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Winkler care home asking families to volunteer due to concerns over staff refusing vaccine

Click to play video: 'Winkler care home asking families to volunteer due to concerns over staff refusing vaccine' Winkler care home asking families to volunteer due to concerns over staff refusing vaccine
A Winkler-area care home is asking families of its residents to be prepared for a worst-case scenario next week as new provincial health requirements come into place. Brittany Greenslade reports – Oct 15, 2021

A Winkler-area care home is asking families of its residents to be prepared for a worst-case scenario next week as new provincial health requirements come into place.

In a letter to families dated Wednesday, Salem Home outlined contingency plans if staff refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo rapid testing as part of new restrictions that go into place Monday.

The care home is putting a call out to families to potentially help by volunteering with laundry, meals, cleaning and activities — and even go one step further and take their loved ones out of the home — should the staff situation become a problem.

As of Monday, all staff who provide care to residents are required to be fully vaccinated or to undergo rapid COVID-19 testing every 48 hours.

Read more: Addressing, understanding vaccine hesitancy among friends, family

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Winkler is located in the Southern Health region, which is under harsher restrictions than other parts of the province due to an influx of cases and lower-than-average vaccine uptake.

“We are incredibly grateful for each family’s support and willingness to assist wherever possible these past 18 months,” the letter said.

“All of this has not been easy for anyone, and we are once again asking you to walk with us these coming weeks.”

The letter says families will be contacted next week if the contingency plans need to be put in place.

At an unrelated press conference Friday, Jane Curtis, CEO of Southern Health said there are contingency plans in place should the care home find itself short-staffed.

“I just want to say to those families that we will take care of their loved ones,” she said.

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“The request that went home are for families that perhaps do have some capacity to help … But we do know there’s families out there that would be willing to.”

One woman with a family member at the care home, who asked not to be named, said she’s “extremely frustrated” with the provincial response.

“I don’t understand how our government is allowing them to request that we do all those basic care needs for our loved ones,” she said. “I don’t understand legally how that’s possible.

“Maybe they have a comprehensive plan, but if they do, they sure aren’t sharing it with us.”

The executive director of the Long Term and Continuing Care Association of Manitoba, Jan Legeros, says so far this particular care home looks like an isolated case.

She’s heard of other homes in the region that are expecting a handful of no-show staff members due to vaccine requirements, but nothing on the scale of Salem Home.

“It’s very unfortunate. We have a number of folks in southern Manitoba who are hesitant in terms of taking the vaccine, so we’re left in a situation such as the one described in the letter,” she said.

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“I know that Salem Home has been raising this concern for quite some time, because the staff there had indicated quite some time ago that they were not interested or were concerned about taking the vaccine.

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“Everyone is actively recruiting, whether it’s health care or other businesses as well — we’re hearing of staff shortages everywhere, so certainly it’s of concern whenever you lose some staff, especially in long-term care. It’s so important to have that care provision uninterrupted for the residents.”

Legeros said it’s up to all Manitobans to help fix the problem of vaccine hesitancy, by appealing to individuals and making sure they’re getting the correct information.

“I think any time any one of us encounters someone who is vaccine-hesitant, it’s up to us individually to chat to that person about the evidence and the facts and try to help them understand that perhaps they’ve been taking in some misinformation on the vaccine.

“We’ve had vaccine hesitancy going back to the 1800s, certainly not as prevalent as it is today, but we didn’t have social media in the 1800s.”

Numbers provided by Shared Health later in the day Friday show roughly 42,000 workers in Manitoba’s health system are impacted by the vaccine mandate, and roughly 75 per cent have completed a disclosure process.

Shared Health says some 70 per cent of all workers identified say they are fully vaccinated, however as of Friday Shared Health says it’s verified just over 62 per cent. That number is anticipated to climb over the weekend, a spokesperson added.

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“The introduction of rapid testing requirements for direct-care workers who are not fully vaccinated is an important additional protection for patients, residents and clients – some of whom are at greater risk of hospitalization and even death from COVID-19,” the Shared Health spokesperson said.

“While system-wide data regarding vaccine uptake is still being validated, we do know that the vast majority of health-care workers have made the choice to be vaccinated against the virus.”

Officials at Salem Home declined a request to be interviewed.

–With files from Brittany Greenslade

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