Alberta is seeing a jump in long-term care home (LTHC) outbreaks as the province prepares to loosen rules brought in to stop the spread of COVID-19 between facilities.
The province had 116 facilities with at least five cases each on Friday.
In Edmonton, the number of LTCH outbreaks rose from four on Jan. 4 to 38 on Jan. 28, according to provincial data.
There were also more than 75 outbreaks in other types of supportive living facilities in the city.
At Charwell Griesbach, where there’s more than 80 cases, a resident named Martha was out for a walk Friday afternoon.
“Most of us that live in here have all three shots, plus the flu shot, so I’m not worried,” Martha told CTV News Edmonton.
She stays on her floor, and is able to have visitors. She’s not confined to her room like some other facilities did in previous waves.
“We get our food in our rooms. I get all of my vaccinations, and I’m not sick.”
At Villa Caritas, a geriatric psychiatric facility in west Edmonton, 120 people recently tested positive. About 80 per cent of patients that live there had COVID-19, and four people died.
“We offer our deepest condolences to the patients’ families and loved ones at this difficult time,” said Karen Diaper with Covenant Health, the operator of Villa Caritas.
“We are grateful for the dedicated staff for their compassionate care of our patients and each other as we navigate the pandemic.”
‘EVEN LESS WORKERS AND THERE IS SERIOUS NEGLECT’
Next month, the province plans to relax rules for staff at long-term care homes. Workers will be permitted to go to multiple homes, something that’s been restricted for almost two years.
“The good news is, so far we’re seeing the hospitalization and severe outcome ratios of the cases in these settings being much lower than in previous waves,” Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday.
“Unfortunately, in some cases, we have seen larger outbreaks. But, we’re trying to balance the emotional supports, the connection with the people that these residents care about, the COVID protections, and the care needs.”
A local seniors advocate fears Alberta hasn’t learned from previous waves.
“Nothing has changed,” said Ruth Adria, with the Elder Advocates of Alberta Society.
While the Omicron wave doesn’t appear as deadly for vaccinated people, she believes the system continues to fail elders with underfunded and overworked staff and a lack of oversight.
“Because of COVID-19 and Omicron there are even less workers, and there is serious neglect,” Adria said.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Touria Izri