Ukrainian Canadian long-term care homes improve their vaccination numbers and dispute CBC reporting

A family of residents in the Ivan Franko Home in Etobicoke made banners in Ukrainian to spread a little happiness to their relatives inside in the spring of 2020 Photo: CBC / Christine Witowych

Yuri Bilinsky, New Pathway – Ukrainian News.

The Ukrainian Canadian community has been buzzing about the recent CBC News article COVID-19 vaccination rates among eastern European diaspora become cause for concern. Although the title and contents of the article spoke about several eastern European diasporas and long-term care homes, the subtitle and the beginning of the article focussed on the Ukrainian Canadians, which is what caused the buzz in the community.

The article, dated November 2, provided statistics from the Ontario government’s website on COVID-19 vaccination rates among long-term homes staff.

The article said: “The latest available provincial data show 26 per cent of staff at Ukrainian Canadian Care Centre and Ivan Franko Homes, both located in Etobicoke, were not fully vaccinated as of last month.”

In fact, the numbers on the government website, 74 per cent vaccinated with both doses for Ivan Franko Home and 74 per cent vaccinated with both doses for Ukrainian Canadian Care Centre, were for September.

Both rates were 16 points lower than the average rate for Ontario’s 623 long-term care facilities in September, while both Ukrainian Canadian homes were indeed in the top 10 among the facilities for the highest proportion of unvaccinated staff in that month, as reported in the article.

At the same time, those rates have dramatically improved at both facilities since September. The rate of fully vaccinated staff currently stands at 92 per cent for Ivan Franko Home and at 93 per cent for Ukrainian Canadian Care Centre. Both Irena Dounets, Executive Director at the Ukrainian Canadian Care Centre, and Olya Vovnysh, Director of Operations/Administrator of Ivan Franko LTC Home, told New Pathway – Ukrainian News that they conveyed these numbers (91 per cent in the Ivan Franko Home case) to Mike Crawley, the author of the CBC News article. In both cases, according to the administrators, this information was sent to Crawley on Tuesday, November 2, after the article was published.

Ivan Franko Homes issued a press release on November 5 requiring “a public apology and article correction” from Crawley. The release said: “Mr. Crawley stated in his article that the Ivan Franko Homes did not respond “to the request on Monday,” [which is] is defamatory as Mr. Crowley e-mailed Ivan Franko Homes’ general mailbox requesting statistics and a same-day interview at 11:29 a.m. on Monday, November 1, without following up to the busy long-term care facility. When current statistics were provided, the story was not updated online and is still up misleading the public.

“The Ivan Franko Homes is seeking a public apology and article correction from Mr. Crawley who reported on November 2 that “the latest available provincial data show that 26 percent of staff were not fully vaccinated” and also for making statements to damage the reputation of a long-term care facility that has been fully compliant with all government regulations and in many cases, went over-and-above requirements to keep residents and staff safe.

“Ivan Franko Homes has an impeccable record of full compliance with government regulation since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, the CBC’s John Lancaster reported: ‘At Ivan Franko Homes, the management team implemented a comprehensive pandemic plan before the Ontario government declared a province-wide state of emergency.’

“’We are deeply disappointed that the CBC published incorrect information that is hurtful to our staff, who, as healthcare professionals have been pandemic front-line workers, putting their own lives on the line, and continue to comply with all regulations and take every precaution to assure the safety and well-being of seniors in their care, their families and our facility staff,’ said George Horhota, Board President, Ivan Franko Homes. ’We trust that the CBC will apologize for this inaccuracy and acknowledge the outstanding record of the Ivan Franko Home staff and administration in compliance with COVID-19 regulations and service to seniors, one of the most vulnerable groups through the pandemic.’”

Representatives of both long-term care homes told New Pathway – Ukrainian News that they were going to comply with the government’s requirement for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for all in-home staff, support workers, students and volunteers by November 15, 2021, unless a staff member has a valid medical exemption. If by November 15 anyone from these categories is still not fully vaccinated, they will be put on unpaid leave, promised the administrators of the long-term homes.