Homes struggle to keep residents safe

·5 min read

While Fairview Personal Care Home struggles with a COVID-19 outbreak, the executive director of Rotary Villas a few blocks away worries about the potential spread to the 94 people living under her care.

"I was just informed by Prairie Mountain Health Home Care (Program) this afternoon that a number of their staff members are being seconded to Fairview," said Jody Kehler.

Rotary Villas is an assisted living facility. Kehler, a licensed practical nurse, is the only health professional. Residents who require health care receive it from Prairie Mountain Health or a third-party nursing service.

Kehler explained that, as she understands it, home care workers who help residents at Rotary Villas in the morning will potentially be helping out at Fairview in the afternoons.

"The population of our residents at Rotary Villas … We do have increased age. We’ve got residents with chronic health conditions and multiple comorbidities. I just have a really big concern about health-care workers going from a COVID-positive site to Rotary Villas," she said.

Kehler appreciates that Fairview needs help, but she believes the increased risk to the Rotary Villas could lead to an outbreak.

"The consequences of COVID in our community would be very close to what Fairview is seeing right now. And we don’t have health-care staff on site. In order for us to deal with an outbreak here, we’re not trained health-care professionals — except for myself," she said.

"I begged and pleaded with home care. I said, I understand Fairview needs help, right now. I get it. But if their health-care workers are seconded, can they not come here?"

But Kehler said she was told the direction is coming from higher authorities, that the direction is "this needs to happen."

"They also explained the health-care workers will be wearing universal PPE (personal protective equipment). But, we have a fragile population," she said, adding a number of residents at Rotary Villas have spouses at Fairview.

"But we can’t take care of Fairview at the sake of increasing the risk of other vulnerable populations."

Prairie Mountain Heath officials were not immediately available to answer questions.

At the daily COVID-19 update Wednesday, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, responded to a separate question regarding health-care workers going to multiple sites.

"We know we have the one-site public health order to limit the amount of sites that a health-care worker can work at personal care homes. The order has always and continues to have an exemption for extreme times," Roussin said.

"At many of these sites, there are extreme pressures on staffing. On some sites, we’ve provided an exemption to that. It doesn’t really allow someone to work in multiple sites, but is able to come to one site that is under those strains."

Lanette Siragusa, provincial lead for health system integration and quality and chief nursing officer for Shared Health, also weighed in, saying the one-site model exists to prevent a person going to multiple sites.

Lorraine Winters — whose mother, Simone Goulet, turned 94 earlier this year and resides on the first floor at Fairview — has similar concerns, though hers hit closer to home. The outbreak at the personal care home is contained, but for one case, to the fourth floor. But as The Brandon Sun reported yesterday, there are reports health-care workers work in both COVID-positive wards, as well as other wards without COVID, and are lacking adequate personal protective equipment.

Prairie Mountain Health officials and union officials disagreed on what is taking place at Fairview.

"I’m scared to death that it will spread to other floors," Winters said.

"So far, it’s been contained, except for one case, apparently, is on another floor, but not on the first, yet. I have to say, though, that if there ever was an outbreak on the first floor, I would probably take her out of there for a period of time."

But Winters said for now, she thinks her mother is OK. Communications with Fairview are good. Winters is kept informed, and if she has questions, staff are quick to get back to her. And she’s being assured that staff are following all safety protocols.

"She’s being very, very, very well taken care of. She has no complaints ever. She says the staff is wonderful to her," said Winters.

When all residents were tested, her mother’s results were negative. Winters speaks to her mother every day, often twice a day. Goulet is a very social person, so she’s a bit depressed currently, but is doing well overall.

Siragusa said she hadn’t heard the differing perspectives regarding what’s taking place at Fairview.

"We do have guidelines that are in place. We are working with the region, and Prairie Mountain Health has, I believe, good relationships with Fairview and has been supporting them," Siragusa said.

"So we can look at that situation a little bit closer. We do know we have adequate PPE, so if that’s not there, that’s a solution that’s fairly easy to fix. The issue about cohorting can be challenging just depending on the physical layout, but certainly there are ways that we can do the best case possible. So I will follow up and talk to the leadership there and see if there’s opportunities where we can do better and, for sure, we want to make sure that our staff and the residents are protected."

Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun