By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is promising more money to help personal care homes battle COVID-19.
Next week’s budget will include $15 million to help care homes boost staffing, improve cleaning and update their information technology, Premier Heather Stefanson said at a news conference that had to be moved because of an outbreak at one home.
As well, all 125 licensed homes in the province will have a person on-site dedicated to infection control, said a government report released Wednesday.
The report and promise of funding follow an external review into a deadly outbreak in the fall of 2020 at the Maples Personal Care Home in Winnipeg, a 200-bed private care home operated by Revera.
The home called paramedics for help one night as many residents were deteriorating rapidly. Many were dehydrated and had not been attended to. Two died before paramedics arrived, three were taken to hospital and others were treated at the home for hours.
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said Revera had provided false information about staffing levels on that night — something the company later said was not deliberate.
The review found shortages in staff due to many falling ill, inconsistent cleaning and not enough infection control expertise.
The Progressive Conservative government promised to act on all of the review’s recommendations, which included clear communication about urgent staffing needs and revisiting funding for personal care homes.
The government said the $15 million is an initial investment and more will come to further boost staff.
“There is a long-term plan in regards to addressing (staffing) and we will be pursuing those,” said Seniors and Long Term Care Minister Scott Johnston.
Johnston and Stefanson were originally to make the announcement at the River Park Gardens home in south Winnipeg. But the event was moved to the legislature due to an outbreak at the home, which had not yet been included in the government’s online list of outbreaks.
“The families have been notified … but that will come out tomorrow as part of our regular (weekly) update,” Stefanson said.
The Opposition New Democrats said the outbreak, one of several across the province, is a sign the government has failed to address spread of the virus.
“The government continues to get these very obvious reminders of the fact that COVID continues to be with us,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.
A group that represents the owners of 31 non-profit personal care homes said the money will not be enough to address what needs doing..
“When you consider there are approximately 125 personal care homes and 10,000 residents in care, $15 million won’t go very far,” Julie Turenne-Maynard, director of the Manitoba Association of Residential and Community Care Homes for the Elderly, said in a news release.