Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne says a nursing home where two residents died from badly-infected sores over the last year is now under deadline to make changes in how it takes care of wounds and dressings.

The McKenzie Towne Care Centre in Calgary is to track wounds on a computer to make sure no one is missed and a provincial consultant is to check in regularly, Horne said Friday.

Violet MacDonald

Violet MacDonald, 73, died in hospital last October. (Supplied)

The centre also plans to give staff more training, implement updated care plans for residents and explore ways to give families more say.

The 150-bed care centre is run privately by Revera Inc. under contract to the province.

Horne had said in December when reports of the deaths first surfaced that he was considering pulling Revera's contract.

But following audits by his department and Alberta Health Services, which handles front-line care, Horne is satisfied that such drastic action isn't required.

"I don't think the findings of the AHS report, at least as they've been explained to me, suggest that there's a systemic problem in the facility," he said. "In fact, it reinforces for me that the residents who are there are safe.

"There were some quality issues identified, but there's action being taken."

The audits found:

  • Gaps in documenting ongoing resident care and in basic resident information.
  • Management of aggressive and violent behaviour of residents was not up to standard in some cases.
  • Oxygen and chemicals were left unsafely stored in unlocked rooms.

Residents died from blood poisoning

The investigation also found wound care practices weren't always being adequately followed.

"In some areas there would not have been the specialist required with the knowledge around some of the very, very complex wounds that we found in this circumstance," said Brenda Huband with Alberta Health Services. "So we've been able to provide some of the specialists in wound care from Albera Health Services to go in and support, train and educate and ensure that those resources are available at that site."

The audits were ordered after two residents died from blood poisoning.

The first case, that of Violet MacDonald, came to light when her family went public in December with their concerns. Relatives said MacDonald, who was 73 and who had dementia, was left in a soiled diaper for two days last February. They said that infected existing bed sores and caused blood poisoning.

MacDonald was treated in hospital, but was bed-ridden thereafter and died in October.

Nana and me

Breanne Sinclair sits with her grandmother Wyonne Somers nine days before she was hospitalized. It was the last time she was able to have a conversation with her "nana." (Submitted by Breanne Sinclair)

Relatives also said McKenzie Towne staff misled them about how serious the wounds were and once barred the family entrance to MacDonald's room by propping a chair against the door.

The family of Wyonne Somers, 75, said she died last fall after she developed a severe urinary infection and leg sores.

'Changes need to be made'

Breanne Sinclair says she still misses her grandmother, but is relieved the reports identify problems with wound care and patient documentation.

"It's obvious that there's things that are lacking in the facility," said Sinclair. "My question is once the heat is off of them are these changes going to continue to be implemented and monitored?"

Sinclair says the problems would never have been investigated or uncovered had families like hers not spoken out.

"Changes need to be made," she said. "[The health minister] needs to take this seriously. This isn't an isolated incident, if that's what he's insinuating."

Sinclair believes there are widespread problems with Alberta's long-term care system and says the only fix is tougher monitoring.

Revera says an independent third party review of the facility is also being conducted by Dr. Paul Katz, a recognized Canadian leader in geriatric care. The review results are expected by April. 

"We take our responsibilities and obligations as long term care providers very seriously," said Revera in a release.

"We are committed to continuous improvement and to providing the best possible resident care through on-going collaboration with Alberta Health Services and the Ministry of Health."

Revera runs 15 seniors homes in Alberta and 242 across North America.

With files from CBC News