Help has arrived for residents of Maples Personal Care Home as it deals with the worst COVID-19 outbreak Winnipeg has seen during the pandemic.
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) said Friday that after being alerted to the crisis there last week, they’ve identified and begun to fix several issues surrounding PPE usage, staffing, and keeping track of residents’ hydration and nutrition.
The WRHA said it’s also working with the care home to improve communication with residents’ families, and they’ve had someone onsite all week for oversight in dealing with those issues.
The WRHA has had a senior official on site at Maples since Tuesday, for oversight on dealing with those issues.
The organization’s president and CEO, Vickie Kaminski, as well as chief health operations officer Gina Trinidad, addressed media from the Manitoba Legislative Building Friday morning.
Trinidad called the situation unprecedented and critical, and said healthcare workers are doing their best to deal with an extraordinary crisis.
She acknowledged the bravery in an anonymous online post by a Winnipeg paramedic who shared their concerns about the disturbing outbreak at Maples.
“While I’m sorry they didn’t feel safe enough to share those concerns with us immediately and directly, I understand. What is important is that they shared them,” said Trinidad.
“I and my colleagues were very troubled by what was reported, which was the reason I, along with another WRHA senior clinical leader went on site at Maples Personal Care Home that night of the incident.
“We recognized that immediate intervention was needed. When we later learned the staffing information we had been provided was misleading, it served only to validate our concerns and actions we had already begun to take.”
In addition to efforts by the WRHA to stabilize the situation, Red Cross workers were receiving orientation training Friday.
Long-term care homes, particularly the Maples Personal Care Home and Parkview Place — both operated by the Revera company — have come under fire in recent weeks after devastating outbreaks of COVID-19 that have resulted in the deaths of a number of residents.
Controversy over whether the homes were properly staffed has resulted in a police investigation, a threatened class-action lawsuit by the family of a victim and criticism from across Manitoba — generally aimed at Revera and the province.
At least 106 residents at Maples have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began and 22 have died.
Paramedics were called to the home last Friday when many residents were deteriorating rapidly.
Two died before paramedics arrived, three were transported to hospital and others were treated on site for hours.
Revera initially said it had 13 of the normal 19 health care aides working the evening shift last Friday.
It later admitted it had made an error, and there were only seven aides on duty for a few hours in the 200-bed facility.
Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen told 680 CJOB Thursday that an investigation has begun into the affected care homes and how the crisis occurred, and that nothing is off the table when it comes to finding a solution.
The province said Friday afternoon that it had appointed an expert advisor — a former associate deputy minister in British Columbia’s Ministry of Health — to review the situation.
The preliminary findings of Dr. Lynn Stevenson’s review will be submitted in mid-December, the province said, with a final report submitted to tFriesen in January.
“We are gravely concerned with the critical events that occurred at Maples Long Term Care Home last weekend and we are taking immediate action,” said Friesen.
“This expert advisor will conduct a review and prepare a thorough report of what occurred, the current situation and provide recommendations on how we can move forward to support the best care possible to residents. Manitobans and their families need answers.”
When asked if the province is doing enough on personal care homes, Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman said, “Well, we haven’t seen substantive change on the ground.
“I’m pleased to hear that the Red Cross is coming in to help. I think it’s been pretty clear for Manitobans that the province does need help and we have been and will continue to be there to offer our support.
“Part of my concern that we’ve been raising relates to the shelter system. We want to make sure that the lessons learned from a staffing perspective make sure the resources are there when COVID strikes the facilities. That is an area of particular concern that we, we hope that the province has taken those lessons to heart and has better prepared for COVID in shelters.
“It’s been sickening to see what’s happening. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those Winnipeggers that we’ve lost.”
–With files from The Canadian Press