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2nd COVID-19 death at McKenzie Towne seniors’ home has families ‘extremely worried’

Families of seniors in Calgary long-term care home ‘extremely worried’
WATCH: Families of loved ones living in the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre are becoming increasingly worried about the well being of the fragile seniors living inside amid a COVID-19 outbreak. Jill Croteau reports.

A woman in her 70s has died from COVID-19 at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary, Alberta health officials said Monday.

She was one of five additional deaths connected to novel coronavirus announced by Alberta’s chief medical officer of health March 30.

READ MORE: Alberta’s top doctor says province has 5 new deaths tied to COVID-19

Hinshaw trusts staff at McKenzie Towne care centre during ongoing outbreak
Hinshaw trusts staff at McKenzie Towne care centre during ongoing outbreak

It was reported previously that a McKenzie Towne resident in her 80s also died due to the virus, becoming the province’s second COVID-19-related fatality on March 24.

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READ MORE: Alberta sees 2nd death connected to COVID-19, confirms 358 total cases

Families are sharing concerns for their loved ones living at the southeast Calgary long-term care home.

Alberta sees 29 additional cases of COVID-19 after shifting testing protocols
Alberta sees 29 additional cases of COVID-19 after shifting testing protocols

Shauna Parks’ 78-year-old mother, Brenda, is living at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre. She moved in about a week ago. She tested positive for COVID-19 and is among the 36 residents and five staff members who are considered probable or positive cases.

We are very worried about our mom,” Parks said.

Brenda Parks, a resident at McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Home.
Brenda Parks, a resident at McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Home. Jill Croteau/Global News

The family wants to shine a spotlight on the home and all the other vulnerable seniors living there. They also feel the front-line staff are doing the best the can, but suggest they need more support.

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“I don’t want to point fingers and blame the staff. They need help in there and resources right away to ensure continuity of care for the patients that reside there,” Parks said.

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Shauna Parks launched an online petition hoping to draw more attention to the home that has seen what they feel is a troubling increase in positive cases.

‘We must redouble our efforts’: Hinshaw thanks Albertans helping to stop the spread of COVID-19
‘We must redouble our efforts’: Hinshaw thanks Albertans helping to stop the spread of COVID-19

“One of my concerns and speaking out is that I have to weigh whether or not our mom and her quality of care is going to be further compromised right now because we are trying to help the other residents and try to help the staff. They need the resources in place in order to prevent further catastrophe in this home,” Parks said.

READ MORE: Calgary care centre sees 8 new COVID-19 cases; too early to say if outbreak contained

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Parks wants the management company, Revera, to test all residents and staff to give a better scope of what’s going on.

Tom McMillan, spokesperson with Alberta Health, said they are taking the outbreak at McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre extremely seriously.

“As ordered by Dr. Hinshaw, the facility must follow strict infection prevention and control measures and all staff and visitors at McKenzie Continuing Care Centre are screened before entering the facility,” McMillan said.

“Enhanced cleaning must be done multiple times every day and visitors to the site are strictly limited.”

Alberta announces 5 additional deaths from COVID-19
Alberta announces 5 additional deaths from COVID-19

Alberta Health has also taken actions to make sure the site is doing everything possible to limit the spread:

  • An AHS Medical Officer of Health is in daily contact with the site to oversee the outbreak and address any new medical needs or concerns.
  • An AHS Clinical Nurse specialist is now at the care centre, providing care oversight for every resident.
  • Care plans are in place for each resident and AHS is ensuring those plans are being followed.
  • Infection Prevention and Control practitioners and continuing care auditing staff are visiting the site regularly to observe and support the enhanced care and cleaning standards.
  • AHS continuing care leadership also connects with the site multiple times each day to assist with any supply needs such as swabs or personal protective equipment.

Hinshaw reiterated at Monday’s news conference that she’s in regular communication with her health colleagues working on the front lines to support facilities like Mckenzie Towne to respond to outbreaks. She said they are skilled and knowledgeable professionals and she really trusts their judgement.

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“So if in their judgment, they’re believing more resources are needed, I would be very happy to talk to them and and hear what kinds of additional supports are required,” Hinshaw said.

“But again, I have great faith in my colleagues at the front lines and their ability to provide support.

“It’s a a difficult, tremendously difficult, situation. And so many people are affected, both those who live in, work in, or have family members or loved ones in that facility.

“And so I would just say that it’s my intention that certainly everything be done to prevent any further spread. And again, I’m really confident in my colleagues at the front lines and their support that they’re providing to that facility.”

Anyone who has concerns that the public health orders put in place are not being followed can report their concerns online. AHS or law enforcement will investigate, as appropriate.

2 new cases of COVID-19 at Calgary continuing care home
2 new cases of COVID-19 at Calgary continuing care home

Brian Van Vliet’s mom and dad are both living at the Mckenzie Towne continuing care home. He believes staff are doing their best under the circumstances. Neither of his parents have been tested and aren’t showing symptoms.

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“It’s out of my control. I think the chances are fairly high that they’re going to get it,” Van Vliet said. “There’s so many people out there that are sons and daughters and relatives that are in a bit of fear right now. I think Revera is doing everything they can.”

Entrance to McKenzie Towne continuing care centre.
Entrance to McKenzie Towne continuing care centre. Mike Hills/Global News

Revera’s medical health officer, Dr. Rhonda Collins, said it is taking the concerns seriously.

“While there is a perception that the virus is spreading in the centre, all new cases of the virus are people who have been in isolation within a few days of the first positive test result,” Collins said.

“We are closely working with Alberta Health Services to contain the outbreak.

“We are testing residents when they initially become symptomatic. As soon as someone displays symptoms, they are placed in isolation, outbreak protocols are adopted, and a swab is taken and sent for testing.”

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Alberta Health Services says it can’t stop health-care workers from working in multiple facilities
Alberta Health Services says it can’t stop health-care workers from working in multiple facilities

Revera said it is working to address staffing concerns.

“When the outbreak initially occurred, we had short-term staffing challenges to deal with because some staff were asked to self-isolate as a precaution. This meant that we needed to source additional staff quickly, which we did.

“Since Friday our staffing level is at 100 per cent for a normal day, however we are still understaffed for the labour-intensive work involved in maintaining outbreak protocols and we are actively recruiting,” Collins said.