Progress on recommendations from Maples outbreak report 'not good enough,' family member says

A year after Manitoba’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak, an advocate for families of personal care home residents affected by the pandemic says the recommendations the province has acted on so far are "basic."

Province has completed 9 of 17 recommendations made after Manitoba's deadliest COVID-19 outbreak, report says

The province released a progress update on recommendations from an external review of the COVID-19 outbreak at Maples Long Term Care Home. (CBC)

A year after Manitoba's deadliest COVID-19 care home outbreak, an advocate for families of personal care home residents affected by the pandemic has a blunt assessment of the provincial government's progress on recommendations.

"Not good enough," said Eddie Calisto-Tavares, whose father was one of the people who died as a result of the outbreak at Maples Personal Care Home in Winnipeg.

The outbreak, which was declared on Oct. 20, 2020, and ended the following January, led to 56 deaths. A total of 231 Maples residents and staff became infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 over the course of the outbreak.

The province released a progress report on Friday, stating it had completed nine of the 17 recommendations made in a report by Dr. Lynn Stevenson in the wake of the outbreak. All short-term recommendations and all recommendations related to the Maples facility are completed, the province said.

Those recommendations included clarifying roles and procedures in the event of an outbreak, beefing up housekeeping and cleaning and ensuring daily physician rounds once an outbreak has been declared.

Calisto-Tavares called those completed recommendations "basic."

"They were things that should have been in place already," she said. 

"So if we're measuring their success against those nine recommendations that have been achieved? Well, shame on them."

Eddie Calisto-Tavares's father was one of 56 people who died in the Maples COVID-19 outbreak, which began Oct. 20, 2020, and was declared over Jan. 12, 2021. (Global pool camera)

Other recommendations yet to be completed include calls for the province to implement a "robust" workforce plan for personal care homes and to review funding for the homes, "to ensure that staffing levels and services provided are appropriate to the complexity of current and future residents."

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."

Callisto-Tavares also wants to see the province appoint an independent seniors' advocate.

Larry Baillie echoes that. 

His 88-year-old father also contracted COVID-19 at the Maples personal care home last November and died shortly after. Now, Baillie wants the voices of those affected by the outbreak to be listened to.

"We haven't been heard, and you know, that's the thing that hurt my dad when he was alive — he wasn't heard," Baillie said in an interview Saturday with CBC News. 

"It breaks my heart that people that have lost so much are not part of the solution."

Larrie Baillie stands outside the Maples personal care home at a vigil last November, shortly after his father, Glen Baillie, died. Glen had tested positive for COVID-19 while living at Maples. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

The provincial government released its update one day before the anniversary of the night the severity of the outbreak at Maples became clear.

On Nov. 6, 2020, ambulances were called to the care home because staff were overwhelmed by the number of sick residents, some of whom were already dead.

Calisto-Tavares was there that night, caring for her father. He died from COVID-19 on Nov. 11, 2020.

Families were crying out for help because the care home was so severely short-staffed, she said.

"And for the [health] minister today to just think this is the perfect day to come out and talk about what they've achieved — are you kidding me?"

In a news release on Friday, the province said it had also completed work to simplify and clarify communication and decision-making roles between the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, other service delivery organizations and Health Incident Command.

A final report on the Maples outbreak is expected in early 2022.

"Our government is committed to completing all recommendations in the Stevenson Review," a provincial spokesperson said in an email on Saturday. 

"All short-term recommendations have been completed and we are on track to complete the remaining recommendations by the end of 2021."

The deadly outbreak at the Maples care home was one of several in Manitoba long-term homes for seniors. The facility is owned by Revera, a for-profit company based in Ontario, which also owned Parkview Place in Winnipeg, where 30 people died during an outbreak from mid-September 2020 to Jan. 12, 2021.

Manitoba's Protection for Persons in Care Office launched an investigation into the Maples care home earlier this summer.

In September, Maples announced it had begun accepting new residents for the first time since the outbreak.

Parkview Place has begun the process of closing down. It gave notice earlier this year to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority that it will close on Aug. 10, 2022.

With files from Marina von Stackelberg