Ottawa

Eastern Ontario nursing home eagerly awaits Red Cross help

A nursing home in Hawkesbury expects Canadian Red Cross personnel to be working on site there by Friday; meanwhile, workers at another area care home are waiting to hear when they might get the same help.

The aid agency is set to arrive at the Hawkesbury home Friday

Alexandre Gorman, administrator of the Prescott and Russell Residence in Hawkesbury, Ont., says the sooner Red Cross workers arrive to help the facility deal with its COVID-19 outbreak, the better. (Denis Babin/CBC)

A nursing home east of Ottawa says it is eagerly awaiting help from the Canadian Red Cross to offset heavy workloads as it battles a COVID-19 outbreak. 

The Prescott and Russell Residence in Hawkesbury, Ont., run by the local municipality, now has 48 cases of COVID-19 among its residents and staff.

The Red Cross was on site on Tuesday and will be finalizing its workforce deployment plan on Wednesday, according to Alexandre Gorman, administrator of the home. 

"We have new employees coming in, for us the sooner the better, hopefully they'll be in on Friday," Gorman said.

COVID-19 cases were first confirmed at the long-term care home on Oct. 5. To date, 31 residents and 17 workers have tested positive and one resident has died. 

The Red Cross workers will not be providing any direct care to residents but instead they will support staff, Gorman said. 

"They'll be helping us with housekeeping, high intensity disinfection, cleaning. Just having an eye on residents as well is great and bringing plates to the residents' rooms," he said. 

Canadian Red Cross workers are expected to be helping out inside the Prescott and Russell Residence in Hawkesbury, Ont., by Friday. (Denis Babin/CBC)

Shortage of nurses at Embrun home

Meanwhile, workers at the St. Jacques Nursing Home in Embrun, Ont. are raising concerns about a staffing shortage there and the need for Red Cross help. 

The home was put in lockdown recently due to a much smaller outbreak reportedly involving one staff member who tested positive.

Staff at St. Jacques tell CBC there's been a chronic shortage of workers, including personal support workers and registered nurses. The workers asked CBC not to publish their names out of fear of reprisal. 

Jacynthe Barbeau, a CUPE national representative, has spoken to unionized staff inside the home.

"From what I understand, the greatest staff shortage is with the registered nurses," said Barbeau. "Usually they have six and they're down to two at the moment. But there's staff shortages everywhere in the home."

By law, long-term care homes in Ontario must have at least one nurse on duty 24 hours a day. 

Workers at St. Jacques say they've been told the Red Cross is planning to help them out, but they aren't sure exactly when they will arrive. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he asked the federal Ministry of Public Safety for help from the Red Cross at long-term care homes hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The nursing home was on an initial list of eastern Ontario facilities slated to get assistance from the national organization, although the home's administration told CBC they weren't aware of that plan.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford confirmed on Oct. 13 that he had asked the federal Ministry of Public Safety for help from the Red Cross.

But in the past week, neither the Ministry of Long-Term Care nor the federal department has been able to confirm details of that assistance.

The private owner of St. Jacque's Nursing Home didn't respond to CBC's request for information.

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit monitors both care homes and told CBC it can't comment on human resources at the facilities.

"The CRC (Canadian Red Cross) did a site visit at the Prescott and Russell Residence...We are not aware if the CRC will visit other homes," the unit said. 

Driven in part by outbreaks, that health unit has seen a surge in positive COVID-19 tests: more than doubling since the end of August to a total of 447 people as of its last update on Tuesday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie Ireton

Senior Reporter

Julie Ireton is a senior reporter who works on investigations and enterprise news features at CBC Ottawa. She's also the host of the CBC investigative podcast, The Band Played On found at: cbc.ca/thebandplayedon You can reach her at julie.ireton@cbc.ca

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