More than 1,400 COVID-19 cases now linked to outbreaks at Manitoba care homes, assisted living facilities

A total of 64 outbreaks care home and assisted living centre outbreaks have been declared in the province, leading to 176 deaths and 1,418 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

176 deaths among residents have been recorded since start of pandemic

Family members gathered to protest conditions at the Parkview Place Long Term Care Home in Winnipeg on Nov. 10. The care home has been the site of one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in Manitoba. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Manitoba reached another bleak milestone this week, with more than 1,400 cases and at least 176 deaths now linked to outbreaks of COVID-19 at personal care homes and assisted living centres since the start of the pandemic. 

A total of 64 outbreaks have been declared in the province, the deadliest of which is at Maples Long Term Care Home. Forty-nine deaths have been linked to that outbreak. 

Before that, the deadliest outbreak at a Manitoba care home was at Parkview Place in Winnipeg, which has led to 29 deaths. Both care homes are operated by the private company Revera.

Outbreaks are automatically declared at long-term care facilities after one positive case emerges in a staff or resident.

Though many of the care home outbreaks have had fewer than five active cases, larger outbreaks continue at Golden Links Lodge, Holy Family Home, Simkin Centre, St. Norbert Personal Care Home, Maples Long Term Care Home and Parkview Place.

Brad Foster lost his dad, Ken, to COVID-19 last Friday. The 79-year-old was living at the Holy Family Home in Winnipeg when he tested positive for the virus on Nov. 22. 

The outbreak at that care home has infected 109 people, including 76 residents. Ten residents have died. 

Foster said while his father's death is upsetting, he had accepted it was a possibility once cases started appearing in care homes.

"There's nothing you can do, when you're old and fragile with underlying conditions," he said. 

"There's no sense saying that somebody's done something wrong or something. I don't think anything was done wrong."

Not being able to visit their father in the last couple of months has been hard on the family, Foster said, particularly on his four sisters. The last time Foster was able to be with his dad was in September. 

But one of his sisters was able to be with his father in his final moments, which he's grateful for. 

Overall, Foster thinks the care home did all they could and was happy with how they took care of his father in his final months. 

Staffing issues 

Of the 1,418 cases linked to personal care homes and assisted living facilities, according to figures sent to CBC Wednesday from a provincial spokesperson, 475 have involved staff. That's created significant staffing shortages when they need to self-isolate. 

Efforts are underway to help alleviate that issue, health officials say.

On Wednesday, Shared Health Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa said that students enrolled in a Red River college micro-creditial course for health care aides will be graduating next week and will be deployed to personal care homes soon after. Another cohort will begin their training right after that, she said. 

In addition, the Red Cross is currently on site assisting at the Maples Long Term Care Home, Golden Links Lodge and the St. Norbert Personal Care Home. 

The Red Cross is also planning to provide some staffing support in the coming days ahead at Holy Family Home, Siragusa said. 

Finally, the Manitoba government has also signed an agreement with the Manitoba Nurses Union that will allow nurses to be redeployed in personal care homes, intensive care units and designated COVID-19 units. 

Siragusa said the agreement will reinforce efforts to increase and stabilize the workforce.

"And it also recognizes the dedication, commitment and sacrifices of our nurses who are caring for our sick and our most vulnerable patients."