‘All hands on deck’ as COVID-19 outbreaks declared at 24 long-term care homes in Winnipeg

COVID-19 is moving quickly through Winnipeg long-term care homes, with the city’s regional health authority reporting 24 outbreaks at care homes as of Tuesday — five more than last week.

As of Tuesday, three deaths have been linked to the outbreaks, said Winnipeg Regional Health Authority spokesperson Paul Turenne. There are now 207 COVID-19 cases among residents and 106 among staff at long-term care homes, he said.

The Winnipeg health authority oversees 39 long-term care homes.

It’s been “all hands on deck” at the Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre, where 11 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, says CEO Laurie Cerqueti.

Staffing at the southwest Winnipeg care home has stabilized a bit, but she says the situation is still day-by-day.

“We’re absolutely expecting to get more calls that we do have positive staff,” she said.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had several residents now test positive, so that puts an additional strain on the staff, because a lot of residents are isolated and have to be cared for in their rooms.”

Licensed practical nurse Eve Cherenfant is one of several health-care workers at the Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre who volunteered to work in the COVID-19 isolation unit. (Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre/Facebook)

At the beginning of the pandemic, every single staff member was trained to feed residents, and everyone from administrative to accounting staff has been called on to help out while there were absences, Cerqueti said.

“There’s a lot of really late nights for the leadership team here at the Simkin Centre. A lot of staff are picking up extra shifts. There was lots of overtime, so it really is just everybody working together to do the very best that we can for our residents.”

Cerqueti says staff at the Simkin Centre celebrate every recovery with a parade, including one on Monday where the resident was rolled out of her room as Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees played.

“It really just brings people together for a few minutes to cheer our residents on and celebrate that someone made it through this,” she said.

“It really has been quite wonderful for all of our staff to be able to do that.”

Many Winnipeg care homes have reported the cases they’ve seen recently have been mild, because nearly every resident has a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Turenne said.

As of Jan. 5, more than 91 per cent of personal care home residents in Winnipeg had their booster, he said.

Sick leave across system

Shared Health said on the weekend that COVID-19 is affecting health-care workers across the province.

From Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, at least 915 staff in the health-care system tested positive for COVID-19, including 194 nurses or nurses in training and 29 doctors or doctors in training, a spokesperson said in an email. The rest of the people are allied health workers, EMS and support staff.

Of those cases, 46 have been connected to outbreaks.

That number is likely an undercount, though, as some workers may have called in sick after receiving a positive test result at home from a rapid test.

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