EDITORIAL: We must do better than this

COVID-19 is sucking all the air out of the room. Tragically it also seems to have poisoned our intelligence and turned otherwise smart and decent people into unthinking, unfeeling brutes.

Last week despite multiple warnings, cautions and even demands to engage in social distancing and certainly not to gather in groups of more than five, Trinity-Bellwoods Park in downtown Toronto was filled with summer sun-worshippers as though it were just another day in late May. Gone were the fears of spreading or acquiring this dreaded disease. One would have hoped if people didn’t care about themselves surely they have elderly parents, cousins, aunts and uncles; have we become so callous that causing the potential deaths of those we love has become meaningless?

However, sadly it gets worse. Covid-19 has torn open the ugliness of care in many of our long-term care facilities most especially in Ontario and Quebec. In these provinces by provincial request, 1,650 Canadian military troops were sent to LTC facilities that were worst hit. The report from the military as to what it found boggles the mind:

• “a culture of fear to use supplies because they cost money, expired medication, in some cases military personnel noted aggressive behaviour believed by observers to be abusive”

• “Poor nutritional status due to underfeeding”

• “Cockroaches and flies” were observed as well as residents “left in beds soiled in diapers”

• Inadequate oxygen and inaccessible wound care supplies.

These were just a few observations. There were more including poor staff training, which according to the report led to a “code blue due to choking during feeding while supine — staff unable to dislodge food or revive resident,” read the report.

How does this happen in the 21st century? Our elderly parents and relatives who gave to us so selflessly surely deserve better. How is it possible that Ontario has 175 LTC inspectors for 626 residences yet it took the intervention of the military to discover this unconscionable treatment?

This pandemic has brought out the best and worst of ourselves. Sadly, the worst can lead to fear, disease and even death. Yes, I understand that we have all been locked down for weeks and some  people are more fortunate than others. However, there simply cannot be any excuse for endangering the lives of others and certainly the treatment of our elderly needs to be addressed immediately. We have to do better than this.