Families of Maples care home residents disappointed by investigation into deadly COVID-19 outbreak
Report found that workers at Winnipeg care home were not prepared for the staff shortages caused by COVID-19
Families whose loved ones died at the Maples Long Term Care Home in Winnipeg during the height of a months-long COVID-19 outbreak are disappointed by an external review released on Thursday.
"I'm just a little frustrated, a little disappointed," said Karen Bluschke, who said she found no answers after looking through the 74-page report.
"Our trust is completely eroded."
Her 80-year-old mother-in-law, Brenda Gregory, lived at the Maples care home for just a month before she died of COVID-19 in November. The outbreak was declared at the home the previous month, and wasn't declared over until January.
Gregory was taken to hospital just days before Nov. 6, when paramedics were called to the facility to care for a dozen rapidly deteriorating residents. The following day, health officials said eight people had died at the 200-bed care home in a 48-hour span, which sparked the external review.
James Ottenbreicht was also disappointed by the report. His 69-year-old sister, Donna O'Connell, died of COVID-19 in the home that same week.
"I'd like to see the system held more accountable," he said.
Earlier last year, Ottenbreit had moved his sister out of Parkview Place, which, like the Maples care home, is owned and operated by the for-profit company Revera. Parkview Place had been the site of the worst care home outbreak in the province before the Maples outbreak.
"We're putting our seniors into the care of these homes and everybody's looking the other way," he said.
Staff 'in over their heads'
The report from the review by Dr. Lynn Stevenson, a former associate deputy minister of British Columbia Health, points to multiple issues with staffing shortages during the COVID-19 outbreak at the Maples care home.
It said there was lack of planning for how to fill shifts when staff became ill and needed to self-isolate.
During the Oct. 30 to Nov. 8 period, there were numerous shifts for both nursing and health-care aides where staff was below 70 per cent of normal, according to the report. That should have "triggered a system-wide response" to deal with the shortages, but that didn't happen, the report says.
Blushke says she doesn't blame the staff at the home for what happened.
"I have no problems with the staff themselves," she said. "I think they were hung out to dry. I think they were in over their head and they had no one to reach out to, to be honest."
The report also said management did not take into account how much families were helping with resident care.
Staff that were brought in to help with things like housekeeping were untrained, and there was a heavier burden on senior staff because new staff needed guidance.
The report says pandemic plans at all levels were confusing, and it was unclear who was responsible for what.
The report made 17 recommendations for the care home, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, and for Manitoba's health incident command structure and health department.
They include a call for the province to implement a workforce plan and review funding for personal care homes, and to review funding for care homes to ensure adequate staffing levels.
The report also recommends the province "mandate and fund a provincewide health-care system response for pandemic outbreaks to reduce fragmentation and delays in outbreak response."
Calls for public inquiry
Revera promised to work with the province and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to implement the report's recommendations.
An implementation team will be created and a plan will be released within the next 30 days, the provincial government said.
Ottenbreit wants a public inquiry into what happened at the home.
"Too many people passed away," he said.
"We let our seniors down. We can't look the other way and let this be something that happened, and not be held accountable for it."
Bluschke hoped the report would call for the creation of a seniors' advocate in the province.
She also says she wants to see a review of the care home model.
"This for-profit model has to be removed, because they don't look at them as people," she said. "They just see money."
With files from Holly Caruk, Joanne Levasseur and Jillian Coubrough