Kapuskasing in 'dire need' of vaccines: mayor

·3 min read

Kapuskasing's mayor says his focus today is on getting the long-term care patients at Sensenbrenner Hospital vaccinated to avoid the same situation that happened at Extendicare.

Dave Plourde said the outbreak that was declared on Jan. 7 in the community of 8,600 residents has taken a toll on community members.

Fifteen residents have died since the start of the outbreak. Seventy staff and residents have tested positive.

“It’s unfortunate what happened there but we can’t have that happen again,” Plourde said. “Almost a quarter of our population is over 65 … The next rollout has to start here, not finish here.”

Plourde said he will be sending a letter to Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Health Christine Elliott today, Feb. 12, to ask for vaccines. The mayor said he understands there’s a shortage of vaccines but the community is in “dire need” to be vaccinated.

According to Plourde, there are about 40 long-term care beds at the Sensenbrenner Hospital with patients that are on the waitlist to get to the North Centennial Manor or Extendicare. Those patients haven’t received their first dose of the vaccine yet.

Plourde said there are also four COVID patients at the hospital which creates a “vulnerable situation” to the long-term care residents if they were to catch the virus.

“They’re in the hospital because they’re sick. That’s their home, it’s not like they’re waiting in the hospital to get out,” Plourde said.

The mayor said he had no issues with the vaccines being provided to the other parts of the province last year but the situation has changed now. He also noted had the vaccine rollout been quicker, the outbreak at Extendicare wouldn’t have happened.

“I’m not asking for special treatment more than any other hospital. I’m not asking them to cherry-pick a facility,” he said. “What I know is when they vaccinated in southern Ontario, they vaccinated hospitals because they were in the red zone. I’m saying, ‘I’m that red zone right now.’”

As of today, seven residents and 14 staff have active cases at Extendicare.

One of the positive tests linked to the outbreak was flagged as a potential variant of concern (VOC). It was reported last Thursday, Feb. 4. The health unit has said it could take up to seven days for further testing to identify if it's a variant and what strain it is. Those results have not been reported yet.

To date, 29 Extendicare residents and four staff have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Extendicare’s spokesperson Laura Gallant.

“Our hearts are with our community and those who have lost loved ones to this virus during this immensely challenging time,” she said in an email response. “We will remain steadfast in our efforts including adhering to all infection prevention and control practices in our home like the use of personal protective equipment by all staff, regular staff testing and daily COVID-19 screening of all residents for the foreseeable future.”

Feb 5, Guy Bourgouin, the MPP for Mushkegowuk-James Bay, called the province to take over the management of the facility.

At the virtual town hall Thursday, family members of residents at Extendicare also called for more transparency.

Plourde said he had called the facility to offer more staff but the nursing home said there were enough nurses and personal support workers.

“The management of the Extendicare, that’s not for me to decide. That’s the ministerial decision that has to be made and I’m not there to decide that,” Plourde said. “I’m there to make sure that residents within our community are being taken care of and there’s enough staff to take care of the residents that remain in that facility.”

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com