Operating licences at three Manitoba personal care homes, including one with an ongoing cockroach infestation, are under review over concerns about staffing levels and infection control, CBC News has learned.
Parkview Place, Maples Long Term Care Home and Nisichawayasihk Personal Care Home near Thompson are supposed to fix these problems within “specified” timelines and failure to do so could result in further restrictions on their licenses, according to Manitoba Health.
Personal care homes in Manitoba with problems such as cockroaches, filthy conditions and short-staffing routinely pass inspections without being put under review. Prior to these three new cases, only two care homes were placed under review in the past five years, according to the province.
Even though fixes are supposed to be completed within “specified” timelines, a spokesperson for the province says “we have been flexible with the timeline in this instance due to COVID-19 outbreak status and related delays.”
Resolving problems at Parkview Place won’t help Yvette Mathieu or her father — who spent his final days battling COVID-19 in the care home.
“I’m glad to hear that something is being looked at,” said Mathieu, who doesn’t want other families to go through what she experienced.
As Mathieu sat at her father’s bedside in mid-October, she witnessed the effects of understaffing. She heard the din of call bells and ringing phones echo through the halls with staff seemingly nowhere to be seen.
“It was kind of chaotic,” she said.
Despite being in a room with COVID-infected patients, Mathieu was given conflicting instructions about personal protective equipment and at one point was asked why she and her mom weren’t wearing an extra mask.
“We didn’t have enough proper PPE,” Mathieu said. “It sounds like we should have been wearing two … face masks.”
When it came time to leave they had to flag down a nurse to show them how to remove their contaminated PPE to prevent infecting others.
“We could have just walked out of the room in the same PPE out to the front door and it wouldn’t have been known,” Mathieu said. “Because I asked, we were then given proper instructions to take it off in the room.”
By the time Manitoba Health put Parkview Place and Maples “under review” on Dec. 11, COVID-19 had already wreaked havoc in the homes.
At Parkview, 163 residents and staff had tested positive for COVID-19 and 29 people had died. Maples had 228 infections and 51 deaths at that point.
A provincial investigation of Maples had already been called following a “nightmare” weekend in early November, when multiple ambulances were dispatched to treat a dozen residents during the outbreak. Eight seniors died at the home within 48 hours.
The crisis prompted a safety review by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, which revealed staffing shortages, breaches in infection control measures and issues with recording feeding and nutritional information.
Members of the Red Cross were deployed to assist at the home for a month beginning in mid-November. They withdrew from the home on Dec. 12, a day after Maples’ licence was placed under review.
The Red Cross did not deploy members to assist at Parkview Place.
Maples, Parkview suspended from taking in new residents
Maples and Parkview Place are also suspended from accepting new residents since their respective outbreaks were declared over Jan. 12, according to a spokesperson for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA).
The WRHA has requested plans from each home “to ensure that a resumption of admissions is conducted in a safe manner,” a WRHA spokesperson said, “including ensuring appropriate processes and staffing remain in place as new residents are admitted.”
A spokesperson for Revera, the private, for-profit company that operates Maples and Parkview Place, said it’s working to resolve the issues.
“Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the people we lost to the pandemic,” Marie Fitzpatrick, a spokesperson for Revera said in an email.
“We appreciate the support and guidance of Manitoba Health and the WRHA and we will continue to work closely with them on licence renewals and plans to resume new admissions.”
There were no COVID-19 infections when the Nisichawayasihk Personal Care Home was placed under review at the end of November, but there were concerns with nursing services, infection control, safety and security, according to a department spokesperson.
The “under review” status comes on the heels of a recently posted October inspection report which suggested a staffing crisis at Nisichawayasihk.
Nurses worked 12-hour shifts more than 50 consecutive days and two of the five nursing positions were vacant, according to the report.
Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) provides funding to First Nations for personal care homes. A spokesperson for ISC says it’s aware of the issues the province has raised, including the challenges associated with hiring and maintaining nurses and support staff.
“The hiring of nurses and support staff is a challenge as there is a province-wide shortage of nurses,” said the spokesperson in an emailed statement.
A spokesperson for the Northern Regional Health Authority says it continues to partner with the Nisichawayasihk Personal Care home to maintain the quality of care for elders.
“We did not provide staff as they were successful in recruiting their own,” said a spokesperson for the NRHA.
In Winnipeg, Mathieu decided she wanted to speak publicly after her experience at Parkview Place.
“I was hoping it hadn’t fallen off the radar,” said Mathieu, who hopes vulnerable patients don’t go ignored.
The WRHA says Maples is reporting progress with staffing and infection, prevention and control.
A spokesperson says staffing has “stabilized” across all shifts and the facility continues to “educate, reinforce and audit”, infection control protocols and the use of PPE.