A Canadian province has launched an investigation into five Ontario elder care homes following the release of a “deeply disturbing” report.
The Canadian armed forces report found instances of insect infestations, poor hygiene practices, and neglect, among other concerns.
In one home, patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 were able to wander the premises.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the document was “gut-wrenching”.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it “deeply disturbing”.
Mr Ford said a full investigation has been launched into the allegations, which included claims that facilities smelt of rotten food, infested with cockroaches and flies, and that elderly people were left for hours “crying for help with staff not responding”.
One death has also been referred to the provincial coroner for investigation.
Results of the inquiry will be shared with police in case results lead to criminal charges, Mr Ford said.
“There are things in there that are extremely troubling and we need to take action,” he told journalists during his regular coronavirus briefing on Tuesday.
Canada’s military has been assisting in a number of elder care homes that have been overwhelmed by outbreaks of the virus.
Government statistics suggest that as much as 80% of all the coronavirus-related deaths in Canada are linked to long-term care homes and residences for the elderly.
There are currently 150 long-term care homes in Ontario experiencing an outbreak, out of over 620 homes. Some 1,675 troops have been assisting in five care homes in the province, and a further 25 in Quebec, according to CBC News.
People of all ages can be infected by the virus. But it is especially dangerous for older people and elder care homes in many parts of the world have been especially hard-hit by the pandemic.
Mr Ford said that the pandemic has “exposed the deep, deep cracks in long-term care homes”.
Officials have spoken of overworked and poorly paid staff in many facilities across Canada.
What does the report say?
Canadian military personnel had been in the five care homes – amongst the hardest hit in Ontario with Covid-19 outbreaks – since 22 April.
The report raised numerous concerns about conditions in the homes based on observations taken over two weeks.
It compiled cases of re-use of unsterile equipment like catheters, of use of expired medications, patients with Covid-19 allowed to interact with healthy residents, abusive behaviour, improper use of personal protective equipment, insect infestations, the delayed changing of soiled or incontinent patients, and forced feedings.
It also documented instances where patients were left calling help with no response for up to two hours.
At one facility, the Eatonville Care Centre, patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 were left to wander the facilities, the military report said. The care centre has seen at least 42 deaths from Covid this year, according to Canadian media.
Mr Ford said the situation in the five care homes in the military report is stabilising with the support of soldiers and other personnel.
A class action lawsuit was brought against one of the facilities, Orchard Villa, on Monday, alleging deficiencies dating back to 2017 and contributing to the current conditions.