RCMP have arrested one person in connection with a hoax phone call that left the Lynn Valley Care Centre drastically understaffed during the early days of the pandemic.
On Tuesday morning, the Lynn Valley Care Centre, which was the first long-term care facility in B.C. to have an outbreak of COVID-19 and the site of the first death in Canada from the virus, issued an open letter to the community speaking of the incident.
During the early morning hours of March 8 – the same day that a man in his 80s died from complications from the virus – staff at the care centre received a phone call purporting to be from the health authorities, according to the letter. The call left staff “deeply alarmed.”
“Based on the information relayed in that call, out of concern for the safety of our residents, we took immediate action. Over the course of the next day, we learned that the call was, in fact, a hoax. Unfortunately, a great deal of harm had already been done to our capacity to provide the high standard of care for which LVCC has come to be known,” the letter stated. “It caused needless fear among residents and their families. It created apprehension among our staff who, just like the majority of Canadians five months ago, knew little about the disease and its dangers, became reluctant to come to work. And 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 while we were down, really down.”
North Vancouver RCMP are releasing little information about the call.
“I am confirming that we received a complaint from the Lynn Valley Care Centre. We initiated an investigation, we’ve made an arrest, but [will release] no further details because it’s an ongoing investigation,” said Sgt. Peter DeVries, North Vancouver RCMP spokesman.
DeVries did say if the suspect is charged, it will likely be with public mischief.
North Vancouver-Lonsdale MLA Bowinn Ma said she was informed of the incident and flagged it for the Ministry of Health right away.
“I remember those first few days when family members were contacting me in a panic because staff were not showing up for work. I was immediately on the phone with Minister [Adrian] Dix, who by then already knew what was happening and was moving quickly to resolve the situation,” she said. “It was a very serious and dangerous hoax and exceptionally concerning. I couldn’t believe somebody could do such a thing. I don’t know what their motivation was.”
Neither representatives from the Lynn Valley Care Centre nor the BC Hospital Employees Union, which LVCC care aids voted to join last month, immediately returned requests for comment.
“Our LVCC family can rest a little easier now in that knowledge. We will continue to co-operate with the investigation and any requirements of the courts, should the need arise,” the letter continued. “Above all, each day we renew our commitment to provide the highest standard of care for our residents, to offer exceptional service to their families, and to ensure the health and safety of our staff.”