Calls for inquiry in Alberta after investigation into COVID-19 handling in Ontario, Quebec care homes
EDMONTON -- On the heels of scathing reports by the Canadian military into nursing home outbreaks in other provinces, and as COVID-19 continues to claim the lives of those living in retirement and continuing care facilities, have come calls for an inquiry into the state of seniors’ care in Alberta.
Although Judy Gnarpe is happy with the care her father receives at Riverbend Retirement Living in southwest Edmonton, she is troubled by what is happening elsewhere in Canada.
Two military investigations into COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes in Quebec and Ontario, the findings of which were released this week, found cases of neglect, understaffing, and insufficient personal protective equipment.
In some cases, soldiers reported bug infestations, and that cries of help were ignored by employees.
- READ MORE: 'Gut-wrenching' military report sheds light on grim conditions in Ontario nursing homes
- READ MORE: Legault asks that 1,000 military staff remain in Quebec's long-term care facilities until Sept. 15
"It’s just horrible. You don’t want anybody in your family to be exposed to that," Gnarpe told CTV News Edmonton.
The reports from eastern Canada, and the growing number of cases in Alberta long-term care facilities, have prompted calls for a closer look at what is happening in the province.
As of Wednesday, 141 Albertans had died from the new coronavirus. Of those, 126 were over the age of 70.
The average age of the Alberta COVID-19 victim is 83.
NDP MLA Lori Sigurdson said the reports from eastern Canada were not unlike stories she has heard from Albertans with loved ones in care homes.
“I don’t think at the magnitude of what’s gone on in Ontario, but I’ve heard some very serious concerns,” she told CTV News Edmonton.
“There’s (sic) been issues for a long time in terms of staffing … and it’s underfunded, certainly. These are ongoing issues, but COVID-19 has really brought that up.”
On Wednesday, Provincial Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw responded to the eastern Canada investigations and defended Alberta Health Services’handling of the pandemic in continuing care homes.
"When there has been a case identified... AHS is engaging with that facility to make sure that outbreak measures are in place."
She reminded media that in some cases, AHS has taken over operations.
- READ MORE: AHS assumes operation of Alberta care home with 37 COVID-19 cases, 5 deaths
- READ MORE: AHS quietly takes over Millrise Seniors Village over COVID-19 outbreak
But the executive director of the Alberta Seniors Communities and Housing Association is echoing the call for a review.
"Right from home care to long-term care and acute care, that whole system needs to be revamped," Irene Lindsay-Martin told CTV News Edmonton.
She advocates for a system that not only focuses on medicine but also wellbeing, and for a review that examines the private-public model mix in Alberta.
"We need a wholesale system change, one that focuses on better outcomes and really meeting the expectations of people as they age, and their families. We want a system that does what we want for our mom or dad."
On Wednesday, Alberta’s auditor general announced he would be investigating how the provincial government reacted to the pandemic to report back in the fall.
With a report from CTV News Edmonton’s Bill Fortier