Outbreak has all 46 residents of Regina long-term care home positive for COVID-19: nurse's union

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Saskatchewan Union of Nurses' president Tracy Zambory says all 46 residents and more than 15 staff members at Extendicare Elmview in Regina have tested positive for COVID-19.  (Kirk Fraser/ CBC - image credit)
Saskatchewan Union of Nurses' president Tracy Zambory says all 46 residents and more than 15 staff members at Extendicare Elmview in Regina have tested positive for COVID-19. (Kirk Fraser/ CBC - image credit)

All 46 residents and more than 15 staff members at Extendicare Elmview, a long-term care facility in Regina, have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN).

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

CBC News has asked the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) multiple times to confirm the numbers SUN has given, but SHA did not provide confirmation by publication time.

Administration at Elmview declined to comment.

SHA is slated to take over five special care homes operated by private company Extendicare on Oct. 9.

Zambory said the province must learn from what happened at Extendicare's Parkside care facility in Regina, which was the site of a major COVID-19 outbreak.

In all, 42 Parkside residents infected from November 2020 to January 2021 died during the outbreak, 39 of them as a result of COVID-19.

Saskatchewan's ombudsman conducted an investigation into the Parkside outbreak in 2021 and made eight recommendations.

Zambory pointed to three as being particularly important.

"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."

Saskatchewan Union of Nurses
Saskatchewan Union of Nurses

Zambory said the Parkside facility had to install more than 70 HEPA filters to improve "poor air quality and movement." She said there are questions around infection control at Elmview that have to be raised.

Zambory said province's decision to report COVID numbers monthly is keeping people in the dark.

"We need to remember COVID has not left us. Where does the SHA and the government stand on this? We need to be thinking about getting back to weekly reporting," she said.

She said it is a matter of personal responsibility to get boosted and masked, as Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab advised.

"Don't visit your loved ones in long-term care, if you aren't feeling well. Make sure you mask and wash your hands because we're dealing with a vulnerable population here," Zambory said.

'Staff is very distressed'

Zambory said she spoke with Elmview staff members on Friday night about the evolving situation there.

"The staff is very distressed and extremely worried for the health and safety of their patients and of themselves," she said.

Zambory said the province's health-care system is already "crumbling with emergency rooms collapsing" and is not prepared to handle influx of more patients.

Kirk Fraser/ CBC
Kirk Fraser/ CBC

SHA said last week that between April 1 and Aug. 30 it hired 196 registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses, along with 163 graduate nurses, for a combined total of 359.

In that same period, 197 registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses left the employ of the SHA, the authority said.

The Saskatchewan government announced last week that it will spend roughly $60 million to hire and retain health-care professionals in the province.

Zambory said SUN was not consulted in the creation of that plan.

"Our members tell us that the system is broken and not sustainable. They are becoming burnt out, anxious and going home and crying because they feel someone in the waiting room will have a tragic outcome as they can't provide care."

She said she is hearing that more and more staff are reverting to casual shifts to "gain control over their work life."

Zambory said she worries for vulnerable populations.

"There are constant outbreaks at long-term facilities across the province," she said.

As per SHA's website about COVID-19 active outbreaks, presently 33 long term care and two personal care facilities across the province are experiencing outbreaks.