Winnipeg personal care homes hit by COVID-19 outbreaks as number of cases continues to skyrocket

COVID-19 is hitting personal care homes at the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, with 19 outbreaks reported Thursday.

This is an increase from the eight outbreaks reported in personal care homes on Dec. 31, according to a spokesperson for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

“It hit the staff hard,” said Laurie Cerqueti, CEO of The Saul and Claribel Simkin Center.

Laurie Cerqueti, CEO of the Saul and Claribel Simkin Center, said 29 staff members and one resident tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks. (photography by BARRY MALLIN)

Croqueti says the personal care home, which is currently in the midst of an outbreak, had more staff tests positive for COVID-19 in one week than in a seven-week outbreak in 2020.

She says while almost all of the staff at the home are doubly vaccinated, 29 have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks or so. Currently, one resident has COVID-19.

She says the rapid increase in the number of cases among employees has left them short on staff, without additional support from Manitoba Shared Health.

“It’s kind of a situation where everyone has to participate and help,” she said.

Cerqueti says she thinks no one is doing something wrong, but believes the number of staff cases shows how contagious the Omicron variant is.

“Really, the staff has been varied,” said Cerqueti, who estimates there are around 250 total employees at the house. “There hasn’t been one department more affected than the other.”

Volunteers lend a helping hand

Staff, volunteers and designated caregivers are doing their best to handle the situation, she says, but must prioritize what is done due to recent staff shortages. That means bedding can only be changed if it’s dirty, beds may not be made, and residents may be given a sponge bath instead of a tub, she says.

Cerqueti says some staff may return to work this week, which means the house is in a better position right now than it was last weekend: “At the moment we are stable but , like I said, that could change tomorrow. “

A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said in a statement that staff shortages due to illness and isolation requirements affect most health facilities in Winnipeg.

“We are monitoring the situation closely and we continue to meet regularly with PCH operators and to assess and process all requests for assistance to the best of our ability given the system-wide shortages,” the authority said. in a press release on Friday.

Cerqueti says that when her team reached out for help through Shared Health’s Provincial Recruitment and Redeployment Team (PRRT) around December 31, she was given the name of someone who was not. available to start work only a week later.

“We have reached out and unfortunately there is not a lot of availability to send staff… because the pandemic is now hitting the entire healthcare sector very hard,” Cerqueti said.

A spokesperson for Manitoba Shared Health said in a statement that the PRRT “reviews staff support requests from across the province and maintains a list of health care workers available to work on an occasional basis in various roles.”

Actionmarguerite reports an epidemic

The statement said 39 staff have been deployed to personal care homes since early December.

“Contingency planning continues to identify, assess and respond to system needs, including services and sites that may need additional support. Decisions are made based on clinical criteria by experts working across the health system, ”the spokesperson said.

On Monday, CBC News reported that Actionmarguerite, which operates three Winnipeg nursing homes, recently had at least 18 employees and 18 residents tested positive for COVID-19.

In an article posted on the nursing home’s website, the organization’s CEO issued a warning last Sunday, stating “As we enter a third year of this pandemic, we can say that this has been the peak period. more difficult to date “.

A spokesperson for the WRHA told CBC News earlier this week that staff have been redeployed to help with outbreaks at Actionmarguerite sites.

The CEO and director of care at the Winnipeg convalescent home said an outbreak of COVID-19 was declared there on Thursday.

Sharon Wilms says they first suspected there was a case of COVID-19 a few days ago and by Thursday three residents and five staff had tested positive.

While she anticipates they will have more staff cases, she says for now that they are managing.

“Unfortunately I had two nurses and, you know, they’re a vital part of our care for the residents,” Wilms said. “Yeah, it had an impact, but like I said, we have a great staff here and they’ve put in extra hours, they’ve taken on extra shifts.”

Manitoba makes take-out and self-administered rapid tests available at provincial testing sites, depending on the province. (David Horemans / CBC)

Cerqueti says she would like to see faster tests provided at the care home so staff can use them before going into work: “I think we all dread being the one who could bring COVID here and pass it on. to a colleague or resident “

A spokesperson for the province said Friday that “staff in personal care homes have access to rapid antigen testing when they are symptomatic to allow a safe return to work, and for asymptomatic staff when they are symptomatic. personal is close family contact of a positive COVID Case. “

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