Health care aides accused of assaulting care home residents
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/09/2022 (192 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Two health-care aides face charges of assaulting elderly residents of a Winnipeg personal care home, eight months after staff blew the whistle on the alleged abuse.
A 49-year-old woman will be charged with three counts of assault and a 36-year-old woman will be charged with two counts, the Winnipeg Police Service said Tuesday. Both women, who have not been working since allegations became public in June, were released on undertakings with conditions mandated by the Criminal Code.
Dianna Klassen, whose late father David Middleton was initially suspected of being mistreated, said she’s “extremely angry” in light of the police investigation conclusion.
“The fact that they’ve substantiated it, I think, is a good thing. More importantly, what needs to happen is legislation and guidelines brought in by the WRHA that put stronger controls over these privately run, for-profit nursing homes (to) allow people to come in and investigate things like this on a more open basis,” Klassen said.
Police launched an investigation into alleged abuse at Oakview Place at 2395 Ness Ave. in June after a whistleblower went to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. In February, care home staff had informed the home’s operator, Extendicare, that as many as 15 residents had been mistreated; the accusations remained hidden until the WRHA held a news conference on June 21.
Since then, city police have determined the two health-care aides allegedly used “inappropriate physical actions” to “gain the compliance” of five residents while caring for them between August 2021 and January 2021.
None of the victims needed medical treatment, police said.
Police spokeswoman Const. Dani McKinnon would not elaborate on what those actions entailed, citing the court process, but noted the alleged assaults did not include slapping, punching or kicking.
She said she could not say how many complaints police received and investigated, but noted generally that in sensitive investigations, victims do not always want to proceed with charges.
“After this investigation was completed, there was evidence for five victims and for the five charges to be laid — the investigation clearly substantiated five assaults,” she said.
“After this investigation was completed, there was evidence for five victims and for the five charges to be laid – the investigation clearly substantiated five assaults.”–Const. Dani McKinnon
She said the investigation included interviews with seniors and their family members.
“Any time we’re dealing with victims who are considered vulnerable people, it adds another layer of difficulty for investigators,” McKinnon said.
A spokesperson for Extendicare did not address Free Press questions Tuesday about what it has done since the June revelation.
“(Police) advised Extendicare last evening that two health-care aides were arrested for assault. We have shared this update with our community of residents, families and staff. We co-operated with the police throughout their investigation and thank them for their work. This is a difficult time, and we remain focused on our community,” the operator’s statement reads in full.
The spokesperson pointed to the operator’s statement in June, which said staff would be retrained on abuse and neglect policies, and reminded of its whistleblower policy, among other points. It’s unclear whether that has been completed.
Sandra Goers, the operator’s regional director and director of operational quality for Western Canada, said during the June news conference that Extendicare had known about the allegations since February, but “breakdowns in process” meant the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, the police, the provincial office for protection of persons in care and all of the families weren’t notified, in contravention of Extendicare’s policies.
She was appointed the day before the news conference; the administrator of the home had stepped down and a new one was appointed.
Goers issued a public apology at the time, thanked the whistleblower and described the allegations as “devastating.”
A provincial government spokesperson said the status of the home’s operating licence is under review by the Licensing and Compliance Branch, pending the conclusion of the investigations of the police and the provincial office for protection of persons in care.
“Throughout the duration of the ‘under review’ status, the (care home) will provide regular updates to the (branch) regarding any new allegations/complaints in addition to unannounced visits by the (branch),” the spokesperson said.
The WRHA said Tuesday its staff “continue to work closely with Extendicare to provide support to the home for regular and routine consults,” while “leaders also continue to visit the home regularly to identify and mitigate any risks, and to ensure resident care is what is expected of our care homes.”
The authority will “continue to work with all partners regarding any and all ongoing investigations” including the provincial protection for persons in care office, the statement said.
The authority also said “the alleged actions of these two staff are not a reflection of the values or the safe, compassionate and quality care the vast majority of personal care home workers provide every day.”
“We once again want to extend our thoughts and concerns to the residents and families involved.”
Dianna Klassen said her 92-year-old father, who died in January, was withdrawn in the last months of his life.
“We watched my dad become openly aggressive if people were trying to touch him,” she said, and he was unable to say why.
In June — the day after his funeral — Extendicare informed her family Middleton may have been abused, which made Klassen think his behaviour had been his attempt to protect himself.
Klassen said she had not been contacted by police before Tuesday’s news release.
Police spokeswoman McKinnon said investigators had spoken to the families of seniors whose cases formed the basis of the criminal charges.
Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.
Updated on Tuesday, September 13, 2022 6:34 PM CDT: The two health-care aides have not been formally charged.