Manitoba care homes looking at prevention after outbreak, death in Steinbach

Protecting seniors in Manitoba personal care homes
Long-Term and Continuing Care Association of Manitoba executive director Jan Legeros discusses the difficult decisions families face in protecting their loved ones, after a COVID-19 outbreak at a Manitoba personal care home.

Manitoba care homes are taking increased precautions after the death of a woman in her 90s — the province’s 13th death connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The woman, whose death was announced Tuesday, was connected to an outbreak at the Bethesda Care Home in Steinbach, Man.

Cheryl Harris, executive director of the Southern Health Region, which includes the Steinbach area, told 680 CJOB there were two additional residents, as well as five staff members, who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

“One of the very first things we did is certainly to notify resident families as well as staff that there was a positive case in the personal care home,” said Harris.

“All the staff and residents were tested and the results were shared with family. All the residents were isolated within their rooms.

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“We also continue to ensure staff work only in this one personal care home, aligning with the public health orders.”

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Harris said the facility has increased testing, personal protective equipment and other safety measures, as well as transferring the infected to hospital.

“(Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin) has shared that it may have come in from a staff member that would have worked during a period of time of transmission. The staff member would have been asymptomatic at the time,” said Harris.

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“We are very fortunate that this particular personal care home has single rooms, as well as single bathrooms. It has 60 beds, and fortunately, the design is such that the 60 beds have two separate wings, and even 15 bed pods within those wings.

“The infrastructure is in our favour to assist with mitigating COVID transmission.”

Harris said any residents displaying any signs or symptoms will continue to be quickly tested.

Read more: Manitoba health officials report 1 new coronavirus death, 25 new cases

Jan Legeros, executive director of the Long-Term and Continuing Care Association of Manitoba (LTCAM), told 680 CJOB on Tuesday — prior to the announcement of the latest death — that the Bethesda outbreak is a serious cause for concern.

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“We’ve been very fortunate in Manitoba that our numbers have been very low overall until recently, and I think the outbreak at Bethesda is giving us all pause,” said Legeros.

“The personal care homes have been very concerned about the loosening of restrictions, especially as it relates to more visitation, and the government has asked them to relax staff screening — not all of them have done that because they are very concerned.

“What we know is that COVID doesn’t walk — it’s carried.”

Legeros said there are likely well-meaning, possibly asymptomatic people visiting their loved ones and potentially infecting them.

“How do you balance social isolation and the devastation that brings to residents when they can’t see their loved ones, together with the risk of COVID?

“I think it’s important that we do everything we can to prevent COVID from entering the facilities, to screen the visitors very thoroughly, and try to make sure none of them have symptoms or have been in contact or have travelled.”

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Legeros called for a return to full-staff screening across the board at care homes — a practice many of the homes have never stopped since the pandemic began.

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“I think it’s time to step up our cautionary approach to COVID.

“We know that during the first round, because we had a complete lockdown and all visits were virtual or through a window or by phone, we didn’t have the situation that we have today.”