Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen has called for an immediate investigation into two privately-owned personal care homes after a slew of COVID-19-related deaths at the facilities.
The minister spoke to the press Sunday morning after at least 22 people have died of COVID-19 at Maples Personal Care Home since public health officials declared a novel coronavirus outbreak less than a week and a half ago.
Eight have died in the last 48 hours.
The Red Cross is deploying to the home this coming Friday. A rapid response team of paramedics has already launched to provide support at the home.
“There are questions that arise in this kind of situation and those questions must be answered and therefore we will undertake… to move very quickly to engage an independent individual with expertise who will enter into an agreement with the province to provide an investigation,” Friesen said.
The Manitoba Nurses Union blasted Friesen in a statement late Saturday afternoon.
“We are all past the point of needing an investigation. Minister Friesen claims he can only act if he has information, but let’s be clear: there is no shortage of evidence to confirm that there are severe staff shortages across the health care system,” said MNU president Darlene Jackson.
Jackson said nurses and other health care providers have been requesting additional support for years.
Asked Sunday whether he bears responsibility for the slew of deaths, Friesen said the accountability is his.
“I am the minister… I hold that accountability to my premier, to my cabinet and indeed to all Manitobans and so the buck stops at my office,” he said.
Gina Trinidad, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s chief operating officer of long-term care, said 20 Red Cross staffers will arrive to provide “additional support” this Friday.
However, Trinidad said, there are no plans to deploy the military.
An emergency response team of paramedics is also deploying to the home. It will be available to other personal care homes experiencing outbreaks, Trinidad said.
Homicide detectives are probing the deaths, Global News has learned.
The first 911 call from Maples Personal Care Home came in at 7:10 p.m. Friday.
By the time the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service left shortly before 2 a.m. Saturday, at least two people were dead of COVID-19.
Within the care home, seven have died from COVID-19 within the past two days — one other person who was near the end of their life died from natural causes, the Winnipeg Regional Authority said.