Manitoba sending expert to investigate COVID-19 outbreaks at Winnipeg care homes

WINNIPEG — The province is sending an independent expert to look into the COVID-19 outbreaks at two Winnipeg care homes.

Manitoba’s Health Minister Cameron Friesen made the announcement at a news conference Sunday morning.

The announcement was in response to paramedics treating 12 residents at Maples Personal Care Home Friday night, where three were taken to hospital and two died.

“Manitobans need answers,” said Friesen. “There are questions that arise in this sort of situation, and these questions must be answered.”

Friesen said the independent expert will assess the condition at Parkview Place Long Term Care Home and Maples care home in the lead up to the outbreaks. The expert will then come back to the province with any advice on preventing situations like what happened at Maples Friday night.

“Despite preparations, we have seen here the deadly consequences of COVID-19 in care homes,” said Friesen. “Keeping COVID-19 out our care homes has been one of our greatest challenges and one of the greatest of focus by our system leaders during this pandemic.”

As a result, the province is implementing a rapid response team to help at Maples.

Lanette Siragusa, Shared Health’s chief nursing officer, said the team consists of a 24-hour ambulance staffed with two advanced care paramedics, a respiratory therapist and a supervisor.

“The personal care home operators must staff their facilities to meet the increased needs of the residents during COVID-19,” said Siragusa. “Given how quickly this situation has evolved, this does require additional support for contingency staffing plans to ensure that there is appropriate care.”

A similar team will also be launched to help with care homes outside of Winnipeg.

Citing that Maples Personal Care Home was staffed appropriately when Friday’s situation occurred, Siragusa said there is a need for reinforcements.

“This was not normal,” said Siragusa. “This was more acute, and more reinforcements needed to be there.”

The union representing the care home workers disputes that staffing was not at 100 per cent like the province and Revera, the company the operates the care home, said.

The Canadian Red Cross will also be sending help to Maples on Friday.

Minister Friesen said he’s also directed the WRHA to supervise the care homes more.

CALLING FOR THE MILITARY

The Manitoba NDP believes an independent expert is not enough and that the military should be called in to help out in care homes.

“The provincial government must call in the military to assist at personal care homes in the province,” said Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew at a news conference Sunday afternoon.

Kinew said decisive action needs to be taken.

“We need strong action today to save lives, but we also need answers,” he said.

The NDP believes calling in the military would lead to a transparent look at what is happening in care homes.

Citing what happened in Quebec and Ontario care homes, Kinew said there is no downside to being over-prepared.

“The military must be called in, and the government must take over the Revera care homes that are in crisis today,” said Kinew. “We need strong, decisive action to save our seniors.”

Friesen said the province does not have plans to take over any care homes or call in the military.

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