The overwhelming majority of residents at a Transcona nursing home have tested positive for COVID-19, leading to questions about why the home didn’t get N-95 masks sooner and calls for more supports for affected staff.
Park Manor is in the throes of one the biggest current coronavirus outbreaks at a Manitoba personal care home after almost 80 per cent of its 82 residents have tested positive for the virus and nine have died.
The home is so understaffed that its CEO, Abednigo Mandalupa, had to come in on the weekend to do laundry as almost 30 staff members are off sick.
“We are struggling,” he said Monday.
“It’s not easy … and we are just trying to follow protocol and implement what we can to protect [residents].”
The outbreak at Park Manor began on Nov. 5 with an announcement in the COVID-19 daily news bulletin, then quickly ballooned to 66 residents and staff at the beginning of this month.
As of Monday, Mandalupa said 92 residents and staff had tested positive — 64 of those are residents.
Staff not fitted for N-95s until Nov. 25
Mandalupa said the virus was able to spread so far because the majority of its residents live in either double rooms or quad-rooms, meaning there are four people to one room.
The home is a non-profit facility owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
He said staff were only able to start wearing N-95 masks in the last week because they had to wait for the masks to be fitted, which wasn’t done by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority until Nov. 25.
According to Winnipeg Regional Health Authority spokesperson Paul Turenne, staff had to wait so long because priority was given to sites that were experiencing more serious outbreaks.
More than 1,400 cases and at least 176 deaths are now linked to outbreaks of COVID-19 at Manitoba personal care homes and assisted living centres since the start of the pandemic.
Turenne said home care staff have been redeployed to the home and an on-site clinical lead is providing oversight while working with management on staffing issues, infection prevention and other areas.
He said if things worsen at the home, the facility can contact the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service rapid response EMS team.
William Westervelt, 96, tested positive for the virus at the end of November and is so far only showing mild symptoms, his granddaughter, Lillian Westervelt, said.
She said her family feels the home is doing the best it can with the resources available — but staff need help and support.
“I feel the staff’s concerns need to be heard and carried out,” she said.
“They are overworked and taking up the roles of others to just keep up the flow of the care home. They want what is best for the residents.”
MLA wants military or Red cross to come in
Nello Altomare, the NDP MLA for Transcona, said he is concerned that staff only got outfitted for N-95 masks at the end of last month.
“What were they doing in the summer? What was this government doing? Planning billboards: ready, safe grow,” he said, referencing the provincial government’s RestartMB advertising campaign.
“Just for once, I’d like to hear him [Premier Brian Pallister] stand up and say, ‘You know what, we made a mistake.'”
Altomare said he has spoken to the CEO and to families with residents inside the home.
Overall, he said they need resources and the current government shouldn’t be afraid to bring in people like the Red Cross or military to help.
Red Cross staff are currently providing onsite support at Maples Long Term Care Home, Golden Links Lodge and St. Norbert Personal Care Home.
Altomare also repeated calls for the provincial government to begin mass asymptomatic testing at nursing homes.
“The situation there is is dire,” he said.
“We have to consider all the options, be it the Red Cross or the military. They can swoop in and ensure that this doesn’t happen, that the slow-moving train wreck doesn’t occur in any of our personal care homes.“