Calgary

Families say AHS too slow to test asymptomatic long-term care residents

Some families are frustrated the province has not acted quicker on its promise to expand COVID-19 testing at continuing care homes.

'Being our most vulnerable population, every day, every hour counts'

The Alberta government announced last week it would start testing residents and staff who are not showing symptoms of COVID-19 at long-term care centres experiencing outbreaks. (CBC)

Some families are frustrated the province has not acted quicker on its promise to expand COVID-19 testing at continuing care homes.
    
The Alberta government announced on Friday it would start testing residents and staff who are not showing symptoms at long-term care centres with outbreaks.
    
But some care centres are still waiting.
    
Julie Nimmo's brother lives at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre, where more than 100 COVID-19 cases and 21 deaths have been reported.
    
She says it's her understanding AHS has yet to offer asymptomatic testing in the facility.

"Being our most vulnerable population, every day, every hour counts. So I'm really disappointed that they haven't moved forward off of that announcement," she said.
    
Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, says the swabbing can be uncomfortable and she's leaving the decision up to local health officials.

Alberta Health says this process is underway in Calgary.

"AHS is working with the facility in question to together determine when this is appropriate. They are working with the facility so are best able to facilitate this as appropriate," said Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan in an email.
    
That does not sit well with David Cowling, whose brother lives at Clifton Manor, where 35 people have tested positive and four have died.

"It's absolutely baffling that they haven't followed their own policy that they announced on Friday and they're allowing this virus to continue to spread at the long-term care facilities without proper testing," he said.
    
Over the weekend, staff at Clifton Manor used extra test kits to swab nine residents showing no symptoms and three of them tested positive.

Public health officials across Alberta are working to contain outbreaks in 29 continuing care centres, where 39 residents have died so far during the pandemic. Residents of nursing homes account for 367 cases.

AHS says it's working to get all residents tested at sites of outbreaks as quickly as possible, and is working on processes to expedite that testing like an online ordering system for swabs.

"We understand that residents and their families are anxious to get tested and we are doing everything we can to get them tested as quickly as we can," a spokesperson said by email.

"We are taking this outbreak extremely seriously. This is an incredibly difficult situation and we are doing everything possible to protect residents while also ensuring they continue to get the daily care and support they need."

On Monday, the province announced it will advance $24.5 million to operators of continuing care centres to help address immediate cost pressures.

Additional funding will be used to:

  • Increase health-care aide staffing levels.
  • Provide a wage top-up of $2 per hour for health-care aides.
  • Create up to 1,000 paid student practicum positions to fast-track certification and get more staff into continuing care facilities.

With files from Jennifer Lee

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