Edmonton geriatric psychiatry hospital overwhelmed by COVID-19

COVID-19 cases at Villa Caritas in west Edmonton have exploded over the past nine days. 115 patients and 10 staff have tested positive and two patients have died.

115 patients, 10 staff members at Villa Caritas have tested positive in past 9 days

Villa Caritas in west Edmonton is the site of a massive outbreak that began nine days ago. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

COVID-19 cases at Villa Caritas in west Edmonton have exploded over the past nine days. 

The acute-care facility at 165th Street and 88th Avenue is made up of five units designed to care for up to 150 geriatric psychiatry patients, although currently there are 145 patients.

All five units are currently on outbreak status.

A Covenant Health spokesperson confirmed to CBC that since January 9, 115 patients and 10 staff have tested positive. Two patients have died.

With the facility at near capacity, that means about 80 per cent of current patients have tested positive for COVID-19, leaving only 28 patients who so far have escaped the virus in the outbreak.

Villa Caritas has been closed to visitors, except for end-of-life care, communications manager Karen Diaper told CBC News in an email. 

"We have also augmented patient monitoring throughout the facility, including enhanced precautions and expanding patient screening from two to three times per day."

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw did not have specifics about the situation at Villa Caritas when she was asked about it at the province's COVID-19 media update Tuesday.

"Certainly we have seen some continuing care outbreaks with larger numbers of cases," Hinshaw said. "To date, we have not seen the same impact of severe outcomes that we've seen in previous waves."

Staffing has been an issue at Villa Caritas, said Bonnie Gostola, a vice-president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.

"We're already short-staffed in those facilities," Gostola said.

"It's affecting client care. At the end of the day, it's really putting those clients in jeopardy…. It takes its toll mentally and physically on the staff that are kind of left behind."

Diaper told CBC that staffing at the facility is a challenge. She said Covenant Health is doing everything it can to contain further spread of the virus. 

"For most patients, Omicron has had little impact on their health; however, that is not the case for all," Diaper wrote.

She described it as a "challenging situation," adding that Covenant Health continues to follow public health orders and directives "to ensure a safe environment for care."


Janice Johnston

Court and crime reporter

Janice Johnston is an investigative journalist with CBC Edmonton who has covered Alberta courts and crime for more than three decades. She won a national RTDNA award in 2016 for her coverage of the trial of a 13-year-old Alberta boy who was acquitted of killing his abusive father. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca.