An Ottawa hospital says it's dealing with a surge in severely ill patients amid complaints from families who allege that their loved ones have suffered abuse and neglect at the facility.

CTV News has learned that a number of families have said they've witnessed a systematic and serious absence of care at Saint-Vincent Hospital, which provides complex continuing care and palliative care.

Dania Hadi told CTV News her father, a private man, died without dignity after spending about two years in the facility.

During that time, Hadi says she documented more than 50 incidents from 2011 to December 2013, which included soiled bed sheets that remained unchanged, empty IV bags and blister-like patches on her father's skin due to inadequate washing. Her father died of a brain tumour one month later.

"You don't know what he's feeling. You don't know what's going on," she said. "Especially my dad who was a very private man," she said. "There's no respect, no respect for life."

Others are just as upset with the treatment their family members have received.

Paulette Layng said she has witnessed her niece suffering during her stay at Saint-Vincent.

She said there have been times when staff have refused to bathe her niece Lisa, or when they haven’t been there to feed her.

"I made a promise to her mom, my twin sister, when she was dying that I would look after Lisa," Layng said. "I'm trying."

The hospital, meanwhile, said it's dealing with a surge of severely ill patients. It conducted an external review related to the complaints last November.

The review found "a small and significant percentage of staff were not practising to standard."

Bruyere Continuing Care President & CEO Bernie Blais said the hospital has a plan to change staffing and upgrade technology at the facility.

"Our patient population continues to come faster and they're much more complex so leaving it the way it is was a major risk for us," he said.

Health care advocates have raised concerns that Ontario is the only province that doesn't have an arms-length body that investigates complaints in hospitals.

"You're really at the mercy of whether the hospital is going to listen to you," said Jane Meadus of the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly.

Saint-Vincent said it has already made some changes at the hospital, but it will take 18 months to fully implement them.

With a report from CTV's Omar Sachedina