Site of Manitoba's deadliest COVID-19 care home outbreak allowed to start accepting new residents

Maples Long Term Care Home, where a COVID-19 outbreak infected 231 residents and staff and left 56 dead, has been granted permission to begin accepting new residents.

Coronavirus infected 231 residents and staff, killed 56 at Winnipeg care home

The Maples Long Term Care Home in Winnipeg went through one of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks in the province, from Oct. 20, 2020 to Jan. 12, 2021. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

Maples Long Term Care Home, where a COVID-19 outbreak infected 231 residents and staff and left 56 dead, has been granted permission to begin accepting new residents.

The privately run facility in Winnipeg may, as of Tuesday, bring in people who are currently in hospital or in the community awaiting long-term care placement, Manitoba Health and Seniors Care announced in a news release.

The move will add hospital capacity to help reduce wait times for needed surgeries following delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the province said in the release.

The care home's admission plan will be monitored and allow one new resident per day, Monday to Friday, for the next three months.

The facility has provided detailed status updates outlining their plans and efforts to address concerns. These plans meet provincial standards, the provincial release said.

The Maples home was banned from accepting new residents while its licence was under review following a deadly outbreak, which was declared on Oct. 20, 2020, and didn't end until Jan. 12, 2021.

The licence will remain under review and officials will continue scheduled and unscheduled standards reviews of the Maples facility to ensure residents are receiving quality care, the province said.

One patient per weekday

"We feel that Maples Personal Care Home has fulfilled many of the recommendations that were specific to the care home and we are going to continue to monitor admissions and to carry out scheduled and unscheduled reviews as the months roll on," said Manitoba's Minister of Health and Seniors Care, Audrey Gordon. 

Gordon says the facility has made six changes both the government and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority felt were necessary to admit one new patient a day, on a Monday to Friday cycle. 

"We're very comfortable to be allowing admissions to begin again," Gordon said Tuesday.

The north Winnipeg facility — owned by Revera, a for-profit company based out of Ontario — was the site of the province's deadliest COVID-19 outbreak at a care home. At Parkview Place, another Revera-owned home in Winnipeg, 30 people died during an outbreak from mid-September 2020 to Jan. 12, 2021.

In May, a class-action lawsuit was launched against Revera by some families of residents who died. It alleges Revera failed to provide medical and nursing care, including acute medical care, and failed to properly physically distance residents to contain the spread of the illness.

The lawsuit also alleges Revera failed to ensure there was adequate staffing at the home.

Last month, the province released a progress report on the recommendations from an external review into what happened at the Maples home.

The review found a lack of expertise in infection prevention and control, as well as confusion and redundancies in communications and workflow when it came to implementing the pandemic systems.

The facility was also unprepared for the significant reduction in available staff once they had been exposed to COVID-19 and were required to self-isolate, and the urgency of requests for more staffing supports was not fully understood until the situation became critical.

More staff members were finally brought in, but many were not skilled in providing long-term care services and lacked training in infection prevention and control and specialized housekeeping skills, the review found.

In releasing its progress report, the province said Revera had made big strides to correct its issues.

Meanwhile, Parkview Place has begun the process of closing down. In early August, Revera provided a one-year notice to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

Parkview Place will be closed by Aug. 10, 2022, or once all residents have moved out, the company said.

Revera cited aging and outdated infrastructure, such as narrow hallways, as the primary reason for the closure. There's also limited outdoor space for residents.

"Parkview Place cannot simply be renovated to meet today's long term care standards," the news release said.

Mintu Sandhu, the MLA for the Maples riding in Winnipeg, released a statement on Tuesday condemning the Progressive Conservative government for allowing Maples care home to bring in new residents.

"It's clear that governments must do more to ensure our seniors and elders are getting the care they deserve, but instead of improving quality of care, increasing staffing levels and ensuring better oversight, the PCs are allowing Maples to accept more patients while its licence is still under review," he wrote.

"Manitobans deserve a seniors advocate and a government that is committed to improving care for seniors and holding personal care homes accountable."

The NDP has been calling for an independent advocate to be appointed with the power to investigate systemic inequalities in long-term care and other services and publicly report their findings.

A provincial spokesperson in June said the concept of that particular advocate isn't under active consideration because the province's ombudsman performs many of the same functions.

With files from Sean Kavanagh