I received links to these news reports from several iDigHardware readers as far away as Dubai. To summarize the various news stories, door handles were removed from residents’ rooms in an assisted living facility – allegedly trapping people in their rooms for days – to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As I have said before, sometimes the immediate response to a threat does not take all factors into consideration. Fortunately, this story did not end in tragedy and others can learn from it.
Durham Regional Police are now investigating after a whistleblower at a Courtice retirement home says management removed the door handles on rooms of COVID-19 positive residents, “trapping” them in their suites for days in a bid to halt the spread of the deadly virus. The employee, who wished to remain anonymous, tells CityNews that a manager at the White Cliffe Terrace Retirement Residence ordered maintenance staff to remove door handles on some fourth-floor assisted living suites last week. The employee claims it was done to prevent COVID-19 positive residents from freely moving around the facility.
The initial details of the incident were contained in a Citytv report on Friday based on an anonymous staff whistleblower who came forward. That individual alleged a manager at the White Cliffe Terrace “ordered maintenance staff to remove door handles on some fourth-floor assisted living suites last week, claiming it was “done to prevent COVID-19 positive residents from moving freely” around the facility.
The removal of the handles was reportedly discovered by a senior employee after several days. The whistleblower told the news outlet that those residents impacted by the action had access to food and were checked on by staff “who tried to work around the lack of door handles.”
“We don’t know how many, and we don’t know how long these individuals were trapped,” said the associate teaching professor at Ontario Tech University, whose research focuses on family caregiving. “It’s also a fire hazard. Can you even imagine if there was some sort of emergency and they had to vacate the premise? There are so many layers of negligence here.”
Clarington Fire Chief Gord Weir said emergency services and Durham Regional Police are investigating the home as a result of the incident. “Once we became aware of the allegations we had prevention staff attend. Durham Regional Police Services were notified as well, Durham Public Health were notified and an inspector assisted us,” Weir said in an email. “An investigation is ongoing, and what I can say is all residents are safe at this time and there are no issues with any of the rooms.”
The news video below is from CP 24 in Toronto: