Northern Ont. family fighting to say final goodbyes to loved one at care home
The family of 83-year-old Simone Lefebvre is furious with an Iroquois Falls long-term care home for refusing in-person visits as she nears death.
Granddaughter Cassie Drapeau, 28, said South Centennial Manor denied pleas to be with Lefebvre while she was in a COVID-19 isolation room with other residents on Tuesday, even though staff did not expect her to survive the night.
"At first, they just said 'no, there's nothing we can do,'" Drapeau said in an interview.
"'She's not dying alone, there's a nurse with her, we can FaceTime you.'"
Drapeau asked staff if arrangements could be made to make an in-person visit possible, but said they would not budge.
Current guidance from Ontario's Ministry of Long-Term Care outlines that essential visitors should have unrestricted access to residents, even during a COVID-19 outbreak. That includes people visiting a very ill resident receiving end-of-life care.
According to the most recent COVID-19 Guidance Document for Long-Term Care Homes in Ontario, "Homes are reminded that residents have a right under the Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007, to receive visitors and homes should not develop policies that unreasonably restrict this right."
Granddaughter protested all night
Feeling her grandmother's rights to visitors were being violated unnecessarily, Drapeau drove to the home's parking lot and stayed there through the cold night in protest -- where temperatures dropped to around - 40 C.
She displayed signs on her car saying, "Let us say Goodbye," "Nobody should die alone" and "Please let us see our dying Grandma, doesn't she have rights?"
Lefebvre made it through the night, but staff still refused visitors.
After media got word of the incident and started reporting on the incident and asking for comment, the home eventually allowed Lefebvre's three daughters to visit her one at a time in the isolation room.
'What about all the other people?'
Had her grandmother died Tuesday night, Drapeau said having to see her last moments through a phone screen would have been unacceptable.
She feels this ordeal should not have happened.
"My grandma shouldn't die alone, nobody should... and it doesn't just end here, with her," Drapeau said.
"Yes, I'm glad that now people are allowed to go in with her but what about all the other people who are in there?"
Lefebvre has since been moved into a palliative care room, where the manor is allowing two essential caregivers to visit her at a time.
Drapeau said she has been told she is not allowed to visit at all because she is not vaccinated against COVID-19 and other family members living in the home also haven't been able to see her.
However, according to the Ontario Minister's Directive: Long-term care home COVID-19 immunization policy section 2.4, essential visitors are permitted visitation regardless of vaccination status.
Home's CEO responds
Paul Chatelain, the CEO of the MICs Group of Care Services -- which runs the South Centennial Manor--said this was an unfortunate situation that has now been rectified.
He said that there are COVID-19 safety measures in place for visitors and that showing up to the home demanding a visit does not mean staff will be able to let someone inside.
"When a resident has COVID-19 and is cohorted into a room, we need to protect not only the residents but the visitors, as well," Chatelain said.
Chatelain said the South Centennial Manor takes specialized guidance from the Porcupine Health Unit, to tailor its COVID-19 response to its particular situation — though he said staff needed to wait until the day after the family requested to visit Lefebvre to receive advice on this matter.
CTV News has reached out to Porcupine Health Unit and is waiting for a response.
He maintains confidence in the level of care provided at the manor, despite this incident, adding that a lack of capacity at the more than 50-year-old facility has made it difficult to accommodate visitors, while also ensuring safety.
"All of our homes are suffering," Chatelain said.
"COVID is a real challenge for visitation and for the residents and the staff."
'We should all be with her'
Drapeau is not accepting this, though, saying that anyone who wants to visit Lefebvre should be able to, as long as they accept the risks of being exposed to COVID-19.
Long-term care residents do have a right to visitors, unless for reasonable exceptions, and she believes the home's handling of this situation was heartless and inhumane.
"People should be with their loved ones in their last moments ... we should all be with her," Drapeau said.
"I feel like that's why she's hanging on, is because she's waiting for each of us to be able to go in there."
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