happened daily at the beginning of the pandemic, was that all the focus was on the hospitals.   [ARSHY]  By the end of March, social distancing was put into effect across the province. And it wasn’t until early April that Northwood knew that virus was in the facility.   [HENDERSON] The first staff member to test positive for COVID at Northwood was April 5th. The first three residents followed on April 7th. The virus was brought into the Northwood Center building by workers who were asymptomatic and did not suspect they were ill.   [ARSHY]  The day after an employee tested positive, Northwood mandated that all staff had to wear a mask. That was actually two days before Canada’s chief public health officer recommended the same thing, and a full six days before the provincial government made it mandatory for all long-term care workers.   [HENDERSON] But according to the CEO of Northwood, in hindsight, the horse was already out of the barn, so to speak. Although they were ahead of both the provincial and federal guidelines with respect to wearing masks, it came too late to prevent the spread of infection at Northwood.   [ARSHY]  Over the next five days, more residents and staff members began to test positive. And workers who had previously been told to self-isolate were asked to return to Northwood if they tested negative. That was a mistake.   [HENDERSON] So, we know that in the period where people were becoming infected, that staff who were supposed to be out for 14 days, self isolating, were allowed to return to work because they needed them so desperately, if they tested negative. And then Northwood and the public health officials in Nova Scotia learned that you could test negative one day and positive the next.   [ARSHY]  Northwood had prepared a quarantine area for residents who tested positive. It could fit 20 people. But by April 15, just ten days after the first staff member tested positive, they had to open another area. And the virus continued to spread amongst the workers.    [HENDERSON] And you can see that because, by April 18th, they had so many staff who either wouldn’t come to work because they were afraid of getting sick, or they were self isolating because they had come in contact by providing direct care to one of these sick residents. They were told to stay home for 14 days.   [ARSHY]  Around 80 long-term care workers were off work, and the staffing levels were down to just 60 percent of what they normally would be. Then came the horrific weekend of April 18th and 19th. That was the same weekend a mass shooter killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia. At Northwood, residents began to die. Five people died of COVID-19 in just two days. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil held an emergency press conference that Sunday.   [STEPHEN MCNEIL] We weren’t scheduled to have a news conference today, but I felt the need to be here to provide you with an update on one of our long-term care facilities, Northwood, that’s dealing with an outbreak of COVID. I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia. This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history. There are a number of other families who are dealing with their own loss after–after their loved ones died of COVID, five people over the weekend who lived at Northwood. And I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, and my heart goes out to all of you.   [ARSHY]  That weekend, the province really began to act. The Halifax Infirmary COVID-19 unit was redeployed from their hospital to Northwood; additional workers were brought in from the Red Cross, Victorian Order of Nurses and Emergency Health Services; the province set up a hotel as an off-site ward for Northwood residents who recovered for COVID-19… But people kept dying. Six more residents died in three days. And the union representing Nova Scotia’s nurses said that workers who were brought in to help staff Northwood found a total lack of infection controls and not enough PPE. They said it was like “walking into a war zone.” Here’s NSGEU president Jason MacLean speaking to Global News.   [JASON MACLEAN]  Well, when they got to Northwood, there was no supplies for them. Uh, actually, even yesterday morning, they had… They were down to three gowns. A lot of residents up and walking around, both that are sick and those that are presumed sick. So they’re up and they’re–they’re–they’re trying to use the phone at–at the counter, and they’re touching everything that’s around there.   [HENDERSON] Now, Northwood officials said that these were nurses used to infection control in a hospital setting, and that simply wasn’t appropriate or possible in an old nursing home like Northwood; that, basically, it was apples and oranges.   [ARSHY]  And Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Robert Strang, blasted the union and essentially accused them of lying.   [ROBERT STRANG]  They’re using, frankly, fear, fear mongering and hyperbole in terms of the way they’re describing this situation. When we talk to frontline people who are in Northwood, they… What–what the NSGU is saying is actually inaccurate.   [ARSHY]  Over the next week, another twelve people died at Northwood. And during that time, the Nova Scotian government declined to increase the wages of front-line workers, like other provinces had been doing. Another 16 people died in the first week of May and infections amongst residents and staff continued to inch up. On May 8th, Nova Scotia finally agreed to give a pay bump to health care workers on the front lines. But it would only be a one-time payment of $2000. Since then, another 18 people have died at Northwood, bringing the total number up to 52 dead in the facility. It’s clear today that some mistakes were made, both by Northwood and the provincial government. Like long-term care facilities across Canada, workers were a major vector for transmitting the virus. Workers should have been wearing masks the minute we knew the virus was in Nova Scotia. And if they were exposed, they shouldn’t have been allowed to come back to work before the two-week quarantine was up, even if they tested negative.  Whether or not care workers had adequate PPE, and the facility had proper infection controls, hasn’t been determined yet. The nurses union said it was totally unacceptable, but Northwood and the health authority maintain that it was all up to par. But what’s not in dispute is that one of the biggest factors at play during the Northwood outbreak is the building itself.   [HENDERSON] So there’s general agreement that the reason Northwood was so hard hit by COVID was because the rooms were smaller than in newer nursing homes. And it spread like wildfire.   [ARSHY]  In Northwood Centre, where the most disabled residents lived, the rooms and bathrooms were often shared.    [HENDERSON] It’s more like… More like a hospital. And the rooms are small, like hospital rooms for that time, and most of them are shared. So they’re double occupancy and there’s room for about one chair for a visitor and one walker. And there’s curtains between those beds. People are not only sharing a bathroom, they’re sharing a tight space.  But of course, most of our residents have dementia and they don’t respect those boundaries. They’re in each other’s faces and in each other’s stuff and borrowing their false teeth. You know that… That’s what goes on.   [ARSHY]  It’s those lack of single-occupancy rooms that Northwood CEO Janet Simm also places most of the blame on.   [HENDERSON] I asked her at one briefing, you know, “What could have been done in your view to prevent the rapid spread?” And she mentioned the double rooms, getting rid of those, and if employees, in hindsight, had put the masks on sooner.   [ARSHY]  Before the current Liberal government, the last two Nova Scotian premiers did make improvements to long-term care facilities. In the late 2010s, Rodney MacDonald’s Progressive Conservatives opened long-term care beds across the province and even upgraded some older buildings. And after that, Darrell Dexter’s NDP government had eleven long-term care homes slated for upgrades. But since Stephen McNeil was elected in 2013, only one of those facilities has been replaced. And overall, funding for long-term care has gone down.   [HENDERSON] For the last seven years, there haven’t been any new nursing home beds opened under the current Liberal government.   [ARSHY]  When we talk about long-term care and this pandemic, the numbers can get overwhelming. And the actual people at the centre of this story risk becoming just empty statistics.  But we want to tell you about some of the actual people who died in Northwood, because their lives are important, too. Not just where they died or what killed them, we want to mourn some of them as best we can, especially now as this virus has changed how we can do that. Paul Sullivan worked as an insurance salesman. But he was the kind of guy whose clients quickly became his friends. He loved to build things, like hockey rinks in his backyard. And he stayed married to his wife Irenaeus for 60 years. He died in Northwood, without his family able to be by his side. Gerald Jackson’s family had known tragedy before. His father had survived the Halifax Explosion, but it killed 46 of his family members. He was a cook in the navy for two decades, and then spent some time at Sears and then working for a museum. He lived out west in Victoria since the 1970s, but when he developed dementia, his daughters brought him back to Nova Scotia. They were able to speak to him on an iPad one last time on the day he died in Northwood. Bunny Tanner’s children remember her as a strong and strict mother, in a good way. But she really came into her own as a grandmother. She’d survived a bout with lung cancer in 2019 and she loved her private room in Northwood. But her last days in there were terrifying. She’d call her daughter begging to be able to get out of the facility, to go anywhere else. But she died on May 1st. COVID-19 took Gena Hemsworth that same day. She was afraid of flying, but loved sports cars. And she worked as a secretary at the Halifax Regional Vocational School for thirty years, where she put her exceptionally fast typing abilities to use. When she was away from home, Gena would call her house so she could talk to her cats. She cared for her partner Neil Mosher through ALS, and she died at Northwood a little over a month after she’d arrived. Hilda Weber’s husband left her alone with three young children. But she worked multiple jobs to make sure they’d get by. When times were really bad, her children would split a can of soup, while she ate nothing. Derrick Carvey loved taking drives with his dad and going on boat cruises. And he was a big Michael Jackson fan. And because of his cerebral palsy, the doctors said he wouldn’t live past thirty. But at 37, he was still alive and at Northwood, where his 98-year-old grandmother also lived. They once did a fashion show together. But both of them came down with COVID-19. His grandmother fought off the virus, but Derrick died. His father was in the room with him. He played him Michael Jackson before his son’s breathing stopped.  Thelma Coward-Ince was the first black naval reservist in Canadian history. She eventually became secretary to the chief of staff to the admiral of the Canadian navy. And she did all of that while raising two kids on her own. One of them, Tony Ince, is today a cabinet minister in the Nova Scotian government. Tony was on his way to visit his mother again when he got the call. She had died just before he could arrive. And then there’s Evelina Upshaw. She ran a hot lunch program for over three decades in the North End of Halifax. A few years ago, some young people from her neighbourhood made a short documentary about her. They called her a hero. Here she is speaking in that video.   [EVELINA UPSHAW] I said, well, if I can do something to help those mothers, that they can go off to work feeling free, that the children are going to get a hot noon meal, then that was what I wanted to do. So that’s what I did for 33 years.   [ARSHY]  On her last day, one of her daughters, covered in protective equipment, climbed into bed with her. She was able to be there for her mother at the very end.    OUTRO [ARSHY]  For the last three years, Northwood has been asking the provincial government for money so that fewer people had to live in double or triple rooms.   [HENDERSON] The board of Governors was well aware of the potential for a flu outbreak or a pandemic because they had petitioned the provincial government three separate years for money to expand. They wanted to build a few stories higher, keep the same number of beds, but create more single rooms. And the… And the reason they asked for this money was because they wanted to prevent infection. The provincial government never said no. But they never said yes. And nothing got done for three years.   [ARSHY]  Premier Stephen McNeil has so far resisted the calls for a public inquiry. Some family members of the people who have died at Northwood are publicly blaming both the facility and the government. But we won’t know exactly who or what is to blame unless there are independent investigations. For now, Nova Scotians just want the deaths to stop.   [HENDERSON] I’m not sure what people want is to lay blame and finger-point. They want to fix the problem before the next wave of COVID hits. What we’ve seen, mostly, is praise and compassion for Northwood workers. You see that in the obituaries. You see that in terms of letters to the editor. In fact, people honk their horns as they pass by Northwood to support the workers. Donations of food and gifts continue to flow   [ARSHY]  People volunteering to speak with Northwood residents over the phone and keep them company has doubled. The local mosque has been donating meals to workers. Medical students have been signing up to help in the facility. After all the tragedies of the last two months, Nova Scotians are still finding ways to come together.   END CREDITS [ARSHY]  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 Jennifer Henderson and Tim Bousquet at the Halifax Examiner, Cassidy Chisolm, Taryn Grant, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke at CBC Nova Scotia, John McPhee and Jim Vibert at the Chronicle Herald, Global News and many others. Right now CBC Nova Scotia is putting together profiles of as many of the Northwood residents who have died as they can. I recommend you go give those a read.  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 additional production 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. Click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com 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. 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 Snowbirds’ pilot. And all the while, COVID-19 ravaged the biggest long-term care home in Atlantic Canada. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Jennifer Henderson (Halifax Examiner), Janice Keefe To learn more: “Nova Scotia’s lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic” by Taryn Grant, Cassidy Chisholm, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke in CBC Nova Scotia “The Northwood board has been expressing “grave concern” about double occupancy rooms for years” by Jennifer Henderson in the Halifax Examiner “Strang, union clash over COVID-19 concerns at Northwood” by John McPhee in The Chronicle Herald   This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar  Additional music from Audio Network “I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor” by Chris Zabriskie, adapted.   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 6 – “NORTHWOOD”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  One of the most difficult things about the last two months is that people can’t mourn collectively. If someone is dying of COVID-19, the whole family can’t gather around their bed and be with them. Funerals have been curtailed. Memorials are taking place mostly online. And when something truly awful happens, the kind of event that cuts right to the heart of a whole community, there’s little we can do. Nova Scotians have been experiencing that reality over and over again in the last two months. Like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia locked itself down on March 22 to stop the growth of coronavirus infections.   [JENNIFER HENDERSON] You start to think, “Can the news get any worse?”   [ARSHY]  That’s Jennifer Henderson, a freelance journalist who’s been covering the pandemic for the Halifax Examiner.    [HENDERSON] You know, you’re in the midst of a pandemic and there are people dying every day at one nursing home in your backyard, and people are worried, you know, about going to work. And then we have this mass shooting that you couldn’t even imagine in a very quiet, rural part of the province.   [NEWS CLIP 1, MALE] Nova Scotians this morning are in a state of shock as this quiet province comes to grips with the fact that it now owns the grim title of the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history.   [HENDERSON] You know, you see the “Nova Scotia Strong” everywhere. And, you know, sometimes I have to think, “Is that about the pandemic or is that about the mass murder?” We’ve been through a great deal in the last eight weeks.   [ARSHY]  The tragedies in Nova Scotia have just been piling up, one on top of the other. People haven’t even been given the chance to come to terms with one of them, before another hits. But they’ve been trying to find a way through. Tributes poured out online. People shared videos, made signs, wrote songs.  Abbigail Cowbrough was one of those people. Standing on the deck of the HMCS Fredericton, she played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Her performance was part of a video put together by the Nova Scotia Pipers’ Tribute to honour the victims of the shooting.  Five days later, on April 29th, Abbigail died. She and five Canadian Armed forces members were killed in a helicopter crash near Greece. Three of the victims, including Abigail, called Nova Scotia home. The province once again mourned.   On May 3rd, the Snowbirds launched Operation: Inspiration, a cross-country tour meant to boost morale amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They started off in Nova Scotia, first flying over Halifax to honour Abbigail and five others killed in the helicopter crash. And then they did it again, this time over Portapique.    [NEWS CLIP 2, FEMALE] A much-needed moral boost on this sunny Sunday. The fames aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, launched a coast-to-coast tour in our region today, something especially appreciated after two devastating tragedies.   [ARSHY]  Flying with them that day was Capt. Jenn Casey. Casey died on May 17th when a Snowbird jet crashed in Kamloops, B.C. And again, the province did their best to honour her life.    [NEWS CLIP 3, MALE] The body of Captain Jennifer Casey returned to Halifax, the city where her life began. Important for the people of Halifax, hundreds of whom lined the streets as the motorcade passed by the places that were significant to Casey. The home where she grew up, and the radio station where she worked before joining the armed forces.    [ARSHY]  The province’s grief has been undercut by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mourning has to be governed by strict rules for the public’s own protection. A community can come together in some ways, but only so far.  And while these shocking tragedies transpired, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept pace. It’s doesn’t feel as sudden as the others. Instead, it’s been unfolding relentlessly over months, taking the lives of 59 Nova Scotians.  Today Nova Scotia is the third-hardest hit province per capita. There have been around a dozen outbreaks at Nova Scotia long-term care homes. But almost all of those deaths, 51 people out of those 59 have taken place at a single facility: The Northwood Centre in Halifax. I’m Arshy Mann, and from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   PART ONE [NEWS CLIP 4, MALE] Our coverage begins tonight in Nova Scotia, where the province has recorded the Maritimes’ first death related to the virus.   [NEWS CLIP 5, MALE] Yesterday, we announced, uh, three residents at Northwood, uh, who had died of COVID-19. We unfortunately have to announce, uh, two more.    [NEWS CLIP 6, FEMALE] The individual who passed away was a resident at Northwood, and marks the tenth death in the province, and sixth at that facility.   [NEWS CLIP 7, MALE] Today I’m sad to say that we’ve lost two more of our seniors at Northwood.    [NEWS CLIP 8, FEMALE] Thirty-five people at the facility have now died of COVID.   [NEWS CLIP 9, MALE] Unfortunately, we have to report three additional deaths at Northwood. We now have 51 Nova Scotians who have died of COVID-19.   [NEWS CLIP 10, MALE] Today, we mourn another loss of an individual at Northwood. We now have 56 Nova Scotians who have died.   [ARSHY]  In some ways, the pandemic in Nova Scotia is playing out in much the same way as the rest of the country. Like the other provinces, the vast majority of deaths are related to long-term care. In Nova Scotia’s case, that number is 95 percent. But almost all of those people died at Northwood.   [HENDERSON] Northwood is the largest nursing home in Atlantic Canada. It’s really a campus. There are three main buildings. It’s right near the Macdonald Bridge, which crosses Halifax Harbor   [ARSHY]  Northwood is run by a non-profit with a long history in Halifax. Here’s Janet Simm, Northwood’s CEO, speaking in a recent video.   [JANET SIMM]  The organization first began as a social movement in response to the plight of seniors living alone in Halifax, a real community effort to make this organization come together and respond to those unmet needs.   [ARSHY]  In 1962, 285 people gathered at a school in the south end of Halifax to talk about the need for affordable housing for seniors. And, by the end of that meeting, Northwood was founded. Northwood Towers opened up five years later, offering cheap apartments for older Haligonians. Three years after that, they began to build Northwood Manor, which was for seniors who needed some assistance. And then in 1970, they started construction on Northwood Centre, which was a nursing home for people who needed more serious care.    [HENDERSON] It is a combination of a retirement-living community and a nursing home, as many places are these days.   [ARSHY]  And since then, Northwood has been very well-regarded in Nova Scotia.   [HENDERSON] The place has a terrific reputation in the community because it’s a home. They have a radio station.   [BOB MARKS] Good morning. This is NWBC, your Seniors Community Broadcasting Club, thanks to Northward Care Inc. Your host this morning, Bob Marks with my “Down Memory Lane” program. It’s time to have a little bit of a request in here. So, Bernice of Summerside, and a selection from 1942.   [HENDERSON] They have a radio station, they have a bar. They have a fitness center for people with dementia. It has a well-deserved reputation in the community. This is not a, uh, for-profit commercially run. This is a not-for-profit community board of governors, which did have the top rating from the accreditation agency prior to the pandemic.   [ARSHY]  Henderson says that everyday Nova Scotians haven’t been putting the blame on Northwood.    [HENDERSON] Imagine, despite the headlines and despite the knowledge that all these people have died, people are still publicly supporting Northwood. As I say, I’m struggling to think of a single negative letter that blamed Northwood.    [ARSHY]  Part of the reason why people aren’t blaming management is that Northwood has been pretty forthcoming about what’s been happening.   [HENDERSON] Northwood management has been more than transparent with the public. They’ve published a timeline. They’ve done daily information updates. They took worker’s temperatures beginning and end of every shift. So they seem to do all the things they could do. And yet this was still a nightmare.   [ARSHY]  So how is it that a facility that everyone agrees is one of the best ones out there could be the site of so much death? The first thing to understand is that, like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia has serious systemic problems with long-term care.   [HENDERSON] Well, prior to the pandemic, it was well-known that Northwood and every nursing home in Nova Scotia had chronic staff shortages. When people were sick, they simply worked short. This was documented by the expert panel. Numerous reports. It was a given.   [ARSHY]  That expert panel put out its findings in 2019, and the chair of it was Janice Keefe.   [JANICE KEEFE] My name’s Janice Keefe. I’m, uh, director of the Nova Scotia Center on Aging. I’m professor and chair of the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount St. Vincent University.   [ARSHY]  The panel was put together after a number of deaths due to neglect in Nova Scotia’s long-term care homes.   [KEEFE]  The impetus was, uh, bedsores. There were a number of residents in long-term care who actually died because of, uh, inappropriate care around bedsores.    [ARSHY]  And the broad takeaways would be familiar to anyone who’s been listening to this podcast.   [KEEFE]  What we basically found was that this was a sector that needed resources, that needed immediate attention. There were a lot of issues around staffing.   [ARSHY]  Staff were constantly working short-handed. And the long-term care sector was viewed as a much worse place to work than other parts of the healthcare system.    [KEEFE]  But for the main part, the staff themselves were really frustrated about not being able to do the best care that they should be doing, because they didn’t have enough time.   [ARSHY]  And as with other provinces, there are massive waitlists, especially because Nova Scotians tend to be older on average than the rest of the country.    [KEEFE]  When people from Ontario talk about, you know, when the population is going to hit, uh, 20 percent, uh, 65 and over, we’ve been dealing with that for over five years.    [ARSHY]  And the residents had increasingly complex health problems. Janice Keefe has seen that first-hand over the last thirty years.   [KEEFE]  So the biggest change… I will tell you, the biggest change is the residents. I worked in a municipality in Nova Scotia and the people going to the facilities would drive their cars. They lived in the nursing homes, but they… They went out to visit. They were mobile. They were not at the end of their life.    [ARSHY]  But these are problems across all long-term care homes. It still doesn’t answer why Northwood, in particular, has experienced such a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.   PART TWO It was March 15 when the first three Nova Scotians tested positive for COVID-19. Only a day later, Northwood barred all visitors to their facilities. But, as in the rest of Canada, the provincial government and the health authority, they weren’t talking about what would happen if the virus actually got into a long-term care facility.   [HENDERSON] My memory of those briefings with our chief medical officer of health and the premier, which happened daily at the beginning of the pandemic, was that all the focus was on the hospitals.   [ARSHY]  By the end of March, social distancing was put into effect across the province. And it wasn’t until early April that Northwood knew that virus was in the facility.   [HENDERSON] The first staff member to test positive for COVID at Northwood was April 5th. The first three residents followed on April 7th. The virus was brought into the Northwood Center building by workers who were asymptomatic and did not suspect they were ill.   [ARSHY]  The day after an employee tested positive, Northwood mandated that all staff had to wear a mask. That was actually two days before Canada’s chief public health officer recommended the same thing, and a full six days before the provincial government made it mandatory for all long-term care workers.   [HENDERSON] But according to the CEO of Northwood, in hindsight, the horse was already out of the barn, so to speak. Although they were ahead of both the provincial and federal guidelines with respect to wearing masks, it came too late to prevent the spread of infection at Northwood.   [ARSHY]  Over the next five days, more residents and staff members began to test positive. And workers who had previously been told to self-isolate were asked to return to Northwood if they tested negative. That was a mistake.   [HENDERSON] So, we know that in the period where people were becoming infected, that staff who were supposed to be out for 14 days, self isolating, were allowed to return to work because they needed them so desperately, if they tested negative. And then Northwood and the public health officials in Nova Scotia learned that you could test negative one day and positive the next.   [ARSHY]  Northwood had prepared a quarantine area for residents who tested positive. It could fit 20 people. But by April 15, just ten days after the first staff member tested positive, they had to open another area. And the virus continued to spread amongst the workers.    [HENDERSON] And you can see that because, by April 18th, they had so many staff who either wouldn’t come to work because they were afraid of getting sick, or they were self isolating because they had come in contact by providing direct care to one of these sick residents. They were told to stay home for 14 days.   [ARSHY]  Around 80 long-term care workers were off work, and the staffing levels were down to just 60 percent of what they normally would be. Then came the horrific weekend of April 18th and 19th. That was the same weekend a mass shooter killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia. At Northwood, residents began to die. Five people died of COVID-19 in just two days. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil held an emergency press conference that Sunday.   [STEPHEN MCNEIL] We weren’t scheduled to have a news conference today, but I felt the need to be here to provide you with an update on one of our long-term care facilities, Northwood, that’s dealing with an outbreak of COVID. I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia. This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history. There are a number of other families who are dealing with their own loss after–after their loved ones died of COVID, five people over the weekend who lived at Northwood. And I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, and my heart goes out to all of you.   [ARSHY]  That weekend, the province really began to act. The Halifax Infirmary COVID-19 unit was redeployed from their hospital to Northwood; additional workers were brought in from the Red Cross, Victorian Order of Nurses and Emergency Health Services; the province set up a hotel as an off-site ward for Northwood residents who recovered for COVID-19… But people kept dying. Six more residents died in three days. And the union representing Nova Scotia’s nurses said that workers who were brought in to help staff Northwood found a total lack of infection controls and not enough PPE. They said it was like “walking into a war zone.” Here’s NSGEU president Jason MacLean speaking to Global News.   [JASON MACLEAN]  Well, when they got to Northwood, there was no supplies for them. Uh, actually, even yesterday morning, they had… They were down to three gowns. A lot of residents up and walking around, both that are sick and those that are presumed sick. So they’re up and they’re–they’re–they’re trying to use the phone at–at the counter, and they’re touching everything that’s around there.   [HENDERSON] Now, Northwood officials said that these were nurses used to infection control in a hospital setting, and that simply wasn’t appropriate or possible in an old nursing home like Northwood; that, basically, it was apples and oranges.   [ARSHY]  And Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Robert Strang, blasted the union and essentially accused them of lying.   [ROBERT STRANG]  They’re using, frankly, fear, fear mongering and hyperbole in terms of the way they’re describing this situation. When we talk to frontline people who are in Northwood, they… What–what the NSGU is saying is actually inaccurate.   [ARSHY]  Over the next week, another twelve people died at Northwood. And during that time, the Nova Scotian government declined to increase the wages of front-line workers, like other provinces had been doing. Another 16 people died in the first week of May and infections amongst residents and staff continued to inch up. On May 8th, Nova Scotia finally agreed to give a pay bump to health care workers on the front lines. But it would only be a one-time payment of $2000. Since then, another 18 people have died at Northwood, bringing the total number up to 52 dead in the facility. It’s clear today that some mistakes were made, both by Northwood and the provincial government. Like long-term care facilities across Canada, workers were a major vector for transmitting the virus. Workers should have been wearing masks the minute we knew the virus was in Nova Scotia. And if they were exposed, they shouldn’t have been allowed to come back to work before the two-week quarantine was up, even if they tested negative.  Whether or not care workers had adequate PPE, and the facility had proper infection controls, hasn’t been determined yet. The nurses union said it was totally unacceptable, but Northwood and the health authority maintain that it was all up to par. But what’s not in dispute is that one of the biggest factors at play during the Northwood outbreak is the building itself.   [HENDERSON] So there’s general agreement that the reason Northwood was so hard hit by COVID was because the rooms were smaller than in newer nursing homes. And it spread like wildfire.   [ARSHY]  In Northwood Centre, where the most disabled residents lived, the rooms and bathrooms were often shared.    [HENDERSON] It’s more like… More like a hospital. And the rooms are small, like hospital rooms for that time, and most of them are shared. So they’re double occupancy and there’s room for about one chair for a visitor and one walker. And there’s curtains between those beds. People are not only sharing a bathroom, they’re sharing a tight space.  But of course, most of our residents have dementia and they don’t respect those boundaries. They’re in each other’s faces and in each other’s stuff and borrowing their false teeth. You know that… That’s what goes on.   [ARSHY]  It’s those lack of single-occupancy rooms that Northwood CEO Janet Simm also places most of the blame on.   [HENDERSON] I asked her at one briefing, you know, “What could have been done in your view to prevent the rapid spread?” And she mentioned the double rooms, getting rid of those, and if employees, in hindsight, had put the masks on sooner.   [ARSHY]  Before the current Liberal government, the last two Nova Scotian premiers did make improvements to long-term care facilities. In the late 2010s, Rodney MacDonald’s Progressive Conservatives opened long-term care beds across the province and even upgraded some older buildings. And after that, Darrell Dexter’s NDP government had eleven long-term care homes slated for upgrades. But since Stephen McNeil was elected in 2013, only one of those facilities has been replaced. And overall, funding for long-term care has gone down.   [HENDERSON] For the last seven years, there haven’t been any new nursing home beds opened under the current Liberal government.   [ARSHY]  When we talk about long-term care and this pandemic, the numbers can get overwhelming. And the actual people at the centre of this story risk becoming just empty statistics.  But we want to tell you about some of the actual people who died in Northwood, because their lives are important, too. Not just where they died or what killed them, we want to mourn some of them as best we can, especially now as this virus has changed how we can do that. Paul Sullivan worked as an insurance salesman. But he was the kind of guy whose clients quickly became his friends. He loved to build things, like hockey rinks in his backyard. And he stayed married to his wife Irenaeus for 60 years. He died in Northwood, without his family able to be by his side. Gerald Jackson’s family had known tragedy before. His father had survived the Halifax Explosion, but it killed 46 of his family members. He was a cook in the navy for two decades, and then spent some time at Sears and then working for a museum. He lived out west in Victoria since the 1970s, but when he developed dementia, his daughters brought him back to Nova Scotia. They were able to speak to him on an iPad one last time on the day he died in Northwood. Bunny Tanner’s children remember her as a strong and strict mother, in a good way. But she really came into her own as a grandmother. She’d survived a bout with lung cancer in 2019 and she loved her private room in Northwood. But her last days in there were terrifying. She’d call her daughter begging to be able to get out of the facility, to go anywhere else. But she died on May 1st. COVID-19 took Gena Hemsworth that same day. She was afraid of flying, but loved sports cars. And she worked as a secretary at the Halifax Regional Vocational School for thirty years, where she put her exceptionally fast typing abilities to use. When she was away from home, Gena would call her house so she could talk to her cats. She cared for her partner Neil Mosher through ALS, and she died at Northwood a little over a month after she’d arrived. Hilda Weber’s husband left her alone with three young children. But she worked multiple jobs to make sure they’d get by. When times were really bad, her children would split a can of soup, while she ate nothing. Derrick Carvey loved taking drives with his dad and going on boat cruises. And he was a big Michael Jackson fan. And because of his cerebral palsy, the doctors said he wouldn’t live past thirty. But at 37, he was still alive and at Northwood, where his 98-year-old grandmother also lived. They once did a fashion show together. But both of them came down with COVID-19. His grandmother fought off the virus, but Derrick died. His father was in the room with him. He played him Michael Jackson before his son’s breathing stopped.  Thelma Coward-Ince was the first black naval reservist in Canadian history. She eventually became secretary to the chief of staff to the admiral of the Canadian navy. And she did all of that while raising two kids on her own. One of them, Tony Ince, is today a cabinet minister in the Nova Scotian government. Tony was on his way to visit his mother again when he got the call. She had died just before he could arrive. And then there’s Evelina Upshaw. She ran a hot lunch program for over three decades in the North End of Halifax. A few years ago, some young people from her neighbourhood made a short documentary about her. They called her a hero. Here she is speaking in that video.   [EVELINA UPSHAW] I said, well, if I can do something to help those mothers, that they can go off to work feeling free, that the children are going to get a hot noon meal, then that was what I wanted to do. So that’s what I did for 33 years.   [ARSHY]  On her last day, one of her daughters, covered in protective equipment, climbed into bed with her. She was able to be there for her mother at the very end.    OUTRO [ARSHY]  For the last three years, Northwood has been asking the provincial government for money so that fewer people had to live in double or triple rooms.   [HENDERSON] The board of Governors was well aware of the potential for a flu outbreak or a pandemic because they had petitioned the provincial government three separate years for money to expand. They wanted to build a few stories higher, keep the same number of beds, but create more single rooms. And the… And the reason they asked for this money was because they wanted to prevent infection. The provincial government never said no. But they never said yes. And nothing got done for three years.   [ARSHY]  Premier Stephen McNeil has so far resisted the calls for a public inquiry. Some family members of the people who have died at Northwood are publicly blaming both the facility and the government. But we won’t know exactly who or what is to blame unless there are independent investigations. For now, Nova Scotians just want the deaths to stop.   [HENDERSON] I’m not sure what people want is to lay blame and finger-point. They want to fix the problem before the next wave of COVID hits. What we’ve seen, mostly, is praise and compassion for Northwood workers. You see that in the obituaries. You see that in terms of letters to the editor. In fact, people honk their horns as they pass by Northwood to support the workers. Donations of food and gifts continue to flow   [ARSHY]  People volunteering to speak with Northwood residents over the phone and keep them company has doubled. The local mosque has been donating meals to workers. Medical students have been signing up to help in the facility. After all the tragedies of the last two months, Nova Scotians are still finding ways to come together.   END CREDITS [ARSHY]  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 Jennifer Henderson and Tim Bousquet at the Halifax Examiner, Cassidy Chisolm, Taryn Grant, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke at CBC Nova Scotia, John McPhee and Jim Vibert at the Chronicle Herald, Global News and many others. Right now CBC Nova Scotia is putting together profiles of as many of the Northwood residents who have died as they can. I recommend you go give those a read.  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 additional production 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. Click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com 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. 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 Snowbirds’ pilot. And all the while, COVID-19 ravaged the biggest long-term care home in Atlantic Canada. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Jennifer Henderson (Halifax Examiner), Janice Keefe To learn more: “Nova Scotia’s lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic” by Taryn Grant, Cassidy Chisholm, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke in CBC Nova Scotia “The Northwood board has been expressing “grave concern” about double occupancy rooms for years” by Jennifer Henderson in the Halifax Examiner “Strang, union clash over COVID-19 concerns at Northwood” by John McPhee in The Chronicle Herald   This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar  Additional music from Audio Network “I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor” by Chris Zabriskie, adapted.   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 6 – “NORTHWOOD”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  One of the most difficult things about the last two months is that people can’t mourn collectively. If someone is dying of COVID-19, the whole family can’t gather around their bed and be with them. Funerals have been curtailed. Memorials are taking place mostly online. And when something truly awful happens, the kind of event that cuts right to the heart of a whole community, there’s little we can do. Nova Scotians have been experiencing that reality over and over again in the last two months. Like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia locked itself down on March 22 to stop the growth of coronavirus infections.   [JENNIFER HENDERSON] You start to think, “Can the news get any worse?”   [ARSHY]  That’s Jennifer Henderson, a freelance journalist who’s been covering the pandemic for the Halifax Examiner.    [HENDERSON] You know, you’re in the midst of a pandemic and there are people dying every day at one nursing home in your backyard, and people are worried, you know, about going to work. And then we have this mass shooting that you couldn’t even imagine in a very quiet, rural part of the province.   [NEWS CLIP 1, MALE] Nova Scotians this morning are in a state of shock as this quiet province comes to grips with the fact that it now owns the grim title of the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history.   [HENDERSON] You know, you see the “Nova Scotia Strong” everywhere. And, you know, sometimes I have to think, “Is that about the pandemic or is that about the mass murder?” We’ve been through a great deal in the last eight weeks.   [ARSHY]  The tragedies in Nova Scotia have just been piling up, one on top of the other. People haven’t even been given the chance to come to terms with one of them, before another hits. But they’ve been trying to find a way through. Tributes poured out online. People shared videos, made signs, wrote songs.  Abbigail Cowbrough was one of those people. Standing on the deck of the HMCS Fredericton, she played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Her performance was part of a video put together by the Nova Scotia Pipers’ Tribute to honour the victims of the shooting.  Five days later, on April 29th, Abbigail died. She and five Canadian Armed forces members were killed in a helicopter crash near Greece. Three of the victims, including Abigail, called Nova Scotia home. The province once again mourned.   On May 3rd, the Snowbirds launched Operation: Inspiration, a cross-country tour meant to boost morale amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They started off in Nova Scotia, first flying over Halifax to honour Abbigail and five others killed in the helicopter crash. And then they did it again, this time over Portapique.    [NEWS CLIP 2, FEMALE] A much-needed moral boost on this sunny Sunday. The fames aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, launched a coast-to-coast tour in our region today, something especially appreciated after two devastating tragedies.   [ARSHY]  Flying with them that day was Capt. Jenn Casey. Casey died on May 17th when a Snowbird jet crashed in Kamloops, B.C. And again, the province did their best to honour her life.    [NEWS CLIP 3, MALE] The body of Captain Jennifer Casey returned to Halifax, the city where her life began. Important for the people of Halifax, hundreds of whom lined the streets as the motorcade passed by the places that were significant to Casey. The home where she grew up, and the radio station where she worked before joining the armed forces.    [ARSHY]  The province’s grief has been undercut by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mourning has to be governed by strict rules for the public’s own protection. A community can come together in some ways, but only so far.  And while these shocking tragedies transpired, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept pace. It’s doesn’t feel as sudden as the others. Instead, it’s been unfolding relentlessly over months, taking the lives of 59 Nova Scotians.  Today Nova Scotia is the third-hardest hit province per capita. There have been around a dozen outbreaks at Nova Scotia long-term care homes. But almost all of those deaths, 51 people out of those 59 have taken place at a single facility: The Northwood Centre in Halifax. I’m Arshy Mann, and from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   PART ONE [NEWS CLIP 4, MALE] Our coverage begins tonight in Nova Scotia, where the province has recorded the Maritimes’ first death related to the virus.   [NEWS CLIP 5, MALE] Yesterday, we announced, uh, three residents at Northwood, uh, who had died of COVID-19. We unfortunately have to announce, uh, two more.    [NEWS CLIP 6, FEMALE] The individual who passed away was a resident at Northwood, and marks the tenth death in the province, and sixth at that facility.   [NEWS CLIP 7, MALE] Today I’m sad to say that we’ve lost two more of our seniors at Northwood.    [NEWS CLIP 8, FEMALE] Thirty-five people at the facility have now died of COVID.   [NEWS CLIP 9, MALE] Unfortunately, we have to report three additional deaths at Northwood. We now have 51 Nova Scotians who have died of COVID-19.   [NEWS CLIP 10, MALE] Today, we mourn another loss of an individual at Northwood. We now have 56 Nova Scotians who have died.   [ARSHY]  In some ways, the pandemic in Nova Scotia is playing out in much the same way as the rest of the country. Like the other provinces, the vast majority of deaths are related to long-term care. In Nova Scotia’s case, that number is 95 percent. But almost all of those people died at Northwood.   [HENDERSON] Northwood is the largest nursing home in Atlantic Canada. It’s really a campus. There are three main buildings. It’s right near the Macdonald Bridge, which crosses Halifax Harbor   [ARSHY]  Northwood is run by a non-profit with a long history in Halifax. Here’s Janet Simm, Northwood’s CEO, speaking in a recent video.   [JANET SIMM]  The organization first began as a social movement in response to the plight of seniors living alone in Halifax, a real community effort to make this organization come together and respond to those unmet needs.   [ARSHY]  In 1962, 285 people gathered at a school in the south end of Halifax to talk about the need for affordable housing for seniors. And, by the end of that meeting, Northwood was founded. Northwood Towers opened up five years later, offering cheap apartments for older Haligonians. Three years after that, they began to build Northwood Manor, which was for seniors who needed some assistance. And then in 1970, they started construction on Northwood Centre, which was a nursing home for people who needed more serious care.    [HENDERSON] It is a combination of a retirement-living community and a nursing home, as many places are these days.   [ARSHY]  And since then, Northwood has been very well-regarded in Nova Scotia.   [HENDERSON] The place has a terrific reputation in the community because it’s a home. They have a radio station.   [BOB MARKS] Good morning. This is NWBC, your Seniors Community Broadcasting Club, thanks to Northward Care Inc. Your host this morning, Bob Marks with my “Down Memory Lane” program. It’s time to have a little bit of a request in here. So, Bernice of Summerside, and a selection from 1942.   [HENDERSON] They have a radio station, they have a bar. They have a fitness center for people with dementia. It has a well-deserved reputation in the community. This is not a, uh, for-profit commercially run. This is a not-for-profit community board of governors, which did have the top rating from the accreditation agency prior to the pandemic.   [ARSHY]  Henderson says that everyday Nova Scotians haven’t been putting the blame on Northwood.    [HENDERSON] Imagine, despite the headlines and despite the knowledge that all these people have died, people are still publicly supporting Northwood. As I say, I’m struggling to think of a single negative letter that blamed Northwood.    [ARSHY]  Part of the reason why people aren’t blaming management is that Northwood has been pretty forthcoming about what’s been happening.   [HENDERSON] Northwood management has been more than transparent with the public. They’ve published a timeline. They’ve done daily information updates. They took worker’s temperatures beginning and end of every shift. So they seem to do all the things they could do. And yet this was still a nightmare.   [ARSHY]  So how is it that a facility that everyone agrees is one of the best ones out there could be the site of so much death? The first thing to understand is that, like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia has serious systemic problems with long-term care.   [HENDERSON] Well, prior to the pandemic, it was well-known that Northwood and every nursing home in Nova Scotia had chronic staff shortages. When people were sick, they simply worked short. This was documented by the expert panel. Numerous reports. It was a given.   [ARSHY]  That expert panel put out its findings in 2019, and the chair of it was Janice Keefe.   [JANICE KEEFE] My name’s Janice Keefe. I’m, uh, director of the Nova Scotia Center on Aging. I’m professor and chair of the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount St. Vincent University.   [ARSHY]  The panel was put together after a number of deaths due to neglect in Nova Scotia’s long-term care homes.   [KEEFE]  The impetus was, uh, bedsores. There were a number of residents in long-term care who actually died because of, uh, inappropriate care around bedsores.    [ARSHY]  And the broad takeaways would be familiar to anyone who’s been listening to this podcast.   [KEEFE]  What we basically found was that this was a sector that needed resources, that needed immediate attention. There were a lot of issues around staffing.   [ARSHY]  Staff were constantly working short-handed. And the long-term care sector was viewed as a much worse place to work than other parts of the healthcare system.    [KEEFE]  But for the main part, the staff themselves were really frustrated about not being able to do the best care that they should be doing, because they didn’t have enough time.   [ARSHY]  And as with other provinces, there are massive waitlists, especially because Nova Scotians tend to be older on average than the rest of the country.    [KEEFE]  When people from Ontario talk about, you know, when the population is going to hit, uh, 20 percent, uh, 65 and over, we’ve been dealing with that for over five years.    [ARSHY]  And the residents had increasingly complex health problems. Janice Keefe has seen that first-hand over the last thirty years.   [KEEFE]  So the biggest change… I will tell you, the biggest change is the residents. I worked in a municipality in Nova Scotia and the people going to the facilities would drive their cars. They lived in the nursing homes, but they… They went out to visit. They were mobile. They were not at the end of their life.    [ARSHY]  But these are problems across all long-term care homes. It still doesn’t answer why Northwood, in particular, has experienced such a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.   PART TWO It was March 15 when the first three Nova Scotians tested positive for COVID-19. Only a day later, Northwood barred all visitors to their facilities. But, as in the rest of Canada, the provincial government and the health authority, they weren’t talking about what would happen if the virus actually got into a long-term care facility.   [HENDERSON] My memory of those briefings with our chief medical officer of health and the premier, which happened daily at the beginning of the pandemic, was that all the focus was on the hospitals.   [ARSHY]  By the end of March, social distancing was put into effect across the province. And it wasn’t until early April that Northwood knew that virus was in the facility.   [HENDERSON] The first staff member to test positive for COVID at Northwood was April 5th. The first three residents followed on April 7th. The virus was brought into the Northwood Center building by workers who were asymptomatic and did not suspect they were ill.   [ARSHY]  The day after an employee tested positive, Northwood mandated that all staff had to wear a mask. That was actually two days before Canada’s chief public health officer recommended the same thing, and a full six days before the provincial government made it mandatory for all long-term care workers.   [HENDERSON] But according to the CEO of Northwood, in hindsight, the horse was already out of the barn, so to speak. Although they were ahead of both the provincial and federal guidelines with respect to wearing masks, it came too late to prevent the spread of infection at Northwood.   [ARSHY]  Over the next five days, more residents and staff members began to test positive. And workers who had previously been told to self-isolate were asked to return to Northwood if they tested negative. That was a mistake.   [HENDERSON] So, we know that in the period where people were becoming infected, that staff who were supposed to be out for 14 days, self isolating, were allowed to return to work because they needed them so desperately, if they tested negative. And then Northwood and the public health officials in Nova Scotia learned that you could test negative one day and positive the next.   [ARSHY]  Northwood had prepared a quarantine area for residents who tested positive. It could fit 20 people. But by April 15, just ten days after the first staff member tested positive, they had to open another area. And the virus continued to spread amongst the workers.    [HENDERSON] And you can see that because, by April 18th, they had so many staff who either wouldn’t come to work because they were afraid of getting sick, or they were self isolating because they had come in contact by providing direct care to one of these sick residents. They were told to stay home for 14 days.   [ARSHY]  Around 80 long-term care workers were off work, and the staffing levels were down to just 60 percent of what they normally would be. Then came the horrific weekend of April 18th and 19th. That was the same weekend a mass shooter killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia. At Northwood, residents began to die. Five people died of COVID-19 in just two days. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil held an emergency press conference that Sunday.   [STEPHEN MCNEIL] We weren’t scheduled to have a news conference today, but I felt the need to be here to provide you with an update on one of our long-term care facilities, Northwood, that’s dealing with an outbreak of COVID. I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia. This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history. There are a number of other families who are dealing with their own loss after–after their loved ones died of COVID, five people over the weekend who lived at Northwood. And I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, and my heart goes out to all of you.   [ARSHY]  That weekend, the province really began to act. The Halifax Infirmary COVID-19 unit was redeployed from their hospital to Northwood; additional workers were brought in from the Red Cross, Victorian Order of Nurses and Emergency Health Services; the province set up a hotel as an off-site ward for Northwood residents who recovered for COVID-19… But people kept dying. Six more residents died in three days. And the union representing Nova Scotia’s nurses said that workers who were brought in to help staff Northwood found a total lack of infection controls and not enough PPE. They said it was like “walking into a war zone.” Here’s NSGEU president Jason MacLean speaking to Global News.   [JASON MACLEAN]  Well, when they got to Northwood, there was no supplies for them. Uh, actually, even yesterday morning, they had… They were down to three gowns. A lot of residents up and walking around, both that are sick and those that are presumed sick. So they’re up and they’re–they’re–they’re trying to use the phone at–at the counter, and they’re touching everything that’s around there.   [HENDERSON] Now, Northwood officials said that these were nurses used to infection control in a hospital setting, and that simply wasn’t appropriate or possible in an old nursing home like Northwood; that, basically, it was apples and oranges.   [ARSHY]  And Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Robert Strang, blasted the union and essentially accused them of lying.   [ROBERT STRANG]  They’re using, frankly, fear, fear mongering and hyperbole in terms of the way they’re describing this situation. When we talk to frontline people who are in Northwood, they… What–what the NSGU is saying is actually inaccurate.   [ARSHY]  Over the next week, another twelve people died at Northwood. And during that time, the Nova Scotian government declined to increase the wages of front-line workers, like other provinces had been doing. Another 16 people died in the first week of May and infections amongst residents and staff continued to inch up. On May 8th, Nova Scotia finally agreed to give a pay bump to health care workers on the front lines. But it would only be a one-time payment of $2000. Since then, another 18 people have died at Northwood, bringing the total number up to 52 dead in the facility. It’s clear today that some mistakes were made, both by Northwood and the provincial government. Like long-term care facilities across Canada, workers were a major vector for transmitting the virus. Workers should have been wearing masks the minute we knew the virus was in Nova Scotia. And if they were exposed, they shouldn’t have been allowed to come back to work before the two-week quarantine was up, even if they tested negative.  Whether or not care workers had adequate PPE, and the facility had proper infection controls, hasn’t been determined yet. The nurses union said it was totally unacceptable, but Northwood and the health authority maintain that it was all up to par. But what’s not in dispute is that one of the biggest factors at play during the Northwood outbreak is the building itself.   [HENDERSON] So there’s general agreement that the reason Northwood was so hard hit by COVID was because the rooms were smaller than in newer nursing homes. And it spread like wildfire.   [ARSHY]  In Northwood Centre, where the most disabled residents lived, the rooms and bathrooms were often shared.    [HENDERSON] It’s more like… More like a hospital. And the rooms are small, like hospital rooms for that time, and most of them are shared. So they’re double occupancy and there’s room for about one chair for a visitor and one walker. And there’s curtains between those beds. People are not only sharing a bathroom, they’re sharing a tight space.  But of course, most of our residents have dementia and they don’t respect those boundaries. They’re in each other’s faces and in each other’s stuff and borrowing their false teeth. You know that… That’s what goes on.   [ARSHY]  It’s those lack of single-occupancy rooms that Northwood CEO Janet Simm also places most of the blame on.   [HENDERSON] I asked her at one briefing, you know, “What could have been done in your view to prevent the rapid spread?” And she mentioned the double rooms, getting rid of those, and if employees, in hindsight, had put the masks on sooner.   [ARSHY]  Before the current Liberal government, the last two Nova Scotian premiers did make improvements to long-term care facilities. In the late 2010s, Rodney MacDonald’s Progressive Conservatives opened long-term care beds across the province and even upgraded some older buildings. And after that, Darrell Dexter’s NDP government had eleven long-term care homes slated for upgrades. But since Stephen McNeil was elected in 2013, only one of those facilities has been replaced. And overall, funding for long-term care has gone down.   [HENDERSON] For the last seven years, there haven’t been any new nursing home beds opened under the current Liberal government.   [ARSHY]  When we talk about long-term care and this pandemic, the numbers can get overwhelming. And the actual people at the centre of this story risk becoming just empty statistics.  But we want to tell you about some of the actual people who died in Northwood, because their lives are important, too. Not just where they died or what killed them, we want to mourn some of them as best we can, especially now as this virus has changed how we can do that. Paul Sullivan worked as an insurance salesman. But he was the kind of guy whose clients quickly became his friends. He loved to build things, like hockey rinks in his backyard. And he stayed married to his wife Irenaeus for 60 years. He died in Northwood, without his family able to be by his side. Gerald Jackson’s family had known tragedy before. His father had survived the Halifax Explosion, but it killed 46 of his family members. He was a cook in the navy for two decades, and then spent some time at Sears and then working for a museum. He lived out west in Victoria since the 1970s, but when he developed dementia, his daughters brought him back to Nova Scotia. They were able to speak to him on an iPad one last time on the day he died in Northwood. Bunny Tanner’s children remember her as a strong and strict mother, in a good way. But she really came into her own as a grandmother. She’d survived a bout with lung cancer in 2019 and she loved her private room in Northwood. But her last days in there were terrifying. She’d call her daughter begging to be able to get out of the facility, to go anywhere else. But she died on May 1st. COVID-19 took Gena Hemsworth that same day. She was afraid of flying, but loved sports cars. And she worked as a secretary at the Halifax Regional Vocational School for thirty years, where she put her exceptionally fast typing abilities to use. When she was away from home, Gena would call her house so she could talk to her cats. She cared for her partner Neil Mosher through ALS, and she died at Northwood a little over a month after she’d arrived. Hilda Weber’s husband left her alone with three young children. But she worked multiple jobs to make sure they’d get by. When times were really bad, her children would split a can of soup, while she ate nothing. Derrick Carvey loved taking drives with his dad and going on boat cruises. And he was a big Michael Jackson fan. And because of his cerebral palsy, the doctors said he wouldn’t live past thirty. But at 37, he was still alive and at Northwood, where his 98-year-old grandmother also lived. They once did a fashion show together. But both of them came down with COVID-19. His grandmother fought off the virus, but Derrick died. His father was in the room with him. He played him Michael Jackson before his son’s breathing stopped.  Thelma Coward-Ince was the first black naval reservist in Canadian history. She eventually became secretary to the chief of staff to the admiral of the Canadian navy. And she did all of that while raising two kids on her own. One of them, Tony Ince, is today a cabinet minister in the Nova Scotian government. Tony was on his way to visit his mother again when he got the call. She had died just before he could arrive. And then there’s Evelina Upshaw. She ran a hot lunch program for over three decades in the North End of Halifax. A few years ago, some young people from her neighbourhood made a short documentary about her. They called her a hero. Here she is speaking in that video.   [EVELINA UPSHAW] I said, well, if I can do something to help those mothers, that they can go off to work feeling free, that the children are going to get a hot noon meal, then that was what I wanted to do. So that’s what I did for 33 years.   [ARSHY]  On her last day, one of her daughters, covered in protective equipment, climbed into bed with her. She was able to be there for her mother at the very end.    OUTRO [ARSHY]  For the last three years, Northwood has been asking the provincial government for money so that fewer people had to live in double or triple rooms.   [HENDERSON] The board of Governors was well aware of the potential for a flu outbreak or a pandemic because they had petitioned the provincial government three separate years for money to expand. They wanted to build a few stories higher, keep the same number of beds, but create more single rooms. And the… And the reason they asked for this money was because they wanted to prevent infection. The provincial government never said no. But they never said yes. And nothing got done for three years.   [ARSHY]  Premier Stephen McNeil has so far resisted the calls for a public inquiry. Some family members of the people who have died at Northwood are publicly blaming both the facility and the government. But we won’t know exactly who or what is to blame unless there are independent investigations. For now, Nova Scotians just want the deaths to stop.   [HENDERSON] I’m not sure what people want is to lay blame and finger-point. They want to fix the problem before the next wave of COVID hits. What we’ve seen, mostly, is praise and compassion for Northwood workers. You see that in the obituaries. You see that in terms of letters to the editor. In fact, people honk their horns as they pass by Northwood to support the workers. Donations of food and gifts continue to flow   [ARSHY]  People volunteering to speak with Northwood residents over the phone and keep them company has doubled. The local mosque has been donating meals to workers. Medical students have been signing up to help in the facility. After all the tragedies of the last two months, Nova Scotians are still finding ways to come together.   END CREDITS [ARSHY]  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 Jennifer Henderson and Tim Bousquet at the Halifax Examiner, Cassidy Chisolm, Taryn Grant, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke at CBC Nova Scotia, John McPhee and Jim Vibert at the Chronicle Herald, Global News and many others. Right now CBC Nova Scotia is putting together profiles of as many of the Northwood residents who have died as they can. I recommend you go give those a read.  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 additional production 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. Click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com 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. 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 Snowbirds’ pilot. And all the while, COVID-19 ravaged the biggest long-term care home in Atlantic Canada. COMMONS: Pandemic is currently focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting long-term care in Canada.   Featured in this episode: Jennifer Henderson (Halifax Examiner), Janice Keefe To learn more: “Nova Scotia’s lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic” by Taryn Grant, Cassidy Chisholm, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke in CBC Nova Scotia “The Northwood board has been expressing “grave concern” about double occupancy rooms for years” by Jennifer Henderson in the Halifax Examiner “Strang, union clash over COVID-19 concerns at Northwood” by John McPhee in The Chronicle Herald   This episode is sponsored by Wealthbar  Additional music from Audio Network “I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor” by Chris Zabriskie, adapted.   TRANSCRIPT:   EPISODE 6 – “NORTHWOOD”   COLD OPEN [ARSHY MANN]  One of the most difficult things about the last two months is that people can’t mourn collectively. If someone is dying of COVID-19, the whole family can’t gather around their bed and be with them. Funerals have been curtailed. Memorials are taking place mostly online. And when something truly awful happens, the kind of event that cuts right to the heart of a whole community, there’s little we can do. Nova Scotians have been experiencing that reality over and over again in the last two months. Like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia locked itself down on March 22 to stop the growth of coronavirus infections.   [JENNIFER HENDERSON] You start to think, “Can the news get any worse?”   [ARSHY]  That’s Jennifer Henderson, a freelance journalist who’s been covering the pandemic for the Halifax Examiner.    [HENDERSON] You know, you’re in the midst of a pandemic and there are people dying every day at one nursing home in your backyard, and people are worried, you know, about going to work. And then we have this mass shooting that you couldn’t even imagine in a very quiet, rural part of the province.   [NEWS CLIP 1, MALE] Nova Scotians this morning are in a state of shock as this quiet province comes to grips with the fact that it now owns the grim title of the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history.   [HENDERSON] You know, you see the “Nova Scotia Strong” everywhere. And, you know, sometimes I have to think, “Is that about the pandemic or is that about the mass murder?” We’ve been through a great deal in the last eight weeks.   [ARSHY]  The tragedies in Nova Scotia have just been piling up, one on top of the other. People haven’t even been given the chance to come to terms with one of them, before another hits. But they’ve been trying to find a way through. Tributes poured out online. People shared videos, made signs, wrote songs.  Abbigail Cowbrough was one of those people. Standing on the deck of the HMCS Fredericton, she played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Her performance was part of a video put together by the Nova Scotia Pipers’ Tribute to honour the victims of the shooting.  Five days later, on April 29th, Abbigail died. She and five Canadian Armed forces members were killed in a helicopter crash near Greece. Three of the victims, including Abigail, called Nova Scotia home. The province once again mourned.   On May 3rd, the Snowbirds launched Operation: Inspiration, a cross-country tour meant to boost morale amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They started off in Nova Scotia, first flying over Halifax to honour Abbigail and five others killed in the helicopter crash. And then they did it again, this time over Portapique.    [NEWS CLIP 2, FEMALE] A much-needed moral boost on this sunny Sunday. The fames aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, launched a coast-to-coast tour in our region today, something especially appreciated after two devastating tragedies.   [ARSHY]  Flying with them that day was Capt. Jenn Casey. Casey died on May 17th when a Snowbird jet crashed in Kamloops, B.C. And again, the province did their best to honour her life.    [NEWS CLIP 3, MALE] The body of Captain Jennifer Casey returned to Halifax, the city where her life began. Important for the people of Halifax, hundreds of whom lined the streets as the motorcade passed by the places that were significant to Casey. The home where she grew up, and the radio station where she worked before joining the armed forces.    [ARSHY]  The province’s grief has been undercut by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mourning has to be governed by strict rules for the public’s own protection. A community can come together in some ways, but only so far.  And while these shocking tragedies transpired, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept pace. It’s doesn’t feel as sudden as the others. Instead, it’s been unfolding relentlessly over months, taking the lives of 59 Nova Scotians.  Today Nova Scotia is the third-hardest hit province per capita. There have been around a dozen outbreaks at Nova Scotia long-term care homes. But almost all of those deaths, 51 people out of those 59 have taken place at a single facility: The Northwood Centre in Halifax. I’m Arshy Mann, and from CANADALAND, this is Commons.   PART ONE [NEWS CLIP 4, MALE] Our coverage begins tonight in Nova Scotia, where the province has recorded the Maritimes’ first death related to the virus.   [NEWS CLIP 5, MALE] Yesterday, we announced, uh, three residents at Northwood, uh, who had died of COVID-19. We unfortunately have to announce, uh, two more.    [NEWS CLIP 6, FEMALE] The individual who passed away was a resident at Northwood, and marks the tenth death in the province, and sixth at that facility.   [NEWS CLIP 7, MALE] Today I’m sad to say that we’ve lost two more of our seniors at Northwood.    [NEWS CLIP 8, FEMALE] Thirty-five people at the facility have now died of COVID.   [NEWS CLIP 9, MALE] Unfortunately, we have to report three additional deaths at Northwood. We now have 51 Nova Scotians who have died of COVID-19.   [NEWS CLIP 10, MALE] Today, we mourn another loss of an individual at Northwood. We now have 56 Nova Scotians who have died.   [ARSHY]  In some ways, the pandemic in Nova Scotia is playing out in much the same way as the rest of the country. Like the other provinces, the vast majority of deaths are related to long-term care. In Nova Scotia’s case, that number is 95 percent. But almost all of those people died at Northwood.   [HENDERSON] Northwood is the largest nursing home in Atlantic Canada. It’s really a campus. There are three main buildings. It’s right near the Macdonald Bridge, which crosses Halifax Harbor   [ARSHY]  Northwood is run by a non-profit with a long history in Halifax. Here’s Janet Simm, Northwood’s CEO, speaking in a recent video.   [JANET SIMM]  The organization first began as a social movement in response to the plight of seniors living alone in Halifax, a real community effort to make this organization come together and respond to those unmet needs.   [ARSHY]  In 1962, 285 people gathered at a school in the south end of Halifax to talk about the need for affordable housing for seniors. And, by the end of that meeting, Northwood was founded. Northwood Towers opened up five years later, offering cheap apartments for older Haligonians. Three years after that, they began to build Northwood Manor, which was for seniors who needed some assistance. And then in 1970, they started construction on Northwood Centre, which was a nursing home for people who needed more serious care.    [HENDERSON] It is a combination of a retirement-living community and a nursing home, as many places are these days.   [ARSHY]  And since then, Northwood has been very well-regarded in Nova Scotia.   [HENDERSON] The place has a terrific reputation in the community because it’s a home. They have a radio station.   [BOB MARKS] Good morning. This is NWBC, your Seniors Community Broadcasting Club, thanks to Northward Care Inc. Your host this morning, Bob Marks with my “Down Memory Lane” program. It’s time to have a little bit of a request in here. So, Bernice of Summerside, and a selection from 1942.   [HENDERSON] They have a radio station, they have a bar. They have a fitness center for people with dementia. It has a well-deserved reputation in the community. This is not a, uh, for-profit commercially run. This is a not-for-profit community board of governors, which did have the top rating from the accreditation agency prior to the pandemic.   [ARSHY]  Henderson says that everyday Nova Scotians haven’t been putting the blame on Northwood.    [HENDERSON] Imagine, despite the headlines and despite the knowledge that all these people have died, people are still publicly supporting Northwood. As I say, I’m struggling to think of a single negative letter that blamed Northwood.    [ARSHY]  Part of the reason why people aren’t blaming management is that Northwood has been pretty forthcoming about what’s been happening.   [HENDERSON] Northwood management has been more than transparent with the public. They’ve published a timeline. They’ve done daily information updates. They took worker’s temperatures beginning and end of every shift. So they seem to do all the things they could do. And yet this was still a nightmare.   [ARSHY]  So how is it that a facility that everyone agrees is one of the best ones out there could be the site of so much death? The first thing to understand is that, like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia has serious systemic problems with long-term care.   [HENDERSON] Well, prior to the pandemic, it was well-known that Northwood and every nursing home in Nova Scotia had chronic staff shortages. When people were sick, they simply worked short. This was documented by the expert panel. Numerous reports. It was a given.   [ARSHY]  That expert panel put out its findings in 2019, and the chair of it was Janice Keefe.   [JANICE KEEFE] My name’s Janice Keefe. I’m, uh, director of the Nova Scotia Center on Aging. I’m professor and chair of the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount St. Vincent University.   [ARSHY]  The panel was put together after a number of deaths due to neglect in Nova Scotia’s long-term care homes.   [KEEFE]  The impetus was, uh, bedsores. There were a number of residents in long-term care who actually died because of, uh, inappropriate care around bedsores.    [ARSHY]  And the broad takeaways would be familiar to anyone who’s been listening to this podcast.   [KEEFE]  What we basically found was that this was a sector that needed resources, that needed immediate attention. There were a lot of issues around staffing.   [ARSHY]  Staff were constantly working short-handed. And the long-term care sector was viewed as a much worse place to work than other parts of the healthcare system.    [KEEFE]  But for the main part, the staff themselves were really frustrated about not being able to do the best care that they should be doing, because they didn’t have enough time.   [ARSHY]  And as with other provinces, there are massive waitlists, especially because Nova Scotians tend to be older on average than the rest of the country.    [KEEFE]  When people from Ontario talk about, you know, when the population is going to hit, uh, 20 percent, uh, 65 and over, we’ve been dealing with that for over five years.    [ARSHY]  And the residents had increasingly complex health problems. Janice Keefe has seen that first-hand over the last thirty years.   [KEEFE]  So the biggest change… I will tell you, the biggest change is the residents. I worked in a municipality in Nova Scotia and the people going to the facilities would drive their cars. They lived in the nursing homes, but they… They went out to visit. They were mobile. They were not at the end of their life.    [ARSHY]  But these are problems across all long-term care homes. It still doesn’t answer why Northwood, in particular, has experienced such a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.   PART TWO It was March 15 when the first three Nova Scotians tested positive for COVID-19. Only a day later, Northwood barred all visitors to their facilities. But, as in the rest of Canada, the provincial government and the health authority, they weren’t talking about what would happen if the virus actually got into a long-term care facility.   [HENDERSON] My memory of those briefings with our chief medical officer of health and the premier, which happened daily at the beginning of the pandemic, was that all the focus was on the hospitals.   [ARSHY]  By the end of March, social distancing was put into effect across the province. And it wasn’t until early April that Northwood knew that virus was in the facility.   [HENDERSON] The first staff member to test positive for COVID at Northwood was April 5th. The first three residents followed on April 7th. The virus was brought into the Northwood Center building by workers who were asymptomatic and did not suspect they were ill.   [ARSHY]  The day after an employee tested positive, Northwood mandated that all staff had to wear a mask. That was actually two days before Canada’s chief public health officer recommended the same thing, and a full six days before the provincial government made it mandatory for all long-term care workers.   [HENDERSON] But according to the CEO of Northwood, in hindsight, the horse was already out of the barn, so to speak. Although they were ahead of both the provincial and federal guidelines with respect to wearing masks, it came too late to prevent the spread of infection at Northwood.   [ARSHY]  Over the next five days, more residents and staff members began to test positive. And workers who had previously been told to self-isolate were asked to return to Northwood if they tested negative. That was a mistake.   [HENDERSON] So, we know that in the period where people were becoming infected, that staff who were supposed to be out for 14 days, self isolating, were allowed to return to work because they needed them so desperately, if they tested negative. And then Northwood and the public health officials in Nova Scotia learned that you could test negative one day and positive the next.   [ARSHY]  Northwood had prepared a quarantine area for residents who tested positive. It could fit 20 people. But by April 15, just ten days after the first staff member tested positive, they had to open another area. And the virus continued to spread amongst the workers.    [HENDERSON] And you can see that because, by April 18th, they had so many staff who either wouldn’t come to work because they were afraid of getting sick, or they were self isolating because they had come in contact by providing direct care to one of these sick residents. They were told to stay home for 14 days.   [ARSHY]  Around 80 long-term care workers were off work, and the staffing levels were down to just 60 percent of what they normally would be. Then came the horrific weekend of April 18th and 19th. That was the same weekend a mass shooter killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia. At Northwood, residents began to die. Five people died of COVID-19 in just two days. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil held an emergency press conference that Sunday.   [STEPHEN MCNEIL] We weren’t scheduled to have a news conference today, but I felt the need to be here to provide you with an update on one of our long-term care facilities, Northwood, that’s dealing with an outbreak of COVID. I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia. This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history. There are a number of other families who are dealing with their own loss after–after their loved ones died of COVID, five people over the weekend who lived at Northwood. And I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, and my heart goes out to all of you.   [ARSHY]  That weekend, the province really began to act. The Halifax Infirmary COVID-19 unit was redeployed from their hospital to Northwood; additional workers were brought in from the Red Cross, Victorian Order of Nurses and Emergency Health Services; the province set up a hotel as an off-site ward for Northwood residents who recovered for COVID-19… But people kept dying. Six more residents died in three days. And the union representing Nova Scotia’s nurses said that workers who were brought in to help staff Northwood found a total lack of infection controls and not enough PPE. They said it was like “walking into a war zone.” Here’s NSGEU president Jason MacLean speaking to Global News.   [JASON MACLEAN]  Well, when they got to Northwood, there was no supplies for them. Uh, actually, even yesterday morning, they had… They were down to three gowns. A lot of residents up and walking around, both that are sick and those that are presumed sick. So they’re up and they’re–they’re–they’re trying to use the phone at–at the counter, and they’re touching everything that’s around there.   [HENDERSON] Now, Northwood officials said that these were nurses used to infection control in a hospital setting, and that simply wasn’t appropriate or possible in an old nursing home like Northwood; that, basically, it was apples and oranges.   [ARSHY]  And Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Robert Strang, blasted the union and essentially accused them of lying.   [ROBERT STRANG]  They’re using, frankly, fear, fear mongering and hyperbole in terms of the way they’re describing this situation. When we talk to frontline people who are in Northwood, they… What–what the NSGU is saying is actually inaccurate.   [ARSHY]  Over the next week, another twelve people died at Northwood. And during that time, the Nova Scotian government declined to increase the wages of front-line workers, like other provinces had been doing. Another 16 people died in the first week of May and infections amongst residents and staff continued to inch up. On May 8th, Nova Scotia finally agreed to give a pay bump to health care workers on the front lines. But it would only be a one-time payment of $2000. Since then, another 18 people have died at Northwood, bringing the total number up to 52 dead in the facility. It’s clear today that some mistakes were made, both by Northwood and the provincial government. Like long-term care facilities across Canada, workers were a major vector for transmitting the virus. Workers should have been wearing masks the minute we knew the virus was in Nova Scotia. And if they were exposed, they shouldn’t have been allowed to come back to work before the two-week quarantine was up, even if they tested negative.  Whether or not care workers had adequate PPE, and the facility had proper infection controls, hasn’t been determined yet. The nurses union said it was totally unacceptable, but Northwood and the health authority maintain that it was all up to par. But what’s not in dispute is that one of the biggest factors at play during the Northwood outbreak is the building itself.   [HENDERSON] So there’s general agreement that the reason Northwood was so hard hit by COVID was because the rooms were smaller than in newer nursing homes. And it spread like wildfire.   [ARSHY]  In Northwood Centre, where the most disabled residents lived, the rooms and bathrooms were often shared.    [HENDERSON] It’s more like… More like a hospital. And the rooms are small, like hospital rooms for that time, and most of them are shared. So they’re double occupancy and there’s room for about one chair for a visitor and one walker. And there’s curtains between those beds. People are not only sharing a bathroom, they’re sharing a tight space.  But of course, most of our residents have dementia and they don’t respect those boundaries. They’re in each other’s faces and in each other’s stuff and borrowing their false teeth. You know that… That’s what goes on.   [ARSHY]  It’s those lack of single-occupancy rooms that Northwood CEO Janet Simm also places most of the blame on.   [HENDERSON] I asked her at one briefing, you know, “What could have been done in your view to prevent the rapid spread?” And she mentioned the double rooms, getting rid of those, and if employees, in hindsight, had put the masks on sooner.   [ARSHY]  Before the current Liberal government, the last two Nova Scotian premiers did make improvements to long-term care facilities. In the late 2010s, Rodney MacDonald’s Progressive Conservatives opened long-term care beds across the province and even upgraded some older buildings. And after that, Darrell Dexter’s NDP government had eleven long-term care homes slated for upgrades. But since Stephen McNeil was elected in 2013, only one of those facilities has been replaced. And overall, funding for long-term care has gone down.   [HENDERSON] For the last seven years, there haven’t been any new nursing home beds opened under the current Liberal government.   [ARSHY]  When we talk about long-term care and this pandemic, the numbers can get overwhelming. And the actual people at the centre of this story risk becoming just empty statistics.  But we want to tell you about some of the actual people who died in Northwood, because their lives are important, too. Not just where they died or what killed them, we want to mourn some of them as best we can, especially now as this virus has changed how we can do that. Paul Sullivan worked as an insurance salesman. But he was the kind of guy whose clients quickly became his friends. He loved to build things, like hockey rinks in his backyard. And he stayed married to his wife Irenaeus for 60 years. He died in Northwood, without his family able to be by his side. Gerald Jackson’s family had known tragedy before. His father had survived the Halifax Explosion, but it killed 46 of his family members. He was a cook in the navy for two decades, and then spent some time at Sears and then working for a museum. He lived out west in Victoria since the 1970s, but when he developed dementia, his daughters brought him back to Nova Scotia. They were able to speak to him on an iPad one last time on the day he died in Northwood. Bunny Tanner’s children remember her as a strong and strict mother, in a good way. But she really came into her own as a grandmother. She’d survived a bout with lung cancer in 2019 and she loved her private room in Northwood. But her last days in there were terrifying. She’d call her daughter begging to be able to get out of the facility, to go anywhere else. But she died on May 1st. COVID-19 took Gena Hemsworth that same day. She was afraid of flying, but loved sports cars. And she worked as a secretary at the Halifax Regional Vocational School for thirty years, where she put her exceptionally fast typing abilities to use. When she was away from home, Gena would call her house so she could talk to her cats. She cared for her partner Neil Mosher through ALS, and she died at Northwood a little over a month after she’d arrived. Hilda Weber’s husband left her alone with three young children. But she worked multiple jobs to make sure they’d get by. When times were really bad, her children would split a can of soup, while she ate nothing. Derrick Carvey loved taking drives with his dad and going on boat cruises. And he was a big Michael Jackson fan. And because of his cerebral palsy, the doctors said he wouldn’t live past thirty. But at 37, he was still alive and at Northwood, where his 98-year-old grandmother also lived. They once did a fashion show together. But both of them came down with COVID-19. His grandmother fought off the virus, but Derrick died. His father was in the room with him. He played him Michael Jackson before his son’s breathing stopped.  Thelma Coward-Ince was the first black naval reservist in Canadian history. She eventually became secretary to the chief of staff to the admiral of the Canadian navy. And she did all of that while raising two kids on her own. One of them, Tony Ince, is today a cabinet minister in the Nova Scotian government. Tony was on his way to visit his mother again when he got the call. She had died just before he could arrive. And then there’s Evelina Upshaw. She ran a hot lunch program for over three decades in the North End of Halifax. A few years ago, some young people from her neighbourhood made a short documentary about her. They called her a hero. Here she is speaking in that video.   [EVELINA UPSHAW] I said, well, if I can do something to help those mothers, that they can go off to work feeling free, that the children are going to get a hot noon meal, then that was what I wanted to do. So that’s what I did for 33 years.   [ARSHY]  On her last day, one of her daughters, covered in protective equipment, climbed into bed with her. She was able to be there for her mother at the very end.    OUTRO [ARSHY]  For the last three years, Northwood has been asking the provincial government for money so that fewer people had to live in double or triple rooms.   [HENDERSON] The board of Governors was well aware of the potential for a flu outbreak or a pandemic because they had petitioned the provincial government three separate years for money to expand. They wanted to build a few stories higher, keep the same number of beds, but create more single rooms. And the… And the reason they asked for this money was because they wanted to prevent infection. The provincial government never said no. But they never said yes. And nothing got done for three years.   [ARSHY]  Premier Stephen McNeil has so far resisted the calls for a public inquiry. Some family members of the people who have died at Northwood are publicly blaming both the facility and the government. But we won’t know exactly who or what is to blame unless there are independent investigations. For now, Nova Scotians just want the deaths to stop.   [HENDERSON] I’m not sure what people want is to lay blame and finger-point. They want to fix the problem before the next wave of COVID hits. What we’ve seen, mostly, is praise and compassion for Northwood workers. You see that in the obituaries. You see that in terms of letters to the editor. In fact, people honk their horns as they pass by Northwood to support the workers. Donations of food and gifts continue to flow   [ARSHY]  People volunteering to speak with Northwood residents over the phone and keep them company has doubled. The local mosque has been donating meals to workers. Medical students have been signing up to help in the facility. After all the tragedies of the last two months, Nova Scotians are still finding ways to come together.   END CREDITS [ARSHY]  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 Jennifer Henderson and Tim Bousquet at the Halifax Examiner, Cassidy Chisolm, Taryn Grant, Elizabeth Chiu and Alex Cooke at CBC Nova Scotia, John McPhee and Jim Vibert at the Chronicle Herald, Global News and many others. Right now CBC Nova Scotia is putting together profiles of as many of the Northwood residents who have died as they can. I recommend you go give those a read.  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 additional production 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. Click on the link in your show notes or go to commonspodcast.com 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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