A management team from the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is now helping staff at a Regina nursing home try to contain a COVID-19 outbreak that has claimed the lives of 12 residents.
Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home in Regina is operated according to a contract with the SHA. Health officials declared an outbreak at the 141-person home on Dec. 18.
According to an update the home provided family members on Monday, the SHA "is piloting an outbreak management team."
"This team will meet with us early [Tuesday] morning to see if we can implement new strategies to more effectively contain this virus and stop its spread," the update said.
Kelly Chessie, the home's executive director, said it has been working with the SHA and other homes in the Regina area throughout the pandemic, "taking every opportunity to make important changes and improvements as we learn together about what works best when fighting this virus."
She said the SHA reached out last Friday with its offer of help.
"We happily welcomed their expertise," Chessie said Tuesday in an email to CBC News. "They came this afternoon and I am grateful for the fresh eyes and am optimistic that we can work together to further improve and tighten our infection control measures.
"Responding to an outbreak takes a lot of time and effort. Everyone here has been working very hard to contain this virus and stop its spread. Having extra hands and fresh eyes to help with this critical work will be valuable."
It's not the first time the SHA has come in to assist a Saskatchewan care home amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In early December, the SHA signed a co-management agreement at Extendicare's Parkside home in Regina, where 43 deaths have been linked to COVID-19. That outbreak has since been declared over and the arrangement is set to expire on Jan. 31.
The Saskatchewan NDP has called on the province to take similar steps at Extendicare's Preston home in Saskatoon, which is in active outbreak. Three residents have died and more than 30 residents were infected as of last week.
SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said on Tuesday the authority is in daily contact with Extendicare Preston's leaders and is supporting them.
"Our local teams are given daily updates," Livingstone said. "We've been in the facility doing safety reviews and supporting the use of PPE. The facility is fully staffed, which is different from some of the other situations we've seen."
Home is 'slowly building immunity'
As of Tuesday, 31 residents and five staff members at Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home were actively infected with COVID-19. Several others had recovered.
Santa Maria was among the first long-term care homes in Saskatchewan offered a COVID-19 vaccine, with staff receiving their first Pfizer-BioNTech doses on Dec. 24. Second doses then followed about 21 days later, Chessie said.
On Jan. 14, 114 residents received their first dose. No second doses have been administered to residents yet, Chessie said.
Since Jan. 14, 17 new cases of COVID-19 have been found at the home, including some residents who were vaccinated with their first dose, Chessie said.
"We are slowly building immunity in this home," she stated in a note to families last week.
In a subsequent note to families on Monday, Chessie said the home has a "GO team" consisting of a respiratory therapist and nurse as well as a consulting physician.
"[They] continue to be here every weekday, during the day, and the physician is available on call," Chessie wrote.
She said there are some residents "who need help with this fight."