Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday June 17, 2020
Rosslyn residence was literally a house of horrors
The story of the Rosslyn Retirement Residence, as reported by Spectator journalist Steve Buist, is by turns sickening, heartbreaking and infuriating.
It is also, in a way, indicative of what is wrong with Ontario’s long-term-care system. But it is so egregious, so extreme, that it is in a class by itself. Buist’s series was entitled House of Horrors, and that’s not an overstatement, at least not for victims and their families.
Yes, victims is the right word. Rosslyn residents were subjected to chronic bedbug infestations. Photos showing the result of those infestations will make your stomach turn. Medication was often not administered properly. Residents wandered in unsafe conditions. There were mouse droppings and black mould in food storage areas.
Management and ownership of Rosslyn received repeated notices, from public health and the provincial oversight agency, and warnings about health and safety infractions. And these infractions were not all new and related to pandemic staffing. Between 2018 and 2020 public health inspections found bed bugs, mice and cleaning issues. According to former staff members, operators of the home portrayed it to residents’ families as having a “secure memory unit” that didn’t actually exist.
There’s more. You could fill this space three times over just with the disturbing findings and stories uncovered by Spectator reporting. Fourteen residents of the Rosslyn have died from COVID-19, 22 staff members became infected and more than 60 residents were hospitalized by the time the pandemic eventually emptied the facility last month.
Now let’s add insult to injury. The owners of this facility, and seven other retirement homes and residential care facilities in the Hamilton area, are no strangers to the business. The Martino family owned the Royal Crest Lifecare chain, which collapsed in bankruptcy in 2003. They cried poor at the time but were found to have access to four homes, five SUVs, three Mercedes, a Hummer and a 42-foot cabin cruiser. When the dust settled on the commercial and business bankruptcies, nearly $200 million in liabilities were left, and $18 million left owing to taxpayers.
And now, the questions. How was it that the Martino family was able to continue in the business of running retirement homes so easily given its terrible track record? Why would they be given a licence by the provincial oversight agency, the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA)?
In the past 18 months, the city’s bylaw enforcement department has registered 28 violations of property standards against the Martinos’ care homes in Hamilton. There is a litany of horror stories from former staff and families of former residents RHRA. Why did it take so long to act? The RHRA revoked the Rosslyn’s licence this week, but what took so long?
Then there’s the oversight agency itself. The RHRA is essentially a self-governing industry body charged with enforcing the provincial Retirement Homes Act. Given everything we now know about LTC in general and Rosslyn specifically, why should we trust an industry body to oversee the sector?
Last but not least is the prospect of criminal charges. Provincial NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has asked Hamilton police to conduct a complete investigation. Good for Horwath, but why didn’t the government do that first?
If an investigation finds the Rosslyn horror story involves criminal behaviour, charges must be laid and those responsible must be prosecuted. The Rosslyn travesty and others like it should be rallying cries in the call for complete reform of long-term care. Rosslyn’s victims deserve nothing less. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)