More than one third of residents at Calgary nursing home have now tested positive for COVID-19

·4 min read
More than one third of residents at Calgary nursing home have now tested positive for COVID-19

Ten residents have now died as COVID-19 spreads throughout a Calgary care home, and health officials confirmed that more than a third of residents have tested positive.

The most recent information from Alberta Health Services indicates that there are 144 filled beds at the McKenzie Towne Long Term Care Home.

There are now 88 confirmed cases at the facility, 52 of which are residents.

On Friday, Revera Living, the company that operates the facility, announced that an outbreak has also been confirmed at the McKenzie Towne Retirement Residence, located across the street.

One resident and one staff member at that location tested positive for COVID-19, Revera said, and both are now in isolation.

'A sad way to spend your waning years'

Nina Vaughan has three elderly relatives in the home, including her father, aunt and uncle, all of whom have tested positive for COVID-19.

Her father, 81-year-old Lorne Vaughan, suffers from Parkinson's disease along with a number of other health problems.

CBC News
CBC News

Since her story received media attention, Vaughan said she has received daily opportunities to FaceTime her father, along with daily updates from the facility as to his status.

"So we appreciate that. And especially yesterday was a really hard day because of all the additional deaths they had in that one day," she said. "But I suppose one of the downsides of having contact with my dad is seeing the state he is in."

Lorne has been agitated by his inability to go to the bathroom, and by a shortage of staff capable of providing him with occupational therapy. Vaughan said many residents have not had a bath for three weeks.

"So now, he is left to soil himself and wait for someone to clean him. Which is a pretty sad way to spend your waning years, like that," Vaughan said. "It's sad to see they still don't have the staff to provide the care that I think they deserve.

"I understand that these are extraordinary times. But these are some pretty basic levels of care that I think is our duty to try and provide."

Concern for a brother

Julie Nimmo's brother, Jesse, is a resident of the facility. Nimmo said Jesse, who is 50-years-old, is intellectually disabled.

Jesse was tested for COVID-19 and his results came back negative. However, due to Jesse's unique needs, Revera said they were unable to quarantine him to his room — which worried Nimmo.

"I could no longer believe he was truly negative. But I had no choice but for him to remain there," Nimmo said. "They kept saying that nobody [in Jesse's unit] was ill, but they also said that a lot of people that were testing positive, you wouldn't even know that they had it — they were asymptomatic."

Julie Nimmo
Julie Nimmo

So far, Nimmo said she felt the communication from Revera has not been sufficient.

"The communication has been absolutely lacking," Nimmo said. "I'm questioning some of the dates of when they put in their policies and processes … I just have no faith in Revera's ability or competency to actually prevent further spread."

Staff working long hours

Vaughan said some staff at the facility have been working 16-hour shifts, often against the wishes of their own families.

"I want the staff to know how much we appreciate they're showing up for work, because not all of them are," she said. "They're sacrificing a lot to come to work, and we appreciate that."

Nimmo said the nurses, frontline staff and healthcare aides at the facility have been "absolutely amazing."

"It's a job that is, on the best of days, extremely difficult," Nimmo said. "What I'm questioning is more from a company-wide, corporate level."

Susan Schutta with Revera Living said the company was closely monitoring all individuals for COVID-19 symptoms while ensuring staff follow strict pandemic outbreak protocols.

"I can assure you that we are doing everything possible to recruit staff to the home," Schutta said in an email to CBC News.

The majority of COVID-19 cases in Alberta's long-term care system are at the McKenzie Towne facility.

Situation likely to get worse, Hinshaw says

On Thursday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said the proliferation of cases on the site was a "significant concern," and that the situation in the facility is likely to get worse.

"It's my understanding that it would have been better to have had earlier notification of those cases so that action could have been taken when there were one or two cases. I will say going forward I know my colleagues at the local level are doing everything they can to work with that facility," she said.

Hinshaw also announced enhanced cleaning protocols and health screening measures on Thursday which are enforceable by law.

On Friday, health officials announced that Alberta had surpassed the 1,000-case mark as the provincial death toll from COVID-19 reached 18.

The province is due to announce up-to-date numbers and data on the COVID-19 outbreak in Alberta on Saturday afternoon.