Manitoba seniors’ homes will turn away visitors to prevent spread of COVID-19

By | March 16, 2020

Some private seniors’ homes say they are taking precautionary measures to protect at-risk elderly clients amid the ​​​​​COVID-19 outbreak — although they have not been advised to do so by the province’s top doctor.

In online statements about managing the impact of the novel coronavirus, All Seniors Care Living Centres and Revera announced they are limiting visitors at their retirement homes.

“We remain dedicated to ensuring the health and wellness of our residents and encourage all staff and families to remain calm, be cautious and respect the infection control precautions we have in place,” reads a notice to residents’ families from All Seniors Care, which runs retirement homes throughout Canada.

The statement from All Seniors Care says the decision follows a similar directive from the Ontario Ministry of Health on Saturday.

“As a proactive measure, All Seniors Care senior management has adopted this policy in all our residences across Canada,” the statement said. “We know how important it is for people to connect with friends and family, but we believe this is the right decision to minimize the spread.”

As of Sunday, Manitoba has identified seven cases of COVID-19, while the total number of cases in Canada has surpassed 300.

The chief nursing officer of Manitoba Shared Health said the province is working on a plan to slow the spread in long-term care homes. For now, they have not locked down homes for older adults in Manitoba.

“I think that would change if there was an outbreak at the care home,” Lanette Siragusa said.

To date, the death of a resident of a B.C. long-term care facility is the only known death linked to COVID-19 in the country.

Taking precautionary measures

Access will be controlled and all visitors will be screened before entering All Seniors Care buildings. Only those who “actively provide direct daily care of a resident will be considered essential and granted access” and all non-essential visitors will be turned away, according to the statement.

All Seniors Care has asked residents to not leave its centres, with the exception of those who need to attend medical appointments. Management is encouraging residents and families to connect by phone or video calls.

Residents are pictured cheering on their neighbours at the 2020 All Seniors Care Seniors Games in February. As of Saturday, senior management is banning entry of non-essential visitors to all of its retirement homes in Canada. (Cory Herperger/CBC)

Revera’s chief medical officer penned a letter to residents and families Saturday informing them that the retirement centres — which includes The Waverley in Winnipeg — have put a “full pandemic plan” into action.

Revera announced it is restricting visits at long-term care homes and retirement residences to those who have a relative who is “dying or very ill.” They will be permitted entry after a screening process.

People who fail the screening process will be allowed to enter, but must follow strict protocol including wearing personal protective equipment and keeping a distance of at least two metres from all other residents and staff.

‘They are alone’

Connie Newman, executive director of the Manitoba Association of Senior Centres, has been trying to get people connected to prevent loneliness and social isolation prior to the pandemic.

“Because of what is happening right now, they are alone,” Newman said, adding many older adults can still be reached by phone or online. 

Newman, who is a retired school teacher and principal, suggested children and parents can drop off special messages on paper for residents to post on their walls and doors.  

“It means somebody cares. We may not be able to walk through the door, but somebody cares.”

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