Families who have loved ones living in the Rod McGillivary Memorial Care Home, run by the Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) in northern Manitoba say they’re concerned about the care they’re receiving.
“The sad thing is a lot of Elders are scared to ask for help. They’re scared to say something and because they’re scared they’ll be kicked out, they’re absolutely petrified to say things,” said a woman we are calling “Joan.”
APTN Investigates is protecting her identity.
The woman said that the care home is often dirty and families felt the need to clean up the outdoor visiting tables at the care home.
“I would bring my own wipes and clean the area where we were sitting,” she said.
Another woman complained that her parent’s hygiene is also being overlooked by staff.
“I’ve heard from my parents that there’s so many days in between before they get another bath,” said another family member who we are calling “Mary.”
“Joan” said the smell of urine and feces is noticeable when entering her mother’s room at the care home and the commode is often left full for hours.
Both women say they’ve had to clean up soiled materials in their loved one’s rooms and even in the common areas of the home.
APTN asked repeatedly for an interview from OCN about the allegations but after a spokesperson for the band initially responded, the communication stopped.
The Rod McGillivary Memorial Care Home hit the news in November 2020 after all 28 residents and 14 staff contracted the deadly Covid-19 virus. The outbreak prompted Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair to plead for help in a social media post.
“The outbreak in the care home is occurring in the context of widespread community transmission in the province, including our district OCN, the Pas and the RM of Kelsey,” he said.
Canadian Armed Forces arrived to provide help within a week of the chief’s request.
The home was originally set up to address the growing need for access to long-term care on reserve, but the Rod McGillivary Home is not required to fill out inspection reports or answer to the province of Manitoba.
That is part of the problem, according to University of Saskatchewan professor Bonita Beatty.
“Jurisdiction is really about the idea of the authority that a health provider has. If it’s a provincial health provider, their jurisdiction comes from provincial authority. If it’s a health provider on a reserve, their authority flows from federal jurisdiction.”
There are only two Indigenous licensed personal care homes in Manitoba and Rod McGillivary is not one of them.
A provincial spokesperson denied an interview request but provided the following statement in an email.
“There are two personal care homes on First Nations land in Manitoba that are licensed and fall under provincial oversight, including routine inspections,” said a provincial spokesperson.
Beatty said the time is now to end the jurisdictional disputes over long-term care services provided to Indigenous communities.
Manitoba Government and General Employees Union President Michelle Gawronsky echoed that — saying that it is every level of government’s responsibility to ensure Indigenous Elders are being cared for.
“There seems to be a constant battle and a constant struggle over those funding dollars and who’s responsible, whose jurisdiction it is, who’s accountable for it,” she said.
Both families said it was important that their relatives stay in the community to receive long-term care services and they are worried about their loved ones’ ability to advocate for themselves.
“It just breaks my heart, because as much as I hate to say it, this is their last walk in life and this is their last home,” a family member said.