New Brunswick

Son of Shannex resident asks why COVID-19 infected nursing home didn't get vaccine

Robert Gale, whose 80-year-old mother somehow didn't get sick when COVID spread to 20 people in her nursing home last month, says he's got a burning question for his local MLAs.

Shannex Parkland Saint John confirmed 18 active cases Wednesday night, including 11 residents and 7 employees

Marina Gale, 80, evaded COVID infection during last month’s outbreak at Shannex Parkland Saint John. But her son, Robert Gale, wants to know why nursing home staff and residents haven't received a vaccine and why there's no clear commitment on when it’s coming. (Robert Gale/Submitted)

Robert Gale, whose 80-year-old mother somehow didn't get sick when COVID spread to 20 people in her nursing home last month, says he's got a burning question for his local MLAs.

"Why weren't they vaccinated? It was a hot spot. And now we have another outbreak, maybe even larger than the original," said Gale, feeling distraught that his mother is at risk again. 

Wednesday night, Shannex Parkland Saint John confirmed 18 active cases, including 11 residents and seven employees. 

Retesting is scheduled for Friday. 

Gale said visits to the Shannex in Saint John have ground to a halt again, after resuming briefly, and only by appointment.

He went to see his mother,Marina Gale, just last week but he said she couldn't understand why they weren't allowed to hug. 

"She doesn't understand why you don't give her a kiss," said Gale, explaining that his mother has Alzheimer's. 

Now it's back to video calls.

Gale said it's all been mentally and emotionally exhausting. He said he's not asking in anger, he just wants answers the families can understand.

Gale said his mother, Marina Gale, has been struggling to understand why her son won't hug her or give her kisses during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Robert Gale/Submitted)

"When you have  a connection to your mother and there's a risk of her getting sick, it's stressful. It's a bit sleepless," he said.

"This is the second round. I just don't know how this was able to happen."

"I know it's all over the province and there's a lot of situations happening but this is a nursing home that should have been a high priority. It should have been done on site and eradicated on site."

No promise from health officials 

At a news conference Wednesday, New Brunswick's health minister said the province is planning vaccination clinics in the Saint John area next week. 

Dorothy Shephard said it's not clear whether Shannex staff or residents will participate.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, said it can take up to two weeks for a first dose to start providing protection against COVID-19. (Government of New Brunswick)

New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health said COVID vaccines can't stop an ongoing outbreak.

Dr. Jennifer Russell said it can take a week or two for a first dose to start providing some protection.

"That's not to say that it's not important to vaccinate people anyway, despite the outbreak, but it certainly wouldn't be as a protective measure for that particular outbreak that was happening at that time," she said. 

Staff excluded from Miramichi clinic, union says 

Tamara Elisseou, national representative for CUPE Local 5446, said she asked Shannex executives on Monday, how many Shannex residents and employees participated in the vaccine clinics that started in Miramichi on Dec. 19.

"They told me when a nursing home is experiencing an outbreak, participating in a vaccine clinic is not an option," said Elisseou.

"And they told me that directive came from Public Health."

Elisseou said she never got a full explanation as to why.

It's very lonely, being in a room by yourself.- Robert Gale

"I was thinking that it was short-sighted because long-term care is already stretched thin and health-care workers are in demand," she said. "We need as many healthcare workers with immunity as possible.

"Especially in Parkland, where they'd had an outbreak and it had not been cleared before the next outbreak occurred. It didn't make sense not to try to give some of those workers immunity."

Gale said he has written to Health Minister and Saint John Lancaster MLA Dorothy Shephard and Portland-Simonds MLA Trevor Holder, asking them to explain why they didn't do more to protect some of the most vulnerable people whose families reside in their ridings. 

"It's emotional," said Gale, who just lost his father in September. 

William (Bill) Gale died while residing at Shannex-Tucker Hall. Robert said COVID didn't cause his father's death but he does believe the confinement and isolation contributed to his decline. 

"It's very lonely, being in a room by yourself," he said.

About the Author

Rachel Cave is a CBC reporter based in Saint John, New Brunswick.


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