New Brunswick

Help arrives at 2 Edmundston long-term care homes hit by COVID-19 outbreaks

Reinforcements are starting to arrive in Edmundston to help two long-term care homes struggling with COVID-19 outbreaks, says acting Mayor Éric Marquis.

Manoir Belle Vue total remains at 55, with no new cases detected, Villa des Jardins has 32 cases as of Tuesday

The outbreak at Manoir Belle Vue, a special care home in Edmundston, stands at 55, with no new cases detected in the last round of tests. (Bernard LeBel/Radio-Canada file photo)

Reinforcements are starting to arrive in Edmundston to help two long-term care homes struggling with COVID-19 outbreaks, says acting Mayor Éric Marquis.

"It's incredible. We are really blessed."

Manoir Belle Vue special care home announced Wednesday no new cases of COVID-19 were detected during the latest round of tests.

"This is a big relief for us," the home posted on Facebook at 7:47 a.m.

As of Monday afternoon, the home had 55 confirmed cases — 34 residents and 21 employees. It's the largest active outbreak at a long-term care home in New Brunswick since the pandemic began in March.

The home has 141 residents and approximately 70 staff. Another screening of all employees and residents will be conducted on Thursday, according to the Facebook post.

The Villa des Jardins nursing home has 32 confirmed cases, as of Tuesday afternoon, including 17 residents and 16 staff.

Earlier this week, Marquis appealed on social media for "solidarity for the population of Zone 4."

The message has been heard, he said, with offers to help coming in from people "near and far," he said.

"All of New Brunswick is behind us," he posted on Facebook in French.

Éric Marquis, acting mayor of Edmundston, is proud of the solidarity of the people of his region. (Radio-Canada)

About 20 Vitalité Health Network employees from Zone 4 "willingly accepted to help Edmundston nursing homes in their fight against COVID-19," said Vitalité spokesperson Thomas Lizotte.

Shannex is also sending some employees from Nova Scotia, said Marquis.

In addition, several employees from various provincial government departments have volunteered, including social workers from the Department of Social Development.

"We know that people need psychological support … so we have social workers who will go to nursing homes to support the efforts of our medical teams who are there," he said.

They all have a common interest in providing services to the most vulnerable seniors.- Gail Harding, Department of Social Development

Provincial officials could not immediately provide an exact number of volunteers, as of late Wednesday afternoon.

But Department of Social Development spokesperson Gail Harding confirmed "numerous" workers from various regions have expressed interest in assisting "during this critical time."

"They all have a common interest in providing services to the most vulnerable seniors," she said in an emailed statement.

The homes are seeking volunteers for clinical roles, such as registered and practical nursing, and personal support workers, as well as non-clinical roles, such as food delivery, administrative support and other roles in support of both residents and staff, said Harding.

'Semblance of normal' within 36 hours

Cecile Cassista, executive director for the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents' Rights, has called on the government to bring in the military to assist, warning the situation will only escalate.

But Harding said the government is confident it will be able to recruit enough staff.

"The idea is to stabilize the facility," she said. "Once the regular staff come out of isolation, they will be able to return to work.

"They know the residents well and know how to attend to their needs. The PROMT [provincial rapid outbreak management team] staff is there to overcome the pandemic period."

Villa des Jardins nursing home accounted for 19 of the 24 new cases of COVID-19 announced in the Edmundston region, Zone 4, on Tuesday. (Bernard Lebel/Radio-Canada)

The acting mayor said he discussed the military with the minister and deputy minister of Social Development.

"It is clear that this is an option that is on the table, but there are a lot of other options that are there right now.

"We should be able to deal with the situation now and get back to a semblance of normal as quickly as possible."

Tuesday's snowstorm slowed the travel of several people, said Marquis, but he estimated the situation in the nursing homes will be improved within 24 to 36 hours.

Vitalité had also issued an urgent appeal for former health-care workers and "anyone interested" in helping care for seniors at the long-term care homes.

The regional health authority will have a better idea of the community's response by Thursday or Friday, the spokesperson said.

With files from Radio-Canada