Why some seniors in long-term care haven't been vaccinated, despite 'milestone' announcement
EDMONTON -- Premier Jason Kenney’s announcement that Alberta has reached a vaccine “milestone” is creating some confusion amongst private seniors home operators.
Kenney said Monday that the first dose of vaccination against COVID-19 had now been administered in all 357 long-term care and designated supportive living facilities in the province, a feat he called a ‘tremendous milestone’.
“I believe (this) makes Alberta the first province in the country to complete the first dose vaccine rollout for this important and highly vulnerable population,” said Kenney.
However, operators of private long-term care homes said they are frustrated by the language being used.
“What they are forgetting to say in their press releases is ‘government-funded’ long term care,” said Dawn Harsch, owner of Exquisicare Senior Living, which has three private long-term care locations in Edmonton where no residents have received a vaccine.
Exquisicare locations are large individual private homes with 10 residents each and drop-in staff assistance.
“A senior is a senior regardless of where they live and these are congregate living sites whether they’re government funded or privately funded, the risk level is still there,” said Harsch.
The distinction is in the word “designated” when it comes to interpreting Kenney’s remarks.
Seniors aged 75 and older not living in ‘designated’ assisted living facilities are technically part of Alberta’s Phase 1B rollout, which is scheduled to begin in February, a timeline dependent on supply. Exquisicare homes are considered PSL or private supported living.
But some residents in various levels of assisted living are being vaccinated, even though they don’t fall under “designated supported living.”
“In mixed sites where some residents are in designated supportive living and others are not, but all residents may share space and co-mingle, the vaccine is being offered to all residents, including non-DSL residents,” said Alberta Health’s Tom McMillan, in a statement to CTV News Edmonton.
It’s a strategy that some say isn’t being properly communicated.
“All we can say is we have no idea,” said Irene Martin-Lindsay with Alberta Seniors and Community Housing Association.
“They haven’t let us know when we’re up and many of the sites have everything,” Martin-Lindsay said of the government’s vaccine roll out so far, “Some of our members, they’ve had three out of their five congregate living buildings done, and they have no idea when the next two are coming.”
McMillan said in mixed living scenarios, designated and non-designated, the vaccine will be delivered to all residents “whenever possible” but acknowledged the strategy is dependent on supply and the focus is immunizing people deemed most at-risk.
“Our sector needs assurances. We need a transparent prioritization plan. Where we’re included, and the proper terms for the various forms of senior’s housing,” said Martin-Lindsay.
While private long-term care homes are not as common as private ‘assisted living’ facilities, Harsch said there are about 12,000 seniors in Alberta who live in them.
As of Monday, the government said AHS had administered 90,000 doses of the vaccine, including to eligible staff and residents of continuing care.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson.