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She’s 28, survived COVID-19, and is living in a long-term care home with 200+ violations

While living in long-term care for nearly four years, Chyanne says she’s seen bruises and injuries on her fellow residents. 

She alleges poorly-trained, stretched-thin staff struggle with routine tasks like safely moving patients.

And she’s photographed her home’s rotation of food to show how bland it is — some of the dishes in styrofoam trays feature fried meat; others include pre-packed fruit cups and muffins, with a single hard-boiled egg.

There’s also “a lot of death,” added Chyanne, whose identity CBC News is protecting for her privacy and safety.

“The person who’d ask what I did for the day, what movie I watched. They were like my grandmas and grandpas — 299 of them,” she said in a recent interview.

“I remember all the residents that die,” Chyanne added. “Because I’m young.”

Chyanne is 28 years old.

Soft-spoken with a sharp wit, the Toronto resident suffered a spinal injury four years ago. She has been living at Midland Gardens Community Care in Scarborough since 2017.

Not by choice, she says, though she knows her unusual circumstances give her a window into a system rarely seen up-close by anyone beyond staff and residents who are mostly elderly.

Over a five-year span, her home had 212 violations of the Long-Term Care Homes Act and Regulations (LTCHA), according to an analysis from CBC’s Marketplace.

That makes it the home with the most violations in Toronto — the third-highest in all of Ontario, behind Hogarth Riverview Manor in Thunder Bay and Earl’s Court Village in London.

Chyanne wasn’t surprised by the findings.

“I’ve been trying to get out of there since 2017,” she said.

85% of Ontario homes repeat offenders

On a damp, overcast afternoon, Chyanne has parked her electric wheelchair on a paved pathway in a park near the home, hoping for a bit more privacy than her bedroom provides.

She explains how someone so young wound up in long-term care: Chyanne grew up in the child welfare system, without family support. Then, in 2016 at the age of 23, she injured her spinal cord when the TTC bus she was on crashed, sending her flying. 

Her injury, coupled with a previous epilepsy diagnosis, means she not only needs a wheelchair, but also extra support for daily tasks like bathing.

That support, she says, isn’t always available at Midland Gardens, where she alleges staffing shortages and neglect were often the norm in recent years.

Over a five-year span, Midland Gardens Community Care in Scarborough had 212 violations of the Long-Term Care Homes Act and Regulations (LTCHA), according to an analysis by CBC Marketplace. (Sue Reid/CBC News)

Marketplace‘s analysis found that between 2015 and 2019, the home had various repeat violations of the LTCHA, which sets out minimum safety standards that every care home in Ontario must meet.

Those repeat violations included infection control issues, injuries due to falls, medication errors or storage issues, abuse, and neglect.

But Midland Gardens has never faced any consequences from the province.

The full Marketplace review looked at 10,000 inspection reports, and found more than 30,000 “written notices,” or violations of the act. 

It also revealed that of the 632 homes in the Ontario database, 538 — or 85 per cent — were repeat offenders, but there are virtually no consequences for homes that break that law repeatedly.

A meal served to residents at Midland Gardens, says Chyanne, a 28-year-old resident of the Scarborough home who took this photo and supplied it to CBC News. (Supplied to CBC News)

Home has taken ‘critical steps’ to improve, company says

Sienna Senior Living, the company that operates Midland Gardens and owns more than 40 other long-term care homes in Ontario and British Columbia, maintains “critical steps” have been taken to improve operations and ensure residents and staff are as safe and healthy as possible.

Those efforts include enhancing staff expertise, growing a personal protective equipment supply, and reinforcing infection prevention and control practices, noted spokesperson Swaraj Mann in a statement provided to CBC News.

“As an added measure, we continue to meet weekly to review all areas of compliance and we have assigned a compliance lead who is collaborating closely with the Ministry,” Mann said in an email.

Those preparations, taken over the past few months, were meant to get ready for the second wave of COVID-19.

While the Marketplace analysis looked at violation data up until the end of 2019, the start of this year marked the beginning of the pandemic, and the arrival of the new coronavirus in hundreds of long-term care facilities.

42 resident COVID-19 deaths

Midland Gardens experienced 42 resident deaths in the first wave, according to Ontario’s figures.

“When it first came into the home, I felt like I was in a fishbowl, waiting,” Chyanne recalled. “I knew I was going to get it.”

And she did. 

In early May, Chyanne said she lost her sense of smell and taste — early warning signs of the disease. But she alleges staff didn’t take it seriously at the time, and weren’t adequately equipped with personal protective gear.

On May 17, she had a fever that spiked to more than 38 degrees, prompting a nurse on-site to call an ambulance. 

Chyanne took this photo of her arm while in hospital being treated for COVID-19 in May. She’s not sure how long she was hospitalized, which included a stint on oxygen in intensive care. (Supplied to CBC News)

Chyanne wound up in a hospital for several weeks, including a stint in an intensive care unit, hooked up on oxygen but, to her relief, never a ventilator. She was discharged on June 10th. 

Now, months later, she’s still coping with breathing issues, and the day-to-day challenges of living in a home marked by so much death.

When asked by CBC News about Chyanne’s concerns over staffing, protective equipment, food options, and an overall lack of proper care at the home, Mann said Midland Gardens is “fully staffed” with adequate levels of personal protective equipment, makes a wide variety of meal choices available to residents, and has remained out of an outbreak situation since July 17.

‘No tolerance’ for abuse: LTC minister

According to Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Sinai Health, part of Toronto’s University Health Network, longstanding issues in the long-term care system go far beyond any individual home.

“Before this pandemic, long-term care was really struggling in Ontario, in the sense that it’s a really underfunded system,” he said.

While the homes are “highly regulated,” they’ve long struggled with staffing shortages, Sinha said, and the challenges of caring for elderly residents with complex needs, including dementia. 

He also said there has been criticism of the provincial inspection process for years, both before and after Ontario scaled back from having at least one thorough annual inspection to a largely complaints-based approach in 2018.

Marketplace host David Common called into a news conference with Ontario Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton earlier this week to ask her to speak to the fact that despite orders that are available to inspectors, homes still appear to commit the same violations repeatedly.

Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario’s long-term care minister, answers questions during the daily briefing at Queen’s Park in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

“There’s no tolerance whatsoever for negligence or abuse,” she said, noting that she feels her government is prioritizing serious offences in their inspections. 

“They must be dealt with in a fulsome way.”

Chyanne isn’t sure that’s happening.

Bundled up in a blanket, with her face mask pulled down to take a sip of Starbucks strawberry-coconut drink, she reflected on her unique journey from being an accident victim, to a 28-year-old long-term care resident, to a whistleblower trying to call attention to what she sees as abuse and neglect.

She’s desperately hoping to leave Midland Gardens, and is stuck on a waiting list for another home better suited to her needs — and age.

In the meantime, Chyanne plans to keep fighting for “accountability.”

“I’ve been tasked with something that is so hard to accomplish,” she said. “The government has known for decades about the problems in these homes.”

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Apple Lays Off 200+ People From Project Titan, Its Self-Driving Car Effort

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For over four years, Apple has been working on an electric self-driving vehicle, nicknamed Project Titan. The project, which first began ramping up in late 2014 and early 2015, has gone through a number of supposed shifts and changes, including various pivots and reboots. Now, Apple has confirmed that its cut 200 employees from the Titan workforce, some of which were reassigned to other projects at the company.

“We have an incredibly talented team working on autonomous systems and associated technologies at Apple. As the team focuses their work on several key areas for 2019, some groups are being moved to projects in other parts of the company, where they will support machine learning and other initiatives, across all of Apple,” an Apple spokesperson told CNBC.

“We continue to believe there is a huge opportunity with autonomous systems, that Apple has unique capabilities to contribute, and that this is the most ambitious machine learning project ever.”

Apple’s autonomous car division was last in the news back in August, when it hired ex-Tesla engineer and former Apple employee Doug Field to return to the fold and work alongside Bob Mansfield on the self-driving vehicle project.

Waymo’s self-driving Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans include Intel chips. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

Apple has been extremely quiet about its self-driving car initiative, to the point that most of what we “know” about the company’s ambitions has been limited to innuendo, speculation, and leaks. Tim Cook has publicly acknowledged that Apple is working on self-driving technology, but there have still been reports that the company pulled back to emphasize software development rather than attempting to build its own autonomous vehicle. Apple’s partnership with Volkswagen earlier this year was read by some as the effective end of the company’s effort to build its own radical design. At the same time, reports from September 2018 indicate that Apple had the third-largest fleet of vehicles approved for testing in California, behind GM Cruise (175 vehicles) and Waymo (88 vehicles). As of that writing, Apple had 70 cars approved for testing.

Overall, some of the hype on self-driving cars has died down over the past 12 months, thanks in no small part to the prominent struggles of its biggest players. Uber hit and killed a pedestrian. Tesla had multiple high-profile accidents and has since ceased offering a “full self-driving” upgrade for its Autopilot software. Waymo didn’t have any major calamities, but a blockbuster New Yorker report from October claimed that there were far more accidents associated with Google’s early self-driving efforts than previously known, including three serious incidents. Google’s self-driving taxi service, Waymo One, may have technically launched in December, but its only open to a relative handful of people in one geographic area, with safety drivers still behind the wheel at all times.

Apple’s decision to shift 200 people away from Titan doesn’t say anything great about the project’s near-term profitability, but given the general difficulties in the self-driving car market, we wouldn’t draw any giant conclusions, either. Every company in the business is still making fairly incremental progress. With that said, the other companies working in this field tend to at least talk about it on occasion. If Apple has a major solution coming, they’re sure being quiet about it.

Now Read:

Top image credit: Bill Howard

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Woman fined $200 in Denmark's 1st 'burqa ban' violation

A 28-year-old woman wearing a face veil has become the first person in Denmark to be fined for violating a new law banning such garments in public places.

Danish news agency Ritzau reported that police were called Friday to a shopping centre in Horsholm, a city of 46,000 close to Copenhagen, to confront a woman wearing a niqab covering her face.

The woman was fined 1,000 Danish kroner ($ 200 Cdn) and was asked to either remove the veil or leave the premises. She opted to leave.

Since Aug.1, the country's much-debated "burqa ban" has prohibited full-body burqas, as well the niqab — Muslim dress which only shows the eyes. Both are rare in Denmark.

The government says the law is not aimed at any religion and does not ban headscarves, turbans or the traditional Jewish skull cap.

The Danish law allows people to cover their face when there is a "recognizable purpose" like cold weather or complying with other legal requirements, such as using motorcycle helmets. Anyone forcing a person to wear garments covering the face by using force or threats can be fined or face up to two years in prison.

Austria, France and Belgium have similar laws.

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Sony Slashes PSVR Prices As Low As $200

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Sony has cut the price of its PlayStation VR systems, after a holiday sale apparently moved enough units that the company wants to goose them further. Through Saturday, March 3, Sony’s standalone headsets and bundles (See on Amazon) will be just $ 200, down from the $ 300 standard price.

Remember, the standalone headset doesn’t include the camera that you actually need to make virtual reality work. To enable that, you need a camera, which is why some of the associated game bundles are a pretty good deal. The Doom VFR Bundle includes the PSVR headset, PlayStation Camera, Sony’s VR Demo Disc 2.0, and Doom VFR itself. Price: $ 299, down from $ 399.

If slaughtering demons spawned from the very pits of hell isn’t your style, the Skyrim VR Bundle (the post popular at Christmastime, according to Sony itself), includes the PSVR headset, PlayStation camera, two PlayStation Move controllers (aka the PSWii), the PSVR demo disc 2.0, and Skyrim + all of its add-ons. Total cost? $ 350.

There’s also a $ 199 Gran Turismo bundling, but there’s some contradictory information on whether this is the latest version of the PSVR extension unit, which adds the ability to pass-through HDR from the PS4 Pro.

PSVR Bundle

The older Gran Turismo deal is also excellent, if you can find it.

Overall, sales of the PSVR have been quite strong — stronger than many expected. Sony announced in December, before the end of Christmas shopping, that the PSVR had broken two million sales. We don’t know how many additional units the company may have moved in the back half of the Christmas season, but two million units sold outstrips, to the best of our knowledge, any unit sales reported by companies like Oculus or the HTC Vive’s performance.

As much as I genuinely hate to say it, it’s still not clear gaming in VR is any more valued than 3D gaming was. To be clear: I am not saying that VR and 3D were of equal quality. I’ve gamed with both, and VR blows 3D out of the water. It’s not even a contest. But there are plenty of niche technologies that bumped along for years without going mainstream. Mini CDs. LaserDisc. Multi-monitor gaming. 3D itself.

Multi-monitor gaming is generally superior to single displays, though 22:9 ultra-wide monitors address some of that gap. 3D gaming, when properly implemented, was genuinely fun. LaserDisc, while quaint today, offered nearly double the resolution of VHS and certain features that wouldn’t appear in the mainstream market until the advent of DVDs. In each case, there were some specific and particular advantages to each format or gaming mode that were insufficient to move the needle on the larger consumer space.

I’m not saying VR is stuck in that trap. The jury is definitely still out. But it’s not yet clear it’ll ever break through and become a major feature for any system or PC, anywhere.

Now read: The Best Free VR Games and Apps

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