Centenary Hospital says allegations are ‘wild and unfounded’

The 10th floor of the Rouge Valley Health System's Centenary Campus is where Gord Holliday spent a week in the allegedly substandard psychiatric ward. (Laura Ross/Toronto Observer)
The 10th floor of the Rouge Valley Health System's Centenary Campus is where Gord Holliday spent a week in the allegedly substandard psychiatric ward. (Laura Ross/Toronto Observer) (rouge_valley_hs_033009)

Charges of substandard living conditions at the psychiatric care unit at Rouge Valley Centenary Hospital are “wild and unfounded”, says a health system spokesman. David Brazeau, public affairs director for the Rouge Valley Health System (RVHS), was responding to a letter from the Friends of the Ajax Pickering Hospital and articles in the Toronto Star.

The group wrote to the board of directors of the RVHS after saying they heard first-hand accounts of supposedly intolerable living conditions in the psychiatric ward. Complaints included unsanitary rooms with what looked like feces smeared on the walls, insect infestation, black mould, overuse of restraints, overcrowding of rooms, substandard care and the lack of a psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU).

To read a full copy of the letter,  click here.

The Friends say these conditions have existed since 20 mental-health beds were recently moved to the Centenary campus from the Ajax and Pickering campus to save money and reduce debt.

“The Friends were opposed to the move of the psychiatric ward beds and the substance of their letter and subsequent story published in the Toronto Star were incorrect,” Brazeau said in an interview. “Some of the allegations are just wild and unfounded and the story of feces on the walls is completely untrue.”

Another story, published the next day included an interview with chairman of the RVHS’s board of directors, Janet Ecker. Brazeau said it included facts, not just unfounded accusations. According to this article however, the Ontario Nurses Association claims the Friends’ accusations are true. Friends co-chairman Walter Donaldson also still has concerns, despite the issue being addressed at Centenary’s March 24 board meeting.

“The people who spoke to us said they wouldn’t go back and are adamant about what they saw,” Donaldson said.

Brazeau said Centenary has undergone renovations and the consolidation of psychiatric wards is complete.

The next step in resolving this issue, according to Brazeau, is to get the facts out to the public. The hospital plans to write an official letter to the Friends of the Ajax Pickering Hospital, countering their allegations, and will send a copy to everyone who received the Friends’ original letter.

“Our facilities are clean and safe, quality of care and patient safety is the priority at Rouge Valley Centenary,” Brazeau said, adding the PICU opened this week.

He said the hospital could not comment on specific patient care because of confidentiality issues. Therefore he would not answer questions on the original source, Gord Holliday, who spoke to the Star about his stay in Centenary’s psychiatric ward.