09/11/2013 02:40 EDT | Updated 11/11/2013 05:12 EST

Group Maintains St. Therese Villa Patient Was Nibbled By Mice, Despite Covenant Health's Review

EDMONTON - A health-care advocacy group is standing by its claim that a disabled woman in a long-term care home in southern Alberta was bitten by mice.

The allegation made public earlier this week by Friends of Medicare is being refuted by the organization which runs the St. Therese Villa facility in Lethbridge.

Covenant Health has said that while a mouse was seen in the patient's room, there is no medical evidence that the woman was bitten by rodents. It also said that staff did not document anything.

"We stand by what was written in the press release," Shannon Phillips, a Friends of Medicare spokeswoman, said Wednesday from Lethbridge.

"Our press release contained accurate information. It came from reliable sources who work in the facility."

Friends of Medicare said that on Sept. 1, staff saw mice on the face of a woman who has dementia and whose disabilities would have prevented her from removing the rodents.

A nest of mice was later found in her closet.

The group said the woman was given medication to prevent infection and was suffering emotionally.

The allegations have prompted Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne to call an investigation under the Protection for Persons in Care Act, along with a review into whether health standards were breached at the St. Therese Villa.

Dr. Jeff Robinson, chief medical officer for Covenant Health, said officials with the corporation spoke with care staff at the long-term care home, reviewed documentation and consulted a doctor.

The doctor concluded the patient's wounds were not caused by an animal bite, but were from a viral condition, Robinson said.

"We have no one who has witnessed this woman being bitten by a mouse. We have no evidence that the mouse was on her bed clothes," Robinson said.

"When we had a physician examine the lady, he couldn't see any indication that there were animal bites, and, in fact, it had characteristics that were consistent with a viral rash that had started a week to 10 days before."

Phillips said there have been complaints about mice and bedbugs at St. Therese for more than a year. She said staff spoke to Friends of Medicare about the mice biting the patient instead of reporting it to managers because the workers feared losing their jobs.

"We do not have confidence in an investigation that Covenant Health turned around in 24 hours — a statement made by a doctor on the payroll of Covenant Health," she said.

"What we do have confidence in is the investigation that minister Fred Horne announced."

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