New Brunswick

WorkSafeNB investigating COVID outbreak at Edmundston care home as case count reaches 55

WorkSafeNB is investigating the COVID-19 outbreak at Manoir Belle Vue special care home in Edmundston after five new cases were reported Monday, pushing the total to 55 confirmed cases, CBC News has learned.

34 residents and 21 employees at Manoir Belle Vue infected, largest active outbreak at long-term care home

The COVID-19 outbreak at the Manoir Belle Vue special care home in Edmundston has grown to 55 cases since the first cases were detected 12 days ago. (Bernard LeBel/Radio-Canada file photo)

WorkSafeNB is investigating the COVID-19 outbreak at Manoir Belle Vue special care home in Edmundston after five new cases were reported Monday, pushing the total to 55 confirmed cases, CBC News has learned.

It's the largest active outbreak at a long-term care home in New Brunswick since the pandemic began in March.

Thirty-four residents and 21 employees are infected.

The home has 141 residents and approximately 70 staff.

WorkSafeNB is conducting an inspection at Manoir Belle Vue, confirmed spokesperson Florence Flower.

She declined an interview. "New restrictions have significantly taxed our resources therefore we cannot grant an interview," she said in an email. "We have nothing to report at this time," she said.

No one from the home could be reached for comment Monday. A woman who identified herself as the manager and who would provide only her first name, Charlene, said she didn't have time to speak to the media before hanging up.

Management and administrative workers returned to the home Monday, according to an update posted on the home's Facebook page.

We can't take our eyes off of it. Every single day is a concern until we get to — until we get to no cases.- Dorothy Shephard, Health minister

Retesting of all residents and staff who previously tested negative also took place Monday morning, the post said.

Those residents and employees who had tested negative received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Sunday evening.

"That's good news, but it takes about two weeks before the first dose gives immunity," said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell.

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard had not yet received an update on the outbreak, as of Monday afternoon, but said the government has to "keep being as diligent as possible."

"We can't take our eyes off of it. Every single day is a concern until we get to — until we get to no cases," she said.

"Every resident in the long-term care facility is vulnerable when there's a COVID outbreak and we don't stop thinking about them for a minute."

Bring in the military

Cecile Cassista, executive director for the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents' Rights, is calling on the government to bring in the military to assist and "clean it up."

It's a "horrible" situation for residents and their families, she said. "We're talking about people's lives. And it should not be prolonged. It needs to be dealt with ASAP."

Cassista fears that with so many employees sick and an unknown number off isolating, those left "are not going to be able to bring this under control."

"It's just going to escalate. The situation is going to be just like what happened in Campbellton," she said, referring to the outbreak at the Manoir de la Vallée in Atholville.

Cecile Cassista, the executive director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights, wants the government to bring in the military to help during the COVID-19 outbreak at the Manoir Belle Vue. (Submitted by Cecile Cassista)

"We raised the issue in May and nobody seemed to be concerned. [Social Development] wasn't concerned or Minister Shephard. And yet, you know, we were so right and we were so glad to hear that CBC did the investigation — and look what they found.

Cassista contends the military has the expertise to help in this type of situation and has already done so in Ontario and Quebec.

As of November, 1,600 soldiers have been deployed to COVID-hit long-term care homes in the two provinces, at a cost of $53 million to the federal government.

The 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown in Oromocto isn't "far away," she said. "So here's an opportunity to utilize the service."

Cassista said she raised the idea of bringing in the military with some opposition MLAs during a call Monday, but "there appeared to be no appetite to push that agenda."

She plans to raise it again during a meeting with Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch on Wednesday.

Seeking volunteers

Members of the provincial rapid outbreak management team, known as PROMT, are at the complex, providing support for residents and the facility's care team, said Department of Health spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane.

There are no plans to bring in the military "at this time," he said.

"The Government of New Brunswick has issued a call for interest for volunteers who could provide direct support for the long-term care sector in Zone 4," he said in an emailed statement.

"The requested roles range from clinical (registered and practical nursing, and personal support workers) to non-clinical roles, such as food delivery, administrative support and other required roles in support of both residents and staff."

Several partners, including the Horizon Health Network, the Vitalité Health Network and the Department of Social Development, have also "launched their own respective calls for volunteers to help provide critical services in long-term care facilities in Zone 4," Macfarlane said.

The outbreak at Manoir Bellue Vue began on Jan. 20. The death of a resident was announced by the home last Thursday and reported by the provincial government Friday. (Bernard LeBel/Radio-Canada file photo)

Volunteers receive training in personal protective equipment (PPE) and infection prevention and control, he said. "To date, GNB had also provided basic personal care support training to interested volunteers to prepare for deployment to the long-term care sector."

Volunteers play an important role in helping long-term care facilities provide services to seniors, said Macfarlane. But they must be screened and follow Public Health protocols.

All adult residential facilities received instructions regarding the participation of volunteers during the pandemic, he said.

The Vitalité Health Network posted an "urgent need" for former health-care workers and "anyone interested to come and help" care for seniors at several nursing homes in the Edmundston region dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks.

"The residents of these nursing homes are our seniors, they worked hard to build our region, now they need us!" Vitalité said by Twitter on Monday.

The Manoir Belle Vue's kitchen has been closed since Thursday. The restaurant of the Sheraton Four Points Hotel has been preparing the meals, and management posted a message asking for volunteers to help deliver them.

About 20 students from the culinary arts and professional cooking programs at the New Brunswick Community College, Edmundston campus, are expected to take over preparing the meals Tuesday.

The first- and second-year students will work in shifts to prepare about 80 breakfasts, 125 lunches and 125 dinners each day, seven days a week, starting at 6 a.m.

"There is an exemplary outpouring of solidarity among our kitchen student population," chef and instructor Stéphane Tesson said in a news release.

"Helping and contributing to this great community project motivates them; it will also allow them to put their learning into practice and to carry out their internship in an environment they already know. It will give them a feel for real life."

Meals will be prepared in accordance with Public Health instructions and to minimize handling, they will be placed in individual containers with disposable utensils.

The campus will be reimbursed at cost, according to the news release.

Manoir Belle Vue is a 151-bed special care home, with multiple licences, according to the Department of Health. The other names associated with this facility are Pavillon Bellevue and Terrasse Bellevue.

The second largest COVID-19 outbreak in the province has been at the Shannex Parkland Saint John complex with a total of 51 cases, including 30 residents and 21 staff.

As of the last update posted by the company on Jan. 27, the number of active cases at the Tucker Park nursing home, Lily Court dementia unit, had dropped to one resident and two employees.

With files from Jacques Poitras and Radio-Canada

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