A care home is asking families to be prepared to help with tasks such as laundry and meals in preparation for possible crushing staff shortages.

In a letter leaked on Reddit, Salem Home in Winkler says they could be facing a staff shortage once the COVID-19 vaccine mandate comes into effect for their staff Monday.

"It is for this reason, with saddened hearts, we need to inform you of a contingency plan for what may happen next week," the letter reads.

CEO  Sherry Janzen says in a statement "Salem Home is exercising its due diligence to communicate new developments, with the ultimate goal of ensuring residents are provided with continued quality, safe care. As a component of due diligence, we let the families know that we don’t know what the possible outcomes will be on October 18th, once the orders re. mandatory vaccine/testing for health care workers are implemented. This is what prompted our request for their assistance, as they are able.”

She says the voluntary surveys sent out to staff regarding this mandate to be fully vaccinated or go for regular COVID-19 testing have not given them the whole picture.

Anticipating a drop in staff, they are asking families to help with tasks such as laundry, dressing and teeth brushing, cleaning resident rooms, assisting at mealtimes, and creating meaningful activities for residents. Salem's letter also cautions families that if they do not have enough staff they will ask families to take residents out of Salem and home with them. New admissions have been closed since October 6.

“Our intent was to open the dialogue to see if this might be an option, or even a preference by families. In the meantime, we continue with contingency planning with all hands on deck to ensure there is adequate staffing in place to deliver quality, safe care.”

The Christian care home says families have been supportive.

The home recently got out of an outbreak on Tuesday. Winkler has one of the lowest vaccine uptake rates in Manitoba at 42.6 per cent, and is surrounded by the R.M of Stanely which has an uptake rate of 24.7 per cent.

Long Term and Continuing Care Association of Manitoba's executive director, Jan Legeros, says Salem could potentially be losing half of their staff. She says this will be a very stressful working condition for those who stay, close to what they experienced during the second wave of the pandemic.

"Hopefully with the knowledge we have about COVID and the preparation time that they had, and of course calling on the families to come in and help, we can get through this without any tragic outcomes."

Salem's home also comes with a geographic issue, being in an area with overall low vaccination uptake and far from many other care homes. 

"I think that the issue is sporadic across the province but many homes put in place the mandatory vaccination requirement prior to this time," she says, noting that one care home in Winnipeg lost five out of 250 staff members. She says many Indigenous care homes have been mandating vaccinations since the spring.

Legeros says offering accurate information about the COVID-19 vaccine on a one-to-one will go a long way.

"If you, or I, are able to help that one person understand better what the safety and efficacy is and have them go and get vaccinated then we will be winning this battle with COVID."

On August 24 when the mandate was first announced, we asked Dr. Brent Roussin if he anticipated any staff shortages. 

"Numbers like that, to anticipate, is very difficult to know but we will continue to follow that really closely," Roussin said at the time. 

The Chief Public Health Officer said they anticipated the health care system to come under strain, needing to assure health care workers were in place.

Janzen says they are working with Southern Health-Santé Sud.


We have reached out to Shared Health for more information.