Some residents in Manitoba personal care homes have been assaulted, threatened and injured by staff, yet a government oversight body deemed them to be unfounded cases of abuse, the province’s auditor general said Wednesday.
“I am deeply concerned by our findings and recognize the painful experiences the victims and families went through,” Tyson Shtykalo wrote in his 41-page report on the Protection for Persons in Care Office, a section of the health department charged with investigating abuse complaints.
In one case, the report said, a health-care aide at a personal care home kicked a resident in the shin and the wound continued to bleed after being cleansed. The office did not deem it a case of abuse as the person did not remember it happening and recovered fully.
In another case, the report said, a health-care aide hit someone with severe dementia in the face with the remote control for a transfer lift. The health-care aide then lowered the transfer lift onto the resident’s abdomen. They sustained injuries to their face, as well as bruising and swelling on their abdomen and shoulders.
The police were called and assault charges were laid against the health-care aide, the report said, and an investigator with the office deemed it a case of abuse. But a more senior director made the investigator change their finding to “unfounded,” the report said.
Manitoba Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the findings were disturbing.
“What the report revealed, specifically as it relates to abuse of (the) elderly, is sickening and repulsive,” said Goertzen, who is also the house leader for the governing Progressive Conservatives.
Goertzen said the province will respond by eliminating the office and replacing it with an independent body that will report directly to the legislature instead of a government department. The new body is also to face questions regularly at legislature committee hearings that are open to the public, he added.
As well, the government has appointed a lawyer to start a deeper examination of past files, including a lengthy backlog that the auditor general said caused some investigations to start three years after an alleged case of abuse.
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Opposition politicians said concerns about abuse in personal care homes have been building for years. Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont called for a public inquiry.
“There does need to be accountability to find out exactly how it is that the (office) could get away with doing this for so long,” Lamont said.
The government said it has already taken some action. Earlier this year, it passed a law to change the definition of abuse at health facilities.
The auditor general report said a major problem is that the office has used a very high threshold to acknowledge a report of abuse as founded.
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In April, changes were made to the leadership at the office, including a new director and executive director.
The auditor general also released a report Wednesday that said there has been a shortage of addiction treatment services in Manitoba, especially in rural and northern areas.
People are facing long waits to get treatment, records are still largely paper-based and services are decentralized with little overall planning, the report said.
“Addiction treatment must be part of an ongoing continuum of care that supports recovery,” Shtykalo wrote. “This audit found that the continuum of care in Manitoba is lacking coordination.”
The audit covered a period that ended in June of last year. The government said it has taken action since then, adding treatment beds and supportive housing for recovery.
There were 400 confirmed substance-related deaths in Manitoba in 2021, the report found, compared to 335 and 151 respectively in the two previous years.
The report also called for new standards to be set for addiction treatment facilities.
The government proposed standards in a bill earlier this year, but the Opposition New Democrats prevented it from passing into law.
The NDP said the bill would have created red tape and roadblocks for treatment services, including supervised consumption sites.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 26, 2023.
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