10/18/2013 05:21 EDT | Updated 12/18/2013 05:12 EST

No Evidence Patient At St. Therese Villa Bitten By Mice: Report


EDMONTON - A report commissioned by the Alberta government says there is no evidence that a mouse bit a disabled patient in a long-term care home in the face.

The group Friends of Medicare raised the allegation last month, saying staff saw mice on the face of a woman who has dementia.

The review says there were mice in the patient's room at the St. Therese Villa in Lethbridge, but there's no evidence to support the allegation or that the woman suffered serious bodily or emotional harm.

The report recommends that Covenant Health, a Catholic health-care organization which operates the 200-bed facility, should follow through with plans to improve pest control for mice and bed bugs.

Alberta Health deputy minister Janet Davidson told Covenant Health CEO Patrick Dumelie in a letter Friday to take immediate action.

"While the findings show no evidence that a resident was bitten by a mouse, it is critical that you observe and immediately address all recommendations in the attached report in a timely manner, as they are essential for the health and well-being of the clients in your care," Davidson wrote.

The investigator who reviewed the allegation noted in the report that she could not interview some potential key patient witnesses due to the "degree of their cognitive impairment."

Dumelie said the report shows the allegations were baseless.

He said he accepts all of the reports recommendations, which also include hiring more cleaning staff, improving training and hiring more mature and experienced health providers.

"The report really validates that Covenant Health and St. Therese Villa meet all of the standards of care and that the allegations are unfounded," he said. "We always strive to do more and try to improve."

Dumelie said two employees who were involved in raising the allegations have been fired. Two others who had been suspended were back at their jobs.

Sandra Azocar, executive director of Friends of Medicare, said she hopes the report will lead to better care at the facility and others like it across the province.

She suggested the fact the investigator couldn't find evidence to support the allegation doesn't mean it didn't happen.

"There is no specific evidence but there is a lot of speculation that it may or may not have happened," Azocar said.

"Even the statement by the three physicians at the end of the report indicate that none of them could rule out that the resident may or may not have been bitten by a mouse."

Azocar said staff at the care home first complained about mice a year ago.

The union that represents staff at St. Therese Villa said it supports the report's call for better staff training.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees said the report shows the need for standardized provincewide training and better pest control programs for all operators of continuing care and long-term care facilities.

"Training is the first line of defence when it comes to ensuring a safe workplace for residents and staff alike," said AUPE health and safety representative Dennis Malayko in a release.

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