The Manitoba government has committed to implementing all of the recommendations in an external review of the beleaguered Maples Long Term Care Home.
Health and Seniors Care Minister Heather Stefanson and WRHA chief health operations officer Gina Trinidad, along with external reviewer Dr. Lynn Stevenson, spoke to media from Manitoba Legislature Thursday afternoon.
Stefanson said the province also intends to work to strengthen and improve the long-term care sector across Manitoba in light of the heavy impact care homes have taken during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While work has already begun on many of the recommendations at the site and regional level, the review makes it clear there is more work to be done to prevent these same issues from occurring at other sites,” she said.
“We are committed to implementing the recommendations in the review and have asked my department to establish an implementation team and have a plan in place within 30 days.”
The embattled Maples care home has been in the news throughout the COVID-19 pandemic after dozens of deaths — including seven residents in a two-day period in November — and concerns about whether residents were receiving adequate care.
In early December, Winnipeg police said they had looked into the crisis and that no further investigation would take place on their end.
The Revera-owned private facility on Mandalay Drive is also facing potential court battles, as families of residents who died of COVID-19 have threatened legal action.
Stevenson, a former associate deputy minister in British Columbia’s Ministry of Health, was appointed by the province in November to review the situation.
Her report looked at staffing levels, the level of care provided, and the site’s policies and procedures when dealing with infection prevention and control.
While the review found pandemic plans were in place, the care home was unprepared for the staff reductions once employees became exposed to the virus and had to self-isolate.
“While a number of the specific findings have already been implemented, there are other recommendations that need to be implemented not only at Maples, but at other sites and across the health system,” said Stefanson.
“Work is underway to develop a plan on how to implement the findings of the review at sites across the province in the longer term as well as how this work can be integrated into the department’s new focus on seniors’ care.”
Minister Stefanson also called for more federal support for long-term care homes in Manitoba, including increased funding through the Canada Health Transfer.
In a written statement Revera said it will work with the government and WRHA to implement the recommendations.
“We offer our most sincere condolences to the families and friends of the people we lost to the pandemic,” said Wendy Gilmour, senior vice president of long term care with Revera.
“We would like to recognize our staff for their resilience and determination to care for the residents through this unprecedented crisis.
“We look forward to reviewing the report and its recommendations in detail and to working with the Manitoba government and the WRHA to implement the recommendations in our care homes.”
The Manitoba Health Coalition (MHC) said the needs in Manitoba PCHs go “far beyond” the recommendations made in the report.
“The fact is nothing will change in seniors care or LTC without the political will to invest and conduct comprehensive systemic changes to fix seniors care,” said the advocate group’s provincial director, Brianne Goertzen, in a release.
The MHC is calling for more funding for PCHs, increased and legislated staffing ratios to a minimum of 4.1 hours, as well as the end of for-profit long term care providers.
Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew called for a public inquiry.
He said the report doesn’t deal with previous allegations from the health authority that the care home’s owners lied about staffing levels.
“Like everyone else in this province I was absolutely disgusted to learn about the deaths that happened as a result of neglect at the Maples care home,” Kinew said.
Manitoba reported 110 new infections of COVID-19 and two more deaths Thursday.
–With files from Shane Gibson and The Canadian Press