COVID-19 outbreak at Lancaster LTC claims fifth person, upsetting son

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This article was corrected to remove information about Fortier’s daughter visiting the home – there were only virtual or outdoor visits if allowed. 

A fifth resident has passed away in the care of the Lancaster Long-term Care residence due to COVID-19, and her son wants answers.

Anna-May Fortier, 84, passed away around 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday while being tended to at the Cornwall Community Hospital, said her son, Michel Fortier.

“She was always happy. She was a great woman… I’m extremely sad,” said Fortier.

Fortier said his mother tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 26, but details about her care and health have left him wanting answers. Fortier said staff members told him she had the virus for 11 days before her death, but Fortier claims she had symptoms well before the test. She tested positive for the virus around 15 days before her death.

She was taken to the CCH after her condition worsened, although the hospital would not confirm details about her condition or case. The Lancaster residence did not respond to multiple calls and an email.


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“I got a call around 1:30 in the morning saying she was being taken to the hospital,” said Fortier.

CCH chief of staff Dr. Lorne Scharf said COVID-19 patients are usually only taken to hospital in emergencies when they do not have adequate medical support.

“I called again around 4 or 5 (a.m.) and the doctor told me her fever was down to 37.2 (C), and that they did an x-ray of her lungs, and there was nothing there,” he said. “They said ‘she’s doing fine, she’s ready to go,’” he recalled.

Scharf said there are treatments for fever that act quickly, but a cough and fever are not cause for admission to the hospital. Scharf explained low oxygen levels, or difficulty standing are common causes for admission, if the long-term care centre does not have proper medical resources.

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Fortier said she was sent back to Lancaster, and he kept calling.

“When I asked the nurse at the residence, she said her fever was down and she’s looking a bit better, and I asked if she still had a cough, and she said yes,” he said. “The hospital said her cough and everything was gone… It just doesn’t make sense.”

There are currently 38 residents that have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Fortier, and 11 staff members. There are 60 beds at the home, although it’s not confirmed how many are filled.

Fortier is alleging the residents are not receiving proper care and attention. He said a doctor visits the home only once per week, because they have to tend to other care homes in the area.


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The home has been listed as being in outbreak since Dec. 18 on the Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s website, and medical officer of health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis named the facility as one of several in the region where COVID-19 has touched both staff members and patients. Provincial data, which relies on information from health units, showed 37 resident and 10 staff member cases on Wednesday morning, with fewer than five fatalities.

Anna-May Fortier’s death will be a grim addition to those numbers.

In terms of severity, the Lancaster outbreak is sitting in the top-three so far within the EOHU. Back in the spring, the first long-term care outbreak within the EOHU was at the Pinecrest long-term care centre in Plantagenet, where 11 people died. In the fall, a massive outbreak that touched almost every resident and staff member at the Residence Prescott-Russell claimed 15.

Jeanette Despatie, CCH CEO and president, said the hospital works at arms-length of care homes. Despatie and Scharf said the hospital only treats patients who are admitted, and is not responsible for co-ordinating resources or tracking the frequency of attending physicians.

“I want more done. Doug Ford should send the army (to support this home),” said Fortier, adding he wants better answers around her level of care and the circumstances around her death.

The Canadian Armed Forces were previously called in to support other long-term care homes in Ontario.


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“People need to know what’s going on…Doug Ford did the same thing earlier this year, he waited [for deaths] before sending the army in… They should be called now,” he said.

Decisions on additional support for long-term care facilities are often led by the facility itself, in co-operation with the health unit. At Residence Prescott-Russell, the United Counties of Prescott-Russell asked for assistance, with county paramedics being seconded to assist. The Canadian Red Cross also dispatched a team to review procedures and protocols.

The military was sent to five long-term care homes in late April, after almost 450 residents died from COVID-19 while in care across the province.

The hospital has a rigid complaint and inquiry process for family members or patients to access.

“It’s one of the highest levels of priority,” said Scharf.