Simkin Centre personal care home seeking volunteers to help feed residents

A personal care home in Winnipeg is looking for volunteers immediately to don personal protective equipment and head inside their facility to help feed residents.

200 bed facility trying to be proactive to care for residents amidst staffing crunch, CEO says

To date, 16 residents at the Simkin Centre have tested positive for COVID-19. Four of them have died. The CEO of the long-term care home says they want to make sure what happened in other facilities will not happen there. (Travis Golby/CBC)

A personal care home in Winnipeg is looking for volunteers immediately to don personal protective equipment and head inside their facility to help feed residents.

"We want to make sure we are able to offer basic care for the residents, which would include feeding," said Laurie Cerqueti, CEO of Saul & Claribel Simkin Centre.

"We want to be proactive. So if it ever does get to the point where it's a very dire situation, we are absolutely prepared," she said.

The request comes as more than 100 long-term care home residents across Manitoba have died after being infected with COVID-19.

In total, 16 residents at the Simkin Centre have tested positive for COVID-19 — four of them have died.

Personal care homes everywhere are struggling to find staff, Cerqueti said, especially since the province banned care home workers from moving between facilities in May, a measure aimed at preventing employees from spreading the virus to other care homes.

Earlier this month, a number of paramedics were called in to Maples Long Term Care Home to help treat residents. In a 48 hour period, eight residents died. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

"Now staff are getting sick or they're a contact of someone who is sick," Cerqueti said.

"It's very unpredictable, because you never know when staff are not going to be able to work. On a day where staffing is good, it can change very quickly," she said.

More than a dozen employees who work at the 200-bed facility have tested positive, she said.

Cerqueti said her facility wants to avoid the "heartbreaking" situations in other care homes.

"Based on previous outbreaks in other provincial jurisdictions, we've learned that a lack of staffing can contribute to issues with the proper feeding of residents in personal care home," a post on the Saul & Claribel Simkin Centre's Facebook page reads.

The request from the Simkin Centre comes as Maples Long Term Care Home, a different facility in Winnipeg, is under fire after eight residents there died within a 48 hour period earlier this month.

Paramedics had to be called to that facility to give intravenous fluids to some resident while giving food and water to others. The health authority later revealed is had been given incorrect information about the staffing levels in the facility.

Maples is the site of the deadliest personal care home outbreak, with 47 deaths, including two announced Saturday.

Feeding residents, laundry, helping with video calling

Anyone can volunteer at the Simkin Centre, Cerqueti said. New volunteers will receive the same training as staff on feeding and swallowing, wearing personal protective equipment and client confidentiality, she said.

Right now, two designated caregivers are allowed in the facility per resident. A few weeks ago, staff started to ask those visitors to help provide care to their loved one, including feeding and helping brush their teeth, Cerqueti added.

Now that there are a number of active cases inside the facility, some of those volunteers are now helping in other ways— like helping launder 1,000 isolation gowns every single day.

Sam Kleiman waves through the window in May when visitors were not allowed. Now residents are allowed two designated visitors, and some are helping out with caretaking tasks, according to management of the Simkin Centre. (Submitted by the Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre)

Volunteers are also needed to help screen people who come into the facility and assist residents video chat with family members who residents haven't seen in more than half a year.

"It's been eight, nine months now," Cerqueti said. "It's very hard for them. They miss their families. Many of them are having to self-isolate in their rooms which is hard. We are doing our best to have in-room recreation, FaceTime, spiritual care will go room to room, but it really is a difficult time."

On Saturday, the province announced 10 new deaths, with seven of them tied to long-term care home outbreaks. The province also announced six more facilities with COVID-19 cases, including several in southern Manitoba.

CBC News asked the province to provide updated numbers on Saturday of the outbreaks, but a provincial spokeperson said those numbers would not be made available until Monday.

The majority of the long-term care home deaths in Manitoba are connected to two facilities both owned by Revera, one of Canada's largest private nursing home providers.

Those two facilities are Maples Long Term Care Home, where a total of 47 residents have died, and Parkview Place, where 26 people have now died.


Marina von Stackelberg is a senior reporter currently working for CBC's Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa. She previously worked as a reporter and host in Winnipeg, with previous stints in Halifax and Sudbury. Her stories regularly appear across the country on CBC Radio and CBC News Network. Connect with her by email at or on social media @CBCMarina.


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