Steve Buist, Katrina Clarke, Joanna Frketich | Hillman Foundation

2021 Honourable Mention

Steve Buist, Katrina Clarke, Joanna Frketich
The Hamilton Spectator

The vast majority of COVID-19 deaths in Canada have occurred among the elderly in long-term care facilities, with Canada having the worst record in this area among the world’s wealthy countries. Special investigative reporting in The Hamilton Spectator in 2020 provided a searing, sickening examination of a major reason why.

In a series of articles titled “House of Horrors,” the reporters’ exposure of what happened in Hamilton’s Rosslyn Retirement Residence revealed one of the most shameful chapters in the city’s history — and showed why Canada’s long term care facilities are regarded by many experts as a national disgrace.

The site of Hamilton’s deadliest COVID outbreak was a 64-bed retirement home owned and operated by the Martino families. They also operate seven other retirement homes and residential care facilities in Hamilton.

The Rosslyn Retirement Residence was evacuated last May 15 with 64 of 66 residents sent to hospital. All but two had COVID. The death toll of 16 residents at the Rosslyn accounted for more than one-third of all COVID deaths in the city.

Investigative journalists Katrina Clarke and Steve Buist, along with health reporter Joanna Frketich, brought the injustices at the Rosslyn’s “House of Horrors” to light.

Buist had been covering the Martino family, which owned and operated the Rosslyn, and their trail of destruction for decades. In 2003, they were responsible for the largest long-term care home bankruptcy in Ontario’s history which left taxpayers on the hook for $18 million.

Buist’s reporting in 2020 revealed horrendous conditions at the Rosslyn, including bedbugs, escaping dementia patients and botched medication administration. Joanna Frketich dug into the shocking news that a Rosslyn patient ill with COVID-19 was inadvertently left behind during the evacuation and went without care for 18 hours.

Katrina Clarke reported on the case of nurse, Ashley Jenkins, who blew the whistle on the conditions at the home and paid the price by losing her job at the temp agency that had hired her.

The Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA) revoked the Rosslyn’s licence in the wake of the Spectator’s investigation, and other Martino-owned homes saw their licences stripped in the months that followed.

At a time when the spotlight in Ontario was on the province’s failure to protect vulnerable seniors, The Hamilton Spectator team — Clarke, Buist and Frketich — exposed one of Canada’s most abhorrent examples of neglect.

Steve Buist is an investigative reporter and feature writer at the Hamilton Spectator. Buist has won four National Newspaper Awards and been nominated for an NNA seven other times. He’s also been named the Canadian Association of Journalists’ Investigative Journalist of the Year three times, been named Ontario’s Journalist of the Year five times, and was the first Canadian winner of the Hillman Prize. In 2014, Buist was the winner of one of the world’s most prestigious cancer journalism awards as he earned the Best Cancer Reporter Award from the European School of Oncology.

Katrina Clarke is an investigative reporter and daily news reporter at the Hamilton Spectator. Clarke won the Canadian Association of Journalists award for outstanding investigative journalism in the community media category for her 2019 reporting on vaccination policies in New Brunswick schools. She was nominated for an Atlantic Journalism Award for her 2018 reporting on secret teacher misconduct in New Brunswick. She was selected as the Gordon Sinclair Foundation’s journalism fellow in 2018 and she was the sole Canadian journalist accepted in the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE) program in 2016.

Joanna Frketich is a health reporter with more than 20 years’ experience at The Hamilton Spectator. Her health reporting has won numerous Ontario Newspaper Awards including beat reporting and journalist of the year. She has also been a finalist at the National Newspaper Awards and a former Canadian Association of Journalists nominee. Her Hamilton investigations have revealed past dysfunction among cardiac surgeons, dangerously low vaccination rates, students increasingly failing math standardized testing and hospital overcrowding.