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NDP calls for more protections as deaths mount at Calgary seniors facility

Last Updated Apr 8, 2020 at 11:19 am MDT

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — With dozens of infections among staff and residents and at least 11 deaths at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre, the Alberta NDP says more has to be done to prevent similar outbreaks.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley announced a series of requests, as she said staffing is now too low at the facility and there’s a high-risk other facilities in the province could see major problems related to COVID-19.

Across the province, as of Monday, there were 112 confirmed cases and 13 deaths at continuing care facilities in Alberta.

First off, Notley said staff are putting themselves under immense risk and must be compensated further to reflect that.

“Through surge funding, to immediately provide hazard pay to frontline workers in seniors care facilities,” she said.

On Tuesday, the province officially banned visitors from these facilities — except in the event a resident is dying or the visitor can provide the necessary care that is not possible from staff. Previously, limitations were put on visitors to allow only one designated person per resident.

“I know this will have a profound impact on the lives of those residents and their families; this is not a step that we take lightly. I’m asking all Albertans to reach out and support their loved ones through the phone, video and any other means possible,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Deena Hinshaw said in a statement.

Notley said additional steps could also be taken, to further limit spread.

“Banning staff movement between facilities and having a coordinated hiring and training plan across the province. And incorporating a vigorous stress test of ever other seniors facility in Alberta.”

Revera, the company operating the McKenzie Towne centre, said they did experience some issues due to staff being sick or self-isolating but these staffing levels have now “stabilized.”

Nevertheless, it appeared there wasn’t an adequate backup plan in the event so many people went down at the same time.

“It is the responsibility of the provincial government to ensure that it doesn’t happen again and that aggressive measures are taken in advance to prevent it,” said Notley.

Nina Vaughan’s aunt died at McKenzie Towne on Monday and joined Notley for the press conference. She conveyed similar concerns around staffing.

“They lost so many staff all at one time when the outbreak occurred, that it was just not possible to provide anything other than basic care,” said Vaughan. “Despite the best of intentions at McKenzie Towne, had they had more resources early on, they could have prevented some of what’s happened there.”

Vaughan is worried any measures taken now are too little too late for those affected at the facility where her aunt passed away.

“It’s unfathomable that half of the deaths in the province happened in that one building,” she said. “We’ve got to be able to do better in the next building that has an outbreak like this. We’ve got to be able to learn from the mistakes that were made there.”