3 residents die following positive COVID tests at Regina care home

·3 min read
The Saskatchewan Health Authority says three residents of Extendicare Elmview have died following positive COVID-19 tests. The cause of death has not been determined.  (Kirk Fraser/ CBC - image credit)
The Saskatchewan Health Authority says three residents of Extendicare Elmview have died following positive COVID-19 tests. The cause of death has not been determined. (Kirk Fraser/ CBC - image credit)

The Saskatchewan Health Authority has confirmed three residents at Regina's Extendicare Elmview who tested positive for COVID-19 have died, but said the causes of death have not yet been confirmed.

The SHA also confirmed all 46 long-term care residents at the home, two temporary residents and 15 staff have tested positive for COVID-19 since an outbreak was declared on Sept. 3.

There are currently 33 active cases among the 46 full-time and eight temporary residents, the SHA said Tuesday.

The SHA said 15 staff are isolating and 12 residents who tested positive have recovered.

"Currently, many of the residents who are positive either have very mild symptoms or are entirely asymptomatic," the SHA said in a statement.

Administration at Elmview declined to comment on the situation.

The SHA said COVID-19 prevention protocols have changed since the outbreak was declared.

"We have put enhanced cleaning measures in place, reinforced universal PPE use requirements for all staff, and are closely monitoring all residents for any possible symptoms. We have also temporarily limited the number of visitors permitted in the home (currently at RED family presence precautions) and staff are offering virtual visits to families," the SHA said.

Minister reacts

On Tuesday, provincial Health Minister Paul Merriman said the SHA facility had a "high vaccination rate," which is helping limit the severity of symptoms for residents there.

"I would imagine there would have been more challenging outcomes if those people weren't vaccinated. So again, I encourage everybody to get vaccinated."

Merriman did not say whether the government would be reviewing its COVID-19 protocols in long-term care homes given the number of current outbreaks.

According to the SHA's website listing active COVID-19 outbreaks, there are outbreaks at 33 long-term care and two personal care facilities across the province.

Merriman said the speed at which positive cases travelled through the facility shows how transmissible the virus is and the difficulty in detecting it.

"[It can] move through a facility very quickly and it could be two or three days of people being asymptomatic and nobody knew that they were sick," Merriman said.

SHA interim chief operating officer Derek Miller said he was not aware of another facility with a 100 per cent infection rate for permanent residents.

"I would say it's probably pretty rare that we that we see every resident in a facility [test positive] but certainly it can happen and things can move very quickly."

Miller said the SHA has learned throughout the pandemic to move quickly to change protocols when an outbreak hits.

"We have adopted and revised all of our protocols to be as responsive as we possibly can and create safe environments for our residents."

Miller said getting residents the latest vaccinations has had a positive impact on the severity of their illness.

Province taking over

On Oct. 9, the SHA will take over five special care homes operated by Extendicare in the province. The SHA has not provided many details of the agreement — including the cost of the takeover and the impact on jobs —  because they are not finalized.

The takeover comes after the provincial government announced it would be severing ties with the company back in October 2021.

Extendicare's Parkside care facility in Regina was the site of a major COVID-19 outbreak that led to the deaths of 39 residents in 2020-21.

The outbreak and subsequent deaths led to an investigation and a series of recommendations from the province's ombudsman.

Nurses union concerned

On Monday, the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) expressed concern about the outbreak at the Elmview home.

"When every single member is positive, it is deemed to be a massive outbreak," said SUN president Tracy Zambory.

Zambory said the provincial government and SHA need to make sure care facilities are following the ombudsman's recommendations to keep residents and staff safe.

"Donning and doffing personal protective equipment, ventilation, and occupational health and safety," Zambory said. "Those recommendations need attention because 46 out of 46 residents testing positive is troubling."