Cases of COVID-19 have skyrocketed in Manitoba but a project aimed to protect the vulnerable senior population has halted.
On November 1, the $17.9 million COVisitation Shelters for personal care homes were set to open. As of November 5, they have not arrived.
On October 5, Health Minister Cameron Friesen announced the visitation shelters were to be installed in a couple of weeks.
"We are very pleased to update Manitobans and indicate these COVisitation Shelters, as you say these pods, to facilitate visits at personal care homes and to prevent that close down that we saw in spring where residents were not able to visit with their loved ones and caregivers and those pods are being deployed," Friesen said one month ago.
"I am hearing of other ones being deployed and working with our PCL partners they have said they are working very very quickly to get them finished and moved off of the job site so that new ones can arrive."
Friesen said at the time that the province was working to install the shelters.
"Our aim is to get these things out the door as quickly as possible, commissioned on-site so they can be used for visiting."
On October 5, Friesen said Central Services Minister Reg Helwer saw the shelters being installed at Actionmarguerite Saint-Boniface. There are currently two unused shelters installed at this care home. Actionmarguerite is currently experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak.
On October 15, approximately two weeks after announcing the shelters were to opening the upcoming weeks, Friesen attended a COVID-19 briefing but did not offer an update on the shelters.
On October 14, CHVN requested an interview with Actionmarguerite to ask how the shelters were running. CHVN was informed that they were not running as of then, despite the Health Minister emphasizing they were working "working very very quickly" to have them installed.
"I am willing to assist in providing some information however at this time, communication or media contacts related to these shelters are to be referred to Communications Services Manitoba as, although these shelters are currently being installed, they are yet operational," CEO Charles Gagné wrote in an email on the morning of October 14.
After learning the shelters were not yet operational, CHVN said they would wait for an interview.
"Please be in touch at that time. Shelters are to be up and running by November 1," a provincial spokesperson says in an email on the same day.
Construction for these shelters at least one care home in Winnipeg halted around this time.
When asked on October 30, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin and Shared Health Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa were unable to give an update on the shelters.
The PCH visitor shelters are not "up and running" and the media has not been provided with an update on where they are, as the vast majority of the shelters are not at personal care homes.
Also in October, Winnipeg saw its second wave of COVID-19. Between October 5 and November 5, Manitoba's five-day test positivity rate went from 2.4 per cent to 8.9 per cent. The total number of cases in Manitoba on October 5 was 2,191 and on November 5 the total is 7,177.
Ninety-one people have died of COVID-19 as of November 5. On October 5, that total was 23. Data collected by the province of Manitoba between October 18 to October 24, the vast majority of COVID-19 related deaths are people aged 65 or older in this time frame. More than half of all hospital cases are those aged 65 or older, and just under 50 per cent of ICU patients were those aged 65 or older.
As of November 5, 1,202 COVID-19 cases in Manitoba were seniors.
Currently, the following 19 Winnipeg care facilities are experiencing an outbreak:
- Actionmarguerite Saint-Boniface Personal Care Home
- Actionmarguerite St. Vital Personal Care Home
- Beacon Hill Lodge Long Term Care Home
- Concordia Personal Care Home
- The Convalescent Home of Winnipeg
- Deer Lodge Centre long term care unit
- Fred Douglas Lodge
- Golden West Centennial Lodge
- Heritage Lodge Personal Care Home
- Holy Family Personal Care Home
- Maples Long-Term Care Home
- Misericordia Place
- Misericordia Health Centre's Transitional Care Unit
- Middlechurch Home
- Parkview Place Long Term Care Home
- Park Manor Care Home
- Pembina Place Personal Care Home
- Poseidon Care Centre
- Saul and Claribel Simkim Centre Personal Care Home
An outbreak can be declared if a location has one confirmed case of COVID-19.
All personal care home facilities have been moved to Red: Critical on the pandemic response system. Two Designated Family Caregivers are permitted to visit the resident while wearing a nonmedical mask inside their room, in an outdoor all-season shelter, or designated indoor visitation room but are not permitted to visit at the same time as the other caregiver. There are end-of-life visitation protocols in place under Red that include an additional general visitor.
Essential Service Providers such as spiritual care providers are permitted to visit as needed while wearing PPE.
The original idea for the shelters has its own history. In the spring, the province had contacted PCL to design shelters for quarantining COVID-19 patients.
"We did have a previous version of use for shipping containers and it was used for guaranteeing patients, particularly in locations that do not have quarters available for quarantining," Monique Buckberger, the Winnipeg district manager for PCL says during the September 15 unveiling of the shelters. "These were very, very early days when we had put together some ideas that we thought might be available to locations."
Buckberger says some of the COVisitation Shelter ideas came from its previous design.
On October 30, Siragusa said the province was planning to create patient space outside of the hospital but the visitation shelters were not being used to care for groups of patients outside of hospitals. On November 4, Siragusa said the province was planning to use a large space to house low-acuity patients.