Hoax call diverted resources during struggle to adapt to COVID-19: care home

Hoax call diverted resources during struggle to adapt to COVID-19: care home

VANCOUVER — A long-term care home in North Vancouver that was the site of Canada’s first confirmed COVID-19 death says it received a hoax call as the outbreak began that created “needless fear” and compromised health and safety.

The Lynn Valley Care Centre was also the location of the country’s first known outbreak on March 6. It would become one of British Columbia’s deadliest, killing 20 residents among the total 76 residents and staff infected.

The centre said Tuesday in an open letter that it received a call in the early hours of March 8 that appeared to originate from health authorities as it struggled to adapt to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“It was scary. There was an original fear of the pandemic to begin with, obviously naturally, but it just compounded everyone’s fears,” Noori Shahkar, administrator for the care centre, said in an interview.

Sgt. Peter DeVries said the RCMP has arrested and released someone related to the call. However, no charges have been recommended and he did not provide any further details because he said the investigation is ongoing.

Shahker said the caller phoned the care centre directly, as well as some of the administrators, including himself.

“The caller pretended to be a health officer and they exaggerated the number of people who have tested positive in the centre and stated that because of that, they had to shut the centre down over night,” Shahker said.

The caller also said residents and staff on site shouldn’t leave and the next shift of staff members shouldn’t come in, he said.

As a result, many staff members called home to tell their families they shouldn’t expect them back, and staff members on the morning shift didn’t come in. It meant some workers were on site for up to 16 hours before they got relief, he said.

The care centre was already in turmoil, having to adapt quickly at a time when very little was known about the novel coronavirus.

“Over the course of 24 hours, our facility went from its regular industry standard practices to a vastly altered series of safety measures and protocols,” the open letter said.

When the hoax was revealed on March 9, it had already caused unnecessary fear among residents and their families, and apprehension among staff who became reluctant to work, the letter said.

The centre took immediate action based on information provided and by the time it learned of the hoax, a “great deal of harm” had already been done to its capacity to provide a high standard of care, it said.

“It diverted valuable time and resources away from our capacity to work at a time when we faced the greatest challenge in our centre’s history. That call kicked us when we were down, really down,” the letter said.

The care home said it will continue to co-operate with the RCMP.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry officially declared the end to the COVID-19 outbreak at care centre on May 5.

“LVCC has overcome COVID-19, and our facility today remains free of the dangerous virus. We commit to our residents, their families, and our staff that we will do everything in our power to keep it that way,” the centre said.

Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, told reporters Tuesday that he hopes the suspect of the alleged call faces the full extent of the law.

“If someone engaged in this kind of activity, trying to perpetrate a hoax like this, they can expect government, law enforcement agencies to take this very, very seriously,” Farnworth said.

“There’s just absolutely no place for this kind of disgraceful activities in a pandemic or in fact outside a pandemic.”

— By Amy Smart in Vancouver.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Temporary COVID-19 testing sites coming to Wetaskiwin and Ponoka

The Wetaskiwin location will open Oct. 23, 2020 and the Ponoka location will open Oct. 29.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City and County of Wetaskiwin reporting active cases

Both the City of Wetaskiwin and County of Wetaskiwin have active cases.

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owners found

Father and son found him while out for a walk at JJ Collett

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

From l-r., first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden on stage at the conclusion of the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Trump, Biden fight over the raging virus, climate and race

Republican president declared the virus, which killed more than 1,000 Americans on Thursday alone, will “go away.”

JJ Collett Natural Area Foundation held its AGM on Oct. 19 at the Ponoka Legion. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
De-listing Alberta parks creates ‘risk’ for coal mining: CPAWS

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society speaks at JJ Collett AGM

(File photo)
Ponoka’s seen rise in relationship ‘disharmony,’ domestic violence during COVID-19

While there has been an increase in files, not all have required charges to be laid

ACC President and CEO Ken Kobly spoke to Ponoka Chamber of Commerce members over Zoom on Oct. 20. (Image: screenshot)
Alberta chambers are ‘411’ to members, government: ACC president

Changes to government supports, second wave and snap election

Most Read