Woman, 87, trapped in nursing home elevator for 29 hours



TORONTO -- Ontario's health ministry is investigating after an 87-year-old woman was trapped in an elevator at a Mississauga, Ont., nursing home for 29 hours.

Rosalie Rowsell, a resident of Malton Village Long Term Care Facility, was trapped in the out-of-service elevator shortly after she returned from a family outing on Dec. 23.

She was last seen by a security guard around 8:30 p.m. that night after being signed in by her son.

She was discovered by Peel Regional Police as they swept through the nursing home looking for her in the wee hours of the morning on Christmas Day.

"The ministry takes any of these events very seriously," said health ministry spokesman Joanne Woodward-Fraser, who added the report may not be available for several months.

According to an e-mail from the Rowsell family, their mother's absence wasn't noticed until 24 hours after she returned to the home. Staff called the family on Christmas Eve to see if Rowsell would be returning soon.

The family told them she had returned the previous night and scrambled to the home to search for their mother.

It's not clear how Rowsell was missed by staff.

When family phoned the police, they said staff dragged their feet before calling management and janitorial workers who had proper keys to assist with a full search of the facility.

"In our opinion, staff at Malton Village were convinced that Rosalie was not there and this search was a waste of time."

Rowsell had somehow made her way into an elevator which was out of service and became trapped.

"No one did their job and our mother could have died," the e-mail said. "She couldn't reach the emergency button on the elevator and probably wouldn't know to push it if she could.

"So she just lay down and waited for someone to find her."

When police discovered her, she was severely dehydrated.

The Malton Village Long Term Care Centre has apologized to the family, said Janette Smith with the commission of health services for Peel Region.

"We lapsed in our care. When staff noticed she wasn't back from the leave of absence they made an assumption," Smith said. "We notified the Ministry of Health and they are investigating.

"We are reviewing our standards and reviewing our leave of absence standards. We may still learn more to make sure something like this can never happen again."

-- With files from Kevin Connor.

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