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Another death at Calgary’s McKenzie Towne care home as staff work to contain COVID-19 outbreak

Another death at Calgary’s McKenzie Towne care home as staff work to contain COVID-19 outbreak
WATCH: Another coronavirus-related death has been reported at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary, bringing the total number to 11 as of Monday, April 6. The healthy staff that remain on the front lines continue to work relentlessly to contain the outbreak. Jill Croteau has the latest.

Provincial health authorities revealed another loss at McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre bringing the total number of deaths related to the coronavirus at the long-term care facility to 11.

The family of 81-year-old Doreen Gauvreau has confirmed she lost her battle with COVID-19 Monday morning. Her husband Sylvio had also previously tested positive but is still fighting. 

Doreen and Sylvio Gauvreau, residents at McKenzie Towne continuing care centre.
Doreen and Sylvio Gauvreau, residents at McKenzie Towne continuing care centre. Courtesy: Renee Laboucane

It’s also a devastating loss to the seniors community and for the staff caring for them.

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Jessica Saunders’ mom works at the home. She said the gravity of the losses are weighing on them.

READ MORE: Families beg for more staff amid 4 more deaths at McKenzie Towne care home

Families beg for more staff support at Calgary’s McKenzie Towne care centre amid more COVID-19 deaths
Families beg for more staff support at Calgary’s McKenzie Towne care centre amid more COVID-19 deaths

“It’s really emotional. They love their residents and going through something like this, it’s heartbreaking but they’re pulling together,” Saunders said. “The province needs to pull together too, they need as much support as they can get.”

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So far one fifth of the staff at the care centre are at home sick, isolating after testing positive for COVID-19. CUPE, the union representing 160 workers at the southeast facility said they are dangerously understaffed. CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill said staff are working in very difficult circumstances.

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“I don’t have words for the gratitude I have for their bravery, and the bravery of the people living there,” Gill said. “They are in a terrible situation that I don’t think any of us can imagine. We’ve asked the government to look at this sector really hard, and understand what’s happening in long-term care, they should be economically secure.”

AHS needs to balance staffing and limiting COVID-19 exposure at continuing care homes
AHS needs to balance staffing and limiting COVID-19 exposure at continuing care homes

Provincial health authorities say no option is being ruled out. Tom McMillan, communications spokesperson with Alberta Health said officials are monitoring the situation closely.

“Dr. Hinshaw has said that her greatest concern is about the health and safety of those in continuing care and other congregate settings,” McMillan said. “We are taking this extremely seriously, which is why we have implemented mandatory measures to protect residents.”

Under the strict outbreak guidelines announced last week, as soon as even one case is confirmed at a facility, all staff are immediately prohibited from working at any other site. Staff at McKenzie Towne had already been abiding by that order.

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READ MORE: Canada’s nursing homes worry coronavirus outbreak will mean residents ‘dying alone’

Dr. Hinshaw has stated that placing additional limits on staff movement is an option being considered. As part of this work, we are looking at what additional financial or other supports would be needed from AHS and Health if such measures were taken,” McMillan said.

Lori Sigurdson, NDP critic for seniors, said not enough is being done.

“We know staff are there working double shifts and doing the best they can but they need more staff and we need a strategy province-wide,” Sigurdson said.

“All seniors need support from this government and they’re not getting it right now. We are asking for 20 per cent surge in funding for all seniors housing above their current budget.”

Revera, the management company for McKenzie Towne said officials are still looking to hire. Dr. Rhonda Collins, Chief Medical Officer with Revera said they’ve added to staffing numbers.

“Revera’s regional and national recruitment teams have contributed to the COVID-19 response by adding 20 new staff members from the Calgary community to McKenzie Towne team in the last week alone, including nurses, health care aides, and culinary, recreation, housekeeping and administrative staff,” Dr. Collins said. “Alberta Health Services continues to support McKenzie Towne with important nursing resources and clinical expertise.”

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