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3rd COVID-19 death reported at Calgary care centre; officials flag operational concerns

Click to play video: '3rd COVID-19-related death at Calgary continuing care home' 3rd COVID-19-related death at Calgary continuing care home
Another loss at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary as Alberta health officials confirmed a third death. Jill Croteau reports on the concerns and realities of the outbreak – Mar 31, 2020

A third COVID-19-related death has been confirmed at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary.

According to Alberta Health, the 80-year-old man died on Monday.

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

“This is another tragic case of COVID-19 at its worst,” Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Tuesday.

Click to play video: 'Hinshaw details protocols for outbreak control at Alberta care facilities' Hinshaw details protocols for outbreak control at Alberta care facilities
Hinshaw details protocols for outbreak control at Alberta care facilities – Mar 31, 2020

Hinshaw said totals for confirmed cases related to the outbreak at the facility, as well as one other long-term care facility in Calgary and a third in Edmonton, will be released on Wednesday.

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Hinshaw said there are outbreak control guidelines for long-term care and continuing care facilities, including any staff who show symptoms aren’t allowed to come to work, residents who have symptoms are immediately isolated in their rooms and officials have testing and identification protocols in place.

“In the case of McKenzie Towne, unfortunately, that outbreak protocol seems to not have been implemented immediately so there does seem to have been a significant amount of exposure,” Hinshaw said.

“The critical piece of response in that particular outbreak is making sure that everything is done to prevent any further exposure.”

Click to play video: 'Province announces third patient has died of COVID-19 at McKenzie care facility in Calgary' Province announces third patient has died of COVID-19 at McKenzie care facility in Calgary
Province announces third patient has died of COVID-19 at McKenzie care facility in Calgary – Mar 31, 2020

She said staff members who were exposed are allowed to continue working in order to keep the facility operational but they have to wear masks and are prohibited form working at any other long-term care facility during the outbreak.

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The man’s death is one of the province’s nine deaths related to COVID-19 as of Tuesday afternoon.

The care centre has seen a growing number of infections of the novel coronavirus since the first cases were reported last week, leading to concerns around the facility’s operation.

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

Rory Gill, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees — which represents the 150 staff at the long-term care facility — said staff are doing their best to keep people isolated, but said the spread of the virus is “frightening.”

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“They are getting proper protective equipment but we have concerns as this progresses and it continues [that] they won’t have resources they need to make residents and themselves safe,” Gill said.

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According to Ruth Adria with the Elder Advocates Society of Alberta, a lack of oversight and accountability contributes to the spread of an illness like COVID-19.

“Once one person brings in an infection, there is really very little and [it’s] almost impossible to stop,” Adria said.

“The caregivers go from one elder to another.”

‘Dirty little secret of this sector’

McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre does not let its employees move between long-term care facilities.

However, Gill said health-care workers moving between facilities is a problem within the continuing care sector as a whole.

“It’s a dirty little secret of this sector. We represent thousands of workers. We do our best to protect them [but] wages are abysmally low since the privatization of long-term care and for profit became the norm,” Gill said.
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“Some of them have three or four different jobs they move to, to make ends meet.”

Click to play video: '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
Alberta Health Services says it can’t stop health-care workers from working in multiple facilities – Mar 30, 2020

Gill said the province needs to issue an order preventing that movement, adding that until then, some facilities will continue to allow people to work at multiple centres.

“The less movement there is, the less chance [of] spreading the virus,” Gill said.

“Surely to goodness they shouldn’t be moving from facility to facility. Sometimes within one day, a regular worker works [the] day in one home and is working in another at night. It’s not safe.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: 12th resident dies at Bobcaygeon nursing home; new cases in Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland County

Speaking to the media on Monday, Dr. Mark Joffe with Alberta Health Services said officials have looked closely at the idea of restricting health-care workers from moving between facilities.

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“We have had to consider what the options may be and whether restricting individuals to working in just one facility is feasible, because if we do that, we might impact the care that individuals in other facilities might receive,” Joffe said.

READ MORE: Alberta has 754 confirmed cases of COVID-19; 9 deaths total

He said currently, the health authority is not prohibiting staff from working at multiple care centres, but that could change.

“If anyone has any symptoms whatsoever, we expect them to stay home and self-isolate,” Joffe said.

“There will be screening of staff as they enter facilities to ensure that they are presenting to work healthy and ready to work. Again, this discussion that we had today will continue and we will be reviewing this on an ongoing basis.”

Revera, which runs the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre, said it expressed its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of those who have died as well as other residents and employees at the facility. The company said its thoughts were with the one resident who remains in hospital.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: 77 Alberta health-care workers infected with new coronavirus

“We have been able to add several staff and we are actively recruiting more staff,” Revera said.

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“We are working with AHS to accommodate the extra demands of residents in isolation, which include individually feeding residents in their rooms on overbed trays, engaging residents in one-to-one recreation activities and supporting the enhanced cleaning measures.”

The company said it is keeping in touch with residents’ families so they are updated on their conditions.

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

Later on Tuesday, Revera said it was “disappointed” in Hinshaw’s comments, adding it’s been working with AHS since the outbreak started.

“We monitored residents for symptoms and put them on isolation when they presented,” the company said.

“We screened staff and did not knowingly let people work who were symptomatic.”

Revera added that all outbreak control steps that have been taken at the centre are outlined on the company website.

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