Winnipeg Extendicare home didn’t report whistleblower’s allegation of abuse: health authority

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says allegations that two care aides had abused 15 residents of a privately owned Winnipeg personal care home came to light thanks to two whistleblowers, but that the authority only learned of the allegations four months after the facility was made aware.

The abuse allegedly took place at Extendicare Oakview Place in Winnipeg’s Sturgeon Heights neighbourhood, the health authority said Tuesday afternoon.

The allegations were first brought to attention of local Extendicare management through a whistleblower in February, the health authority said.

However, the WRHA was not informed until it was approached directly by another whistleblower on June 10, according to a news release. 

“We are deeply disturbed and disappointed by these serious allegations and the process the facility initially took to investigate the concerns,” Gina Trinidad, the health authority’s chief operating officer for community health services and long-term care, said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference.

Trinidad says the Winnipeg Police Service is in the early stages of a criminal investigation and the care aides have been put on paid leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

The province of Manitoba’s Protection for Persons in Care Office, which investigates reports of abuse, will also discuss a further review.

A blue sign reading "Oakview Place Extendicare" is shown on the grounds of a brick care home building.
Oakview Place is owned by the for-profit company Extendicare. The company has seven care homes in Manitoba, including a total of five in Winnipeg. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

In February, only one family was notified of the allegations, said Sandra Goers, who recently became Extendicare’s Manitoba regional director and director of operational quality for Western Canada.

Neither the health authority nor the police were alerted, which is a breach of Extendicare’s protocol, she said at the news conference.

“It’s completely unacceptable that this did not take place, and for that we unreservedly apologize to the residents, their families and to the WRHA,” Goers said.

“You deserved better than this and we will do better.”

Steps taken: Extendicare

Goers said since the allegations were made, she’s been appointed Extendicare’s regional director for Manitoba and a new experienced senior administrator has been hired.

Staff at all seven of Manitoba’s Extendicare-owned homes will be retrained on the company’s abuse and neglect policies and reminded of its whistleblower program, she said.

Twelve families of residents who were allegedly abused have been contacted, but efforts to contact three others haven’t been successful, said Goers. Meetings have been scheduled with all residents, families and staff, she said.

The WRHA has conducted two unannounced visits to Oakview Place to ensure the safety and well-being of the residents in care and assess the operations and support of staff, Trinidad said. 

“The results have generally been positive and what we expect of service providers,” she said.

In 2021, the Saskatchewan government ended its relationship with Extendicare and permanently took over operations at all five of the company’s homes in that province.

That came after a review of the Saskatchewan homes prompted by an ombudsman report, which found Extendicare was “woefully unprepared” for a COVID-19 outbreak that killed 39 residents at a Regina home in the winter of 2020.

Trinidad says Extendicare’s licence to operate in Manitoba is not under review at this time, but the allegations have been reported to Manitoba Health’s licensing and compliance branch.