Red Cross to help some Manitoba care homes fight COVID-19

The Canadian Red Cross will step in to help some Manitoba personal care homes fight COVID-19.

“I can confirm that the Red Cross has been tasked with supporting the [provincial] government in certain care homes,” Red Cross spokesperson Jason Small wrote in an email on Tuesday.

“I can’t share which facilities, that is up to the province. We are working with the province now on what that support will look like and when. We hope to have more details in the near future.”

The announcement comes after weeks of mounting COVID-19 cases in some Manitoba care homes, raising concerns about safety, staffing and patient care in the homes.

Manitoba has declared COVID-19 outbreaks at more than a dozen care homes since the pandemic began. As of Monday, care home outbreaks had resulted in at least 355 cases and 37 deaths.

Almost two-thirds of those deaths are at Winnipeg’s Parkview Place. The outbreak at the privately-run care home has resulted in 23 deaths and a total of 138 cases since it was declared on Sept. 15, the province said on Monday.

But Manitoba’s largest care home outbreak is at Maples Long-Term Care Home, also in Winnipeg. The outbreak at Maples, declared on Oct. 23, has resulted in 146 cases as of Monday and six deaths.

Health Minister Cameron Friesen said Monday he had asked his federal counterpart, Canada’s Health Minister Patty Hajdu, about the possibility of Red Cross aid in Manitoba care homes in a conversation on Sunday.

The province has also made a written request to the federal government for information on what aid the Red Cross could provide, Friesen said.

“We are hoping for the best in all things, but planning for every contingency,” Friesen said. “So those discussions are being explored.”

Friesen said Monday he also raised the question of military support for Manitoba intensive care units in his Sunday conversation with Hajdu.

“It wouldn’t be the point we are at now,” Friesen said. “At this point in time, those discussions remain in place, there is some investigation.”