‘We are in a staffing crisis’: Advocates call for action as Manitoba reports COVID-19 outbreaks in care homes

WINNIPEG –

As of Monday, essential care partners are required to be fully vaccinated if they want to access Manitoba hospitals and care centres, but with outbreaks occurring at several personal care homes, some say the province needs to do more to prevent a grim outcome.

John Skibinski’s father has been in Arborg Personal Care Home for the past four months. Last week he was notified that the care home was going into lockdown due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

“Which locks all of the patients into their rooms, no interaction amongst the patients for dining or recreation,” said Skibinski.

The province’s website shows as of Monday, nine people caught COVID-19 at Arborg Personal Care Home, all of whom are non-staff.

Skibinski said he doesn’t want to see his father fall through the cracks like many others did during the first wave of COVID.

“Now we’re in our fourth wave, and we just don’t want our father to become a victim of this.”

At the Amber Meadow Retirement Community in Winnipeg, cases have spiked in the course of just a couple weeks according to Atria Retirement, the company that runs the home.

In a statement to CTV News, Regional Vice President of Atria Retirement Cam Johnson said in part:

“In mid-November, three residents tested positive for COVID-19. When these cases were identified, we quickly escalated precautions including follow-up testing based on contact tracing, delivering meals to residents’ apartments and limiting guests to essential visitors only. 26 residents, who were all previously vaccinated, tested positive.”

Johnson said two residents who tested positive have since passed away.

Outbreaks have also been declared at Third Crossing Manor in Gladstone, which currently has 70 total cases of COVID-19 including two deaths.

Benito Personal Care Home has 25 total cases and six deaths.

Laura Tamblyn-Watts, CEO of CanAge, Canada’s national seniors advocacy organization, said staffing levels in personal care homes are down about 30 per cent nationwide, and those numbers are similar in Manitoba.

“We are in a staffing crisis like we’ve never seen before,” said Tamblyn-Watts.

“Manitoba needs to proactively reach out for help and support, whether that be through the military or Red Cross, really from anywhere.”

A spokesperson for Manitoba Health and Seniors Care said in part:

“The COVID-19 pandemic provided many important lessons that will inform how we respond to pandemics in the future. On top of prioritizing personal care home residents for a third COVID-19 vaccine, our Government has committed to implementing all 17 recommendations of the Stevenson Review to improve care for Manitobans at all 125 personal care homes in the province.”

Skibinski believes Arborg Personal Care Home needs more boots on the ground.

“They’re going to have to bring in more staff to help out, even if it’s with the basic needs.”

As of Monday, the province reported five new outbreaks in total, two of which are in Winnipeg.

Those include Holy Family Home and the Grace Hospital 4 North surgery unit.

Portage la Prairie has an outbreak at the Manitoba Development Centre in the Lawnside unit.

There are also outbreaks at the Village View Lodge assisted living facility in Plumas and the Country Meadow personal care home in Neepawa.

Each of these facilities have been moved to red or critical on the province’s Pandemic Response System.

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