‘I’m disgusted by our system’: abuse allegations at Winnipeg care home prompts calls for oversight

As allegations of abuse at a St. James facility come to light, families and advocates are calling for independent oversight in Manitoba’s private care homes.

A criminal investigation is underway after a whistleblower came forward with serious allegations of mistreatment at Oakview Place involving 15 residents, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority confirmed Tuesday. Two health-care aides are now on paid leave.

The allegations caught Helena Klassen, whose twin sister lives in the seniors’ home, off guard.

“I’ve been visiting her for so many years and I thought the people and nurses were really nice,” she said. “I thought it was terrible for people to do that.”

Extendicare, the company that operates Oakview Place, says it knew about the allegations in February and launched an internal investigation but apologized Tuesday for what a spokesperson called a “breakdown” in that investigation, which included notifying only one family.

“I’m not going to sit here in front of you and make any excuses whatsoever,” Sandra Goers, the director of operational quality for western Canada and regional director for Manitoba Extendicare, said Tuesday. “We are wholeheartedly apologizing for what has happened.”

There are now growing calls for more oversight in private care homes in the wake of the allegations.

“I was heartbroken for those families, secondly I’m disgusted by our system,” said Eddie Calisto-Tavares, who is part of a seniors’ advocacy group. She said an independent seniors advocate is needed in Manitoba, “so that families have a place to go and not get passed around.”

Following a deadly COVID-19 outbreak at one of Extendicare’s Saskatchewan facilities, the government there took over operation of all of Extendicare homes in that province last year.

Opposition leaders in Manitoba say Oakview Place’s license needs to be reviewed.

“This isn’t something where you say, ‘Maybe we’ll do it’” said Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont. “You review that license immediately.”

If the allegations are true, Klassen hopes those responsible never return to the home.

“So that nothing will happen to the poor people here because they can’t really defend themselves,” she said.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said it has shared the matter with Manitoba’s licensing and compliance branch. CTV News reached out for an interview with the appropriate minister, but has not yet heard back. 

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