New Brunswick

Province asks public servants to volunteer at Atholville care home struck by COVID-19

The province of New Brunswick is asking public servants with no health-care training to volunteer and fill staffing gaps at a long-term care home at the centre of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Some staff resigned, others in self-isolation as COVID-19 infects 17 people at long-term care home

Seventeen people connected to the Manoir de la Vallée in Atholville have tested positive for COVID-19. (Serge Bouchard/Radio-Canada)

The New Brunswick government is asking public servants to volunteer to fill staffing gaps in a long-term care home at the centre of the COVID-19 outbreak — no previous health-care training required.

As of Monday afternoon, three staff and 14 residents at Manoir de la Vallée in Atholville have tested positive for COVID-19. One of those residents died last week.

"The residents and staff at the Manoir need your help!" said a memo written by Cheryl Hansen, clerk of the executive council and head of the public service, and sent to all provincial government employees.

"The Manoir is short-staffed at the moment and needs more workers to provide care to residents and relief to staff."

When the outbreak began, 10 of the 29 staff members at the special care home left their jobs, according to Dr. Guy Tremblay, the president and CEO of the Quebec-based Lokia Group.

On June 3, Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard said extramural nurses had been brought in to replace the 10 workers who resigned. 

"We are staffed appropriately right now."

But on June 4, Horizon Health put out an "urgent" call for personal care assistants, licensed practical nurses and registered nurses. It asked for a 60-day commitment and offered lodging, expenses, salary and two weeks post-return paid isolation.

Horizon's vice-president of clinical services Geri Geldart declined a request for an interview. In an emailed statement, she said the authority received "many expressions of interest" from staff.

She said there are currently five Horizon staff working at the Manoir.

Support worker roles do not require specific educational qualifications for this purpose.- GNB memo

On Monday, the province expanded this call beyond Horizon employees. The memo is asking for volunteers to become support workers to provide resident care services "such as feeding, clothing, bathing, and toileting." As well as licensed practical nurses and registered nurses.

The memo said volunteers will be supported by "an on-site nurse manager under the direction of the regional medical officer of health and dedicated physicians."

"While the nursing roles obviously require nursing training and qualifications, the other support worker roles do not require specific educational qualifications for this purpose."

The memo said those volunteers will get "all necessary training" onsite.

It asks volunteers to commit to a minimum of two weeks but "preferably" a month. Volunteers will work 12-hour shifts, at three to four shifts per week.

When not working, volunteers will need to self-isolate, the memo said. If they don't live in Campbellton, they will be offered housing, which will also be available for people who do live in the region but prefer to not live with family while they work at the home.

The memo said public servants who volunteer will be on paid leave, and the province will cover additional expenses.

All workers will be routinely tested for COVID-19, the memo said. It also asks volunteers to indicate if they're willing to work in different parts of the province "if more outbreaks occur over the next few months."

The province would not make anyone available for an interview on this subject Tuesday.

PPE training for Horizon staff

In a statement, Dr. Edouard Hendriks, vice-president medical, academic and research affairs, at Horizon Health Network said the network can confirm it is seeking "expressions of interest from any registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and personal care attendants," from within its workforce.

He said all volunteers will be provided extensive training in infection prevention and control and personal protective equipment guidelines before heading to Atholville. He said employees will be given the protective equipment to bring with them from Horizon.

"Details concerning compensation and expenses for those who commit are being finalized," he said.

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