Manitoba pledges $15M toward recommendations from review of deadly Maples outbreak

The Manitoba government is spending over $15 million to help implement the 17 recommendations from the Stevenson review, premier Heather Stefanson announced Wednesday afternoon. The Stevenson review was a provincially-commissioned external review into the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the Maples Long Term Care Home in 2020.

Stevenson review looked into deadly COVID-19 outbreak at Maples Long Term Care Home in 2020

The Manitoba government will s pend over $15 million of their 2022 budget on implementing the recommendations made in the review of the deadly Maples Long Term Care Home outbreak. (CBC)

The Manitoba government has pledged over $15 million of the 2022 provincial budget to improve infection control at personal care homes, premier Heather Stefanson announced Wednesday afternoon.

The announcement, originally scheduled to be at River Park Gardens personal care home in Winnipeg, was moved to the legislative building last minute due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.

The funding will be spent on implementing the 17 recommendations made in the Stevenson report, a provincially-commissioned external review into the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the Maples Long Term Care Home in 2020.

The outbreak started on Oct. 20, 2020, and was declared over on Jan. 12, 2021. During that time, 74 staff and 157 residents tested positive for COVID-19.

A total of 56 deaths were linked to the outbreak, including eight deaths that happened in a 48-hour period, resulting in a rapid response team being deployed.

Larry Baillie's 88-year-old father, Glen, died on Nov. 11 after spending his final days in isolation with COVID-19.

"He had a smile that lit up the room, and a voice like a fog horn," Baillie said.

After a friend of his in Ontario lost his mother due to a care home outbreak, Baillie says he tried very hard to make sure his dad "didn't become a statistic."

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Featured VideoThe government will spend $15M to prevent the spread of infections in long term care homes in Manitoba. Families and advocates for seniors say this funding is a long time coming.

Baillie wants to see the money benefit residents and their families directly, and not go to private companies. 

Before his father died, Baillie remembers hearing announcements at Maples calling for staff to pick up more shifts due to shortages.

The Stevenson report highlighted that staff shortages contributed to the deadly outbreak at Maples. In some instances, the staffing levels were below 70 per cent of their normal rate.

More funding still to come

The $15 million will be an initial funding amount and is part of the 2022 provincial budget, which will be tabled on Tuesday April 12.

This funding will help enhance infection control measures within the long-term care sector, which will include 50 infection control staff, the province said.

Over $260,000 in additional funding will expand the capacity for quality control and standards officers. 

Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Scott Johnston says that the provincial government will announce more funding for the initiative in the future. (Ian Froese)

Questionable consistency of cleaning and the availability of infection control expertise on site were key drivers in the outbreak, according to the report.

Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Scott Johnston told reporters that the government will announce more funding for these efforts in the future, but didn't say how much.

Announcement is welcome: advocate

Julie Turenne-Maynard, executive director at the Manitoba Association of Residential and Community Care Homes for the Elderly (MARCHE), says that Wednesday's announcement is welcome.

MARCHE represents 31 private not-for-profit care homes in the province.

"The $15 million is a start, but there is much more that is required over the next few years in order to address all the other needs that have been identified," Turenne-Maynard said.

WATCH | More money to make care homes safer:

More money to make Manitoba's personal care homes safer

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Featured VideoMore than a year ago, The Maples Long Term Care Home was the site of Manitoba's deadliest COVID-19 outbreak. The provincial government said it would take action — today it promised new money.

She wants to see the staffing shortages addressed, but in order to do that, an education and recruitment strategy will need to be created.

"Even if the government gave us $100 million right now to hire more people, there aren't enough people that are qualified to fill those positions," she said.

The government plans to introduce a provincial personal care home liaison role to improve communication between stakeholders and the care homes, something Turenne-Maynard says MARCHE has been advocating for.

The Association of Regulated Nurses of Manitoba (ARNM) also welcomes the announcement. 

In a written statement, ARNM said they are glad to see that infection control and allied health support will be improved.

Opposition leader Wab Kinew says the Stevenson review is flawed. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

In response to Wednesday's announcement, opposition leader Wab Kinew said that Revera lied about how many staff were working at Maples during the outbreak, meaning that the review is therefore flawed.

Liberal leader Dougald Lamont said that Wednesday's announcement is overdue, and should have happened in June 2020.

Both Kinew and Lamont criticized the PC government for the lack of COVID-19 data available to the public.

"If there were better information ... they might have known ahead of time that there was an outbreak [at River Park Gardens] and they wouldn't go to a long-term care home to talk about infection control," Lamont said.

The provincial government stopped providing detailed daily COVID-19 data after March 25, including numbers on how many care homes have outbreaks, and how many people in each home were infected.

Limited information is now released on a weekly basis in an epidemiology report, which lists care homes that have outbreaks.

Between March 7 and March 26, the epidemiology report shows that 10 care homes have had outbreaks.

WATCH | Manitoba premier, health officials, make long-term care budget announcement:

Manitoba premier, health officials make long-term care budget announcement

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Featured VideoThe province is spending $15 million dollars to make personal care homes safer. This comes after a review into the deadliest COVID-19 outbreak of the pandemic.