Personal care homes asked to ‘redouble their efforts’ to keep residents safe: Manitoba Health Minister

By | April 1, 2020

WINNIPEG — People with family and friends living in long term care and assisted living facilities are worried about the spread of COVID-19 because of recent outbreaks in other provinces.

As of Wednesday afternoon no Manitoba personal care home residents had tested positive for the virus, but some facilities have been asked to ramp up their responses, according to the province’s health minister Cameron Friesen.

“I understand that additional messages were sent today by the chief provincial public health officer to ask those personal care homes to redouble their efforts and to raise that bar when it comes to keeping people safe,” said Friesen, after noting the province is working with labour groups on how to deal with situations involving health care staff who work in more than one care home.

Extendicare, a private company which owns and operates long term care facilities in Winnipeg, said it’s already been following directives from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to keep residents, their families and staff members safe.

“Procedures are in place for screening care team members who are prohibited from coming to work if they are ill,” the company said in a statement. “We actively monitor and screen our residents to determine if they are showing any of the related symptoms, and we take necessary precautions if they do.”

SOME WONDER IF THESE MEASURES ARE ENOUGH

Some, including Marjie Rey are wondering if the province has done enough to keep people safe.

With 14 people now dead following an outbreak at a nursing home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., she says she can’t help but worry about the same thing happening in Manitoba.

“I’m terrified because of all of those other outbreaks,” said Rey, outside her mom’s assisted living facility in St. Vital.

She had just dropped off a cake to mark her mom’s 90th birthday, a celebration they couldn’t enjoy together because visitors aren’t allowed in the residence.

One measure, along with several others, she’s happy the facility put in place to protect residents and staff members from COVID-19.

“They’re keeping people contained to their floors, they’ve closed down lounges, they have done everything in their power to prevent this from coming in,” said Rey.

But she’s concerned about the home care visits her mom continues to receive if workers are required to visit multiple homes and care facilities, including her mom’s place, throughout the day.

HOME CARE WORKERS MAY SOON REQUIRE EXTRA SCREENING

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said it’s aware of those concerns and has confirmed home care workers will soon be required to undergo the same screening as those in long term and acute care before they start their shifts.

As part of the new screening procedure announced Wednesday, workers in long term and acute care are now required check their temperature and answer questions about symptoms before they start their shifts.

It wasn’t immediately clear when home care workers would start the screening.

The WRHA said home care workers do have masks available to them, which are only used in certain situations.

A spokesperson said home care workers screen their patients for symptoms and travel before visits. If patients have symptoms or have travelled, non-essential visits could be cancelled. If the care is essential, home care workers will wear masks during their visits. Otherwise, masks aren’t required.

DOES MORE NEED OT BE DONE?

Manitoba Association of Senior Centres executive director Connie Newman said the province did the right thing by banning visits at personal care homes.

She’s not sure if more needs to be done, but she does hope the wider public will practice physical distancing to protect vulnerable members of the community.

“Did our province start at the right time? We’re not sure, we’ll never be sure,” said Newman. “But right now, here today, my loved ones are safe because I am not there. I never know what I carry.”

“We need to get it in our world today that six feet is six feet and if you’re not staying home you need keep six feet,” she said, referring to the physical distancing strategies put in place by public health officials.

To interrupt the spread of the virus, they’re asking you to stay at least two metres or six feet away from other individuals when you do have to leave your house for essential trips.

Even though the rules prevented Rey from seeing her mom in person on her birthday, she knows it’s for the best.

“And I try and tell her the people that she’s living with and the people that are helping her are her family right now,” said Rey.

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