Families, advocates continue to push for change as 1 year anniversary of Maples care home crisis approaches

WINNIPEG –

Newly minted Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson is promising to fix the flaws exposed by the pandemic in the province’s long-term care system.

It comes nearly one year after a deadly weekend at Maples Personal Care Home during a COVID-19 outbreak which prompted the province to commission a review of the situation.

“The significant challenge we faced in our personal care homes exposed flaws in our long-term care system showing that our seniors are not always receiving the respectful and dignified care that they deserve,” Stefanson said Tuesday during her swearing-in ceremony.

Paramedics were called to Maples care home on November 6 to treat 12 residents in dire need of help amid a staffing shortage.

During that November weekend eight residents of the care home died over a period of 48 hours. The crisis exposed flaws in long-term care families and advocates are counting on Stefanson to fix them.

“She is very familiar with the cracks in the system and she is very familiar with what needs to be done,” said Eddie Calisto-Tavares, whose 88-year-old father Manuel was among those who died.

The provincially commissioned review of the COVID-19 outbreak at Maples care home was finished while Stefanson was health minister.

As of this summer, the province had implemented nine of 17 recommendations stemming from the review and Stefanson pledged Tuesday to finish the job as premier.

Laura Tamblyn Watts, president and CEO of the national seniors’ advocacy organization CanAge, said cracks were exposed across the country but she said fixing them will require more work than what’s outlined in the Maples report.

“We know that all of the recommendations have not been implemented and there’s still serious gaps in what we’re doing here in Manitoba around personal care homes,” said Tamblyn Watts. “Personal care homes in Manitoba have been short-staffed and short of funds for decades.”

Calisto-Tavares heads up the Families Voices Task Force and plans to keep fighting for change.

“For me those 17 recommendations are just the beginning. Let’s get those done,” said Calisto-Tavares. “Then we really need to look at long-term care. We need to look at things that I’ve been asking for, more hours of care per person.”

She’ll be spending the one-year anniversary of her dad’s death in their home community in Portugal. She wants to focus on grieving, something she’s been putting on hold while advocating for change.

“It’s just really healing,” Calisto-Tavares said from Sao Miguel Island. “It brings up a lot of emotions, obviously, but those emotions are important for me to feel.”

Calisto-Tavares said she’s excited Stefanson is now in charge. She’s hopeful her experience in the health portfolio will result in meaningful change.

Revera, the company which runs Maples care home, said in a statement it is “hopeful that the pandemic’s worst effects on the LTC sector are diminishing. We continue, in all our homes, to be vigilant and keep our guard up.”

Revera said it worked with Manitoba Health and the WRHA to implement recommendations in the Maples report and to “maintain the compassionate, high quality level of care our residents deserve”.

A spokesperson for Manitoba Health and Seniors Care said work is continuing to improve staffing levels and infection, prevention and control policies and procedures at care homes across Manitoba.

“This will help ensure safety to everyone in long-term care every day, but especially during times of increased need,” the spokesperson said.

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