Ottawa's Embassy West senior living facility declares suspected COVID-19 outbreak

·3 min read
Ottawa's Embassy West senior living facility declares suspected COVID-19 outbreak

On Wednesday, Embassy West Senior Living retirement and assisted living facility in Ottawa announced that several staff tested positive for COVID-19 using a rapid antigen test.

The facility cares for 39 Nunavummiut elders.

Nunavut Health Minister John Main told CBC that on the Dec. 26, the government was alerted that Embassy West was dealing with potential COVID-19 cases among staff at the facility.

Main said five staff have tested positive so far.

"This has meant some changes at the facility in terms of their programming, the protocols. It's affected residents meal times, their other activities in terms of interacting with other residents," said Main.

The health department has been working with the facility to learn more about how they can support those at Embassy West and their families, said Main.

"There has been stress associated with this outbreak. We are doing our best to make sure the needs of Nunavummiut residents are being met and that things are being offered to support them in this tough time," said Main.

There are still interpreters on staff at Embassy West, but the department is seeking additional interpreter support, said Main.

"Many elders down there do not have family or essential caregivers in the Ottawa area and as such, we are arranging travel for essential caregivers who are able and willing to assist their loved ones during this time," he said.

Asked what this outbreak says about the need for improved services in Nunavut, Main said elder care has been an "active" topic among MLAs and ministers.

He said there will be further discussion, but as the government works to develop its mandate, he could not provide specifics on the elder care file.

'It's been months'

Nunavut Legislative Assembly
Nunavut Legislative Assembly

In May, when a COVID-19 case was confirmed at the elder's center in Nunavut, the territory sent elders south to Embassy West.

They were told they would stay there "not for long," said MLA Pat Agnakak whose father stays there.

"It's been months," she said.

"I was quite worried about my dad and everybody else that was there from Nunavut and all the elders," she said.

Angnakak's dad phoned her to say they were in lock down and had to be in their rooms 24/7.

She stays in contact with her father, who she can call often.

"That is a real blessing, otherwise I would be so worried cause I wouldn't know really what's going on with him on a day-to-day basis," Angnakak said.

However, Agnakak said there must be more than one Inuktut interpreter staffed at the facility at all hours to keep elders company, to help contact and update families, and share information about how their loved ones are being cared for.

Agnakak said she "can't help but feel a little angry" at a failed proposal for a Nunavut-based long-term care facility that got no response from the Nunavut Government.

"I really, truly believe we cannot just wait for the government to do this. It's not going to work that way," said Agnakak.

"When it comes to our elders … we as community members, as those who have loved ones who are elderly, we have a responsibility to try and make their lives better, make their lives easier."

Essential caregivers and staff only

Embassy West said only essential caregivers may visit and have to book an appointment in advance, and arrive 15 minutes early to take a rapid test.

Communal dining and activities are paused on "appropriate floors only" and that there are currently enough staff to care for residents, a statement from the home reads.

Embassy West asked that people minimize telephone calls to the facility so that nursing staff can give the most attention possible to residents.

Asked for more information about the outbreak, Embassy West said in a statement to CBC that they are not able to provide any further information and cannot release information related to the worker due to privacy reasons.

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