COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths at Alberta’s long term care centres are causing alarm among doctors and families.
On Sunday, Alberta Health Services announced nine additional deaths linked to the virus. Eight of those deaths were at continuing care, long-term care or retirement centres.
Alberta Health has been notified of 41 cases linked to the outbreak at Clifton Manor in southeast Calgary, and a man in his 80s who was connected to the outbreak died Sunday.
“The people who are in these facilities who are truly vulnerable — we have again disregarded,” said David Cowling, whose brother Donald has been living at Clifton Manor for a year-and-a-half.
Donald was recently transferred to a Calgary hospital because of medical issues. Cowling said his brother is well enough to go back to Clifton Manor but there’s an outbreak in his unit.
“Society has paid a tremendous price for this and yet we haven’t protected the vulnerable. That’s the irony in all of this,” Cowling said.
“I think it has been outrageous, how this has been handled.”
University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine assistant professor Dr. Tehseen Ladha said hospital bed capacity is being affected by the outbreaks in long term care facilities.
“The situation is so dire in these long-term care facilities and it’s not getting a lot of attention,” Ladha said.
“We are basically taking up many hospital beds just because long-term care facilities are at a breaking point where they have no staff.
“They have COVID outbreaks and they simply can’t manage and they can’t accept residents back to the facilities.”
The president of the Brenda Strafford Foundation, which operates Clifton Manor, Conroy said the province should have brought in tougher restrictions to help stop the spread of the virus.
“I think what is required is the circuit breaker approach. Respecting the economic impact of the pandemic but if you just saw the information over the weekend in terms of shopping, the ski hills, the (anti-mask) rallies etc., I’m not sure it’s enough to influence behavior,” Conroy said.
He said asymptomatic testing has been “incredibly effective.”
“Over three-quarters of the positive cases we have found have been asymptomatic which is an incredibly high number,” Conroy said.
Conroy is concerned there is a bias when in comes to the age of the people who are dying from COVID-19. In Alberta, the average age is 82.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s explicit; it’s implicit systemic ageism. I find that to be very unfortunate,” he said.
“We know who the most vulnerable in our society is based on the learning from the first wave of the pandemic and I think we could’ve done more to prevent the vulnerability of those in continuing care centers.”
On Sunday, AHS said one person has died and there are 11 active cases linked to an outbreak at Generations Calgary — a combined long term care and supportive living facility in the northeast end of the city.
Alberta Health has been notified of 110 cases linked to the COVID outbreak at Mount Royal Revera in Calgary. There are six active cases, 93 recovered and 11 people have died.
Cowling is calling for more resources, including more asymptomatic testing, to be provided to continuing care centres.
“There’s no reason for why this should be happening. There’s no reason why all of the suffering that we as a society have had to take to deal with. We didn’t even put in remotely the adequate resources to protect the vulnerable,” Cowling said.
There are a total of 45 outbreaks in Calgary zone long term care and supportive living facilities and 47 in the Edmonton Zone.