A retirement home in Courtice failed to protect its residents from abuse and confined them in their suites by removing door handles, a provincial regulator has found.

The Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority has published the findings of its Feb. 4 inspection of White Cliffe Terrace Retirement Residence. The RHRA said they became aware of the situation at the home due to an anonymous whistleblower.

The RHRA said the inspection found the home "failed to comply with certain sections of the Retirement Homes Act related to protection against abuse and neglect of residents, as well as confinement."

Last month, CP24 and CTV News Toronto obtained a copy of a letter from Verve Senior Living, the company that runs the home, informing families that "a small" number of door handles were removed.

"It was a violation of our protocols and practices. As soon as we became aware of the incident, all resident's door handles were immediately reinstalled," David Bird, president and CEO of Verve Senior Living, wrote in the letter dated Feb. 10.

Bird said the general manager was immediately placed on leave.

Durham police said they were also investigating the removal of door handles after someone came forward with the information.

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In the RHRA report, the inspector cited evidence that "the operator removed door handles to confine residents whose plans of care did not include any safety measures."

The operator also "knowingly provided false or misleading information to the Inspector," the report stated.

As well, a review of resident charts showed that "re-assessments and revisions to plans of care had not been completed within the last six months."

Prior to the inspection, White Cliffe Terrace had been dealing with a second COVID-19 outbreak.

The RHRA said it is determining the next steps, including possible enforcement action.

"In the meantime, the home will take corrective action by committing to an action plan that will address these concerns. This includes comprehensive re-education of all staff on zero tolerance on resident abuse and neglect, the No Restraint Policy and confinement, as well as fire safety and the whistleblowing policy. Additionally, the home will re-educate the management team of all appropriate measures to take during a COVID-19 outbreak," the RHRA said.

The regulator noted that White Cliffe Terrace Retirement Residence had commenced a third-party investigation into those involved in the incident.

The RHRA said they will continue monitoring the home and conduct unannounced inspections.

"If ever we become aware of immediate risk of harm to residents, we will not hesitate to use the powers afforded to us under the Retirement Homes Act and will work with community partners to ensure residents are safe," RHRA said.

- with files from CTV Toronto's Miriam Katawazi