The sudden loss of staff due to COVID-19 in more than a dozen nursing homes in Winnipeg has made it difficult for some to shower and change residents’ clothes.
24 employees of the 200-bed Saul and Claribel Simkin Center nursing home in southwest Winnipeg have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 10 days, CEO Laurie Sirketi said Wednesday.
“No one particular area has been bombed,” Sirketi said. “In the first week of this wave, we had more staff tests positive than in the seven weeks of the outbreak in the second wave.”
Serkti said the rest of the staff is focused on providing basic care and relying on hired caregivers and volunteers.
Bathtubs and showers have been replaced with sponge tubs, linens are only changed if they are wet or soiled, and some residents are given hospital gowns or wear the same clothes repeatedly to reduce dressing and washing time.
At least three other nursing homes in Winnipeg have taken similar steps as staff recover from the infection.
“A lot of the things we did…are what to do when you don’t have staff,” Sirquette said. “We’ve stabilized a bit the last couple of days but over the weekend it’s been really tough.”
Serkti said the Simken Center has requested additional staff resources from the regional COVID-19 relief pool, but as of Wednesday no one had been made available.
“Unfortunately, neither the district nor the joint health organization has additional resources to offer us,” Sirketi said. “We are doing everything we can with what we have to keep our residents safe.”
She said the residents’ basic care needs are being met at this time, and eight employees who have contracted COVID-19 have been able to return to their positions.
However, Cerqueti said other employees are not healthy enough to return to work, despite being allowed to do so under new public health orders that lower isolation requirements from five days to five from 10 days.
It expects more staff to call in patients following New Year’s Eve gatherings and is preparing accordingly. One resident has tested positive for the disease so far.
“We have a really good plan and we have a really great team that has gone above and beyond,” said Sirquette. “I think we are in a position to manage.”
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority lists 16 long-term care facilities as currently experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak. A request for an interview with Gina Trinidad, Regional Community Leader and Continuing Care was denied.
In a statement, a health authority spokesperson said staff shortages due to illness and isolation requirements were affecting most health care facilities in Winnipeg.
“We are closely monitoring the situation, and processes are currently underway to redeploy staff from other WRHA service areas to PCHs if needed, including to any PCH experiencing an outbreak,” the statement said.
Once again, residents of nursing homes are being treated without dignity, said Michelle Porter, professor at the University of Manitoba and director of the Center on Aging.
“It’s incredibly heartbreaking and disappointing that in light of the pandemic, there are still no concrete ways to deal with staff shortages in personal care homes in Manitoba,” Porter said. “This presents a particular problem because the government has been incredibly reluctant to put in place restrictions that would keep society in check.”
Porter questioned why health authorities could not provide employment assistance to homes that had requested assistance despite the assurances being provided.
“The fact that we are still in the orange when residents are treated in such a horrific way suggests that our entire system is broken,” she said. “Some lives are valued more than others.”
the free press She requested an interview with Health Minister Audrey Gordon on Wednesday but received a written statement from her office.
“Staff are being reassigned within locations/sectors and across locations/sectors to ensure that areas of greatest need and most critical services remain operational and able to provide safe care,” the statement said.
Last month, the county redeployment and recruitment team sent 39 employees to personal care homes, and requests for assistance from across the county are being reviewed, the statement said.
“While these are not easy decisions, they are made on the basis of clinical criteria by experts working throughout the health system,” the statement said.