A high-ranking official with a private long-term care company is now out of a job after she was overheard mocking the residents of a beleaguered Toronto-area care home following a virtual town hall meeting.
Family members of residents at Woodbridge Vista Care Community in Vaughan, Ont., were on an online call Wednesday with Joanne Dykeman, who was the executive vice-president of operations with Sienna Senior Living, which owns and runs the home.
The call was meant to address family concerns as 83 of the facility’s residents have been infected with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Nineteen residents of the 224-bed facility have died, while 37 staff members have been infected, according to York Region Public Health.
Even on the official portion of the call there were problems, family members say.
Angela Zuccareli, whose father is a Woodbridge resident, said Dykeman tried to do all of the talking and wasn’t addressing people’s concerns.
“All she did was interrupt. That’s all she did,” Zuccareli told CBC News. “She kept cutting me off.”
‘Lack of compassion’
But things really escalated after the call was supposed to be over, said Nick Puopolo, whose mother is also a resident and who has tested positive for COVID-19.
“Joanne closed her laptop and assumed that would disconnect the call, which it didn’t,” he told CBC News. “I had my Bose speakers on and I heard every word that she said.”
While speaking to someone who seemed to be in the room with her, Dykeman mocked two of the family members who spoke on the call, Puopolo said. One had been concerned about personal support workers moving from floor to floor within the facility without proper personal protective equipment, while the other had been advocating that people call Ontario’s Ministry of Health to complain about the home.
Dykeman insinuated the former had no idea what he was talking about, and said the latter’s push for calls to the ministry was “silly” because that phone number was posted on notices at the facility, Puopolo said.
“She [also] made reference to ‘Here comes another blood-sucking lawsuit,'” he said.
Sienna Senior Living, which owns and manages 37 long-term care facilities in Ontario as well as eight in B.C., is named in a $100-million class-action lawsuit that was filed last month.
“It just shows the type of ignorance that the board of directors have, and the lack of compassion they have for the people who are in here. They don’t care. They don’t care at all,” Puopolo said.
“It’s all about the money. It has nothing to do with care.”
In a statement responding to a request for comment from CBC News, Sienna Senior Living said Dykeman is no longer with the company. A spokesperson did not respond when asked if she stepped down or was fired.
“While she is deeply regretful of the comments she made yesterday evening, [Dykeman] also understands that they do not meet either her expectations nor those of Sienna Senior Living,” the statement reads.
“Each resident and all of their loved ones are deserving of our respect at all times. As we move forward as a company we will continue to ensure this respect guides our every action.”
CBC News is attempting to reach Dykeman directly for comment.
Ontario’s Ministry of Long-Term Care announced Thursday that it is appointing the province’s William Osler Health System hospital network as interim manager of the beleaguered care home.
“Despite receiving hospital support, Woodbridge Vista Care Community has been unable to contain the spread of COVID-19,” the province said in a statement. “These steps will enable a rigorous management structure to help contain the spread of the disease and assist in returning their home to normal operations.”
On Sunday, Woodbridge Vista Care Community sent 18 residents, most of whom had tested positive for COVID-19, to hospital because they needed more care than the facility could provide, Sienna said.
Zuccareli said she has “nothing but good things to say” about the front-line workers at the facility, who were “stretched to the max” even before the pandemic — but she is worried about the standard of care her father is receiving.
“If we were to change the characters in this narrative from senior citizens to infants, would the outcomes … have been the same?” she asked.