Death toll rises to 10

Manoir du Lac in McLennan is now under the control of Alberta Health Services effective April 17. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, 10 residents have died.

Alberta Health Services assumes control at Manoir du Lac

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

Families of residents at Manoir du Lac in McLennan are divided over whether conditions at the seniors’ long-term care facility have improved since Alberta Health Services temporarily took over operations.

Community members also noticed large volumes of trash outside the facility near walking trails for a couple of days.

The first resident at the McLennan facility tested positive for COVID-19 on March 31.

AHS took over the day-to-day operation of the long-term care facility on April 17.

The facility was severely understaffed at that point. Some employees had symptoms of the virus, others stopped showing up for work, and still others quit when the Province said staff should only work at one long-term care facility at a time.

Medical Officer of Health for Alberta Dr. Deena Hinshaw cited extremely long hours being worked by remaining staff, improper use of PPE, and a lack of screening for COVID-19 as reasons for the takeover.

Manoir du Lac also had three outstanding non-compliance violations from 2019 for needing maintenance and for unsafe accommodations, none of which had been addressed yet according to AHS.

Four staff members were removed by peace officers, including director of care Karla Anderson and her two 18- and 19-year-old children in what Anderson says was intended as “a show of force.”

Anderson had been working up to 20-hour shifts at the facility. She has been put on administrative leave.

At press time April 24, 29 out of 68 residents at Manoir du Lac have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Ten of those residents have since died, including 86-year old Francois Brochu. Four of those deaths have occurred since AHS took over operations of the facility. Thirteen staff members have also tested positive.

The AHS order will remain in effect for at least 90 days.

Marc Bisson says his mother, who is a resident at Manoir du Lac, has noticed a decline in the quality of her care since AHS took over. Bisson has been keeping in touch with his mother over the phone. She has asked not to be named.

Bisson’s mother is diabetic, and he says some of her meals have been delayed.

“She is scared,” Bisson says.

“All I really know is my mom says she feels it’s getting worse every day. I can’t seem to get her to elaborate. All I know for sure is removing management removed the heart and the residents are paying the price.”

Bisson is so concerned about his mother’s care that he has talked to Protection for Persons in Care and AHS to make complaints. He says he has been told there will be an investigation, but has no further details.

He has also set up a Facebook group to discuss the situation.

At least one other family member of a resident complained in the group that they noticed the resident had not had their clothes changed for a couple of days.

The removal of Anderson and other staff familiar to residents has divided the community. Some people on social media are lauding Anderson as a hero, but she also told CBC she had her tires slashed.

Anderson and Bisson both confirmed they are in a romantic relationship.

Anderson says people are contacting her with their concerns about their family members in care.

“Residents and families are reaching out to me scared,” Anderson says.

“Things are far worse now, not better. It’s tearing me apart hearing it.”

Anderson believes it would have helped if staff had been consulted on their knowledge of the preferences of the residents when AHS took over.

“It’s devastating to know four have passed away since Friday and two of them were stable when I was there. I hear about lack of food for the residents, lack of fluids and people in same clothes for two days in a row,” she says.

“I think the staff brought in are unfamiliar with residents and process, and residents’ care is severely impacted.

“I feel very, very helpless,” she adds. “I’m asking families to contact patient complaint line or phone AHS with concerns.

“There is a chance I’ll get reinstated if AHS comes to understand it’s in the best interest of the residents.”

AHS says they will not comment on any specifics related to human resources, such as whether Anderson may be reinstated.

Community nurses as well as other former staff are still working at the facility, and one staff member who wishes not to be named says meals are being given regularly again. That staff member says any changes to routine were due to the transition.

Greg Cummings, AHS chief zone officer for the north zone, says there have been no staffing shortages since AHS took over the facility.

He is aware of some of the complaints made by families of residents.

“We’ve heard some of those concerns,” Cummings says.

“What happens here is there is a routine where meals would be delivered at certain times of the day, but there is flexibility in that, so we adhere to a schedule as much as possible but we also try to take into account the personal preferences of residents.”

Cummings says some residents, for instance, may not take breakfast early in the morning because they would rather sleep in.

“There is potential, though, that during the transition some of those personal preferences were not well understood by new staff coming into the facility so if that happened, or if that happens in the future, we would expect that either the resident of the person who is advocating for the resident would let us know and we would attend to that immediately.

“There is no excuse for that.”

Cummings says one of the things AHS was most concerned about when they took over the operation was that families and residents were aware of how they can communicate and escalate an issue if they can’t get their concerns addressed.

“One of the problems was the telephone answering system was overloaded with messages that had not been answered when we took responsibility,” he says.

Technical help was called in to unlock the system and clear out the voicemail box.

AHS also held a town hall for families on April 18. The town hall had a panel of experts to answer questions, and also let families know who was in what position so they would know who to contact with their concerns.

Cummings says that seems to have helped, because he has had people contact him directly since the town hall.

He says an FAQ document is also being created.

“We recognize residents and families are just as much a part of the healthcare team as nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals so we would like to get to a place where it’s seamless if you need to get a hold of somebody to address a concern, talk about an issue, or give us your opinion on how we can do better,” Cummings says.

“In any of these kind of operations I think 90 per cent of problems are around people not being able to get the information they need in a timely way to ease any concerns they might have.

“This being a highly publicized situation, it’s going to make people worried about their loved ones so we want to do anything we can to make sure if people need reassurance or information that we’re getting that to them.”

Cummings says AHS is looking at the entire operation at Manoir du Lac and evaluating compliance with standards, then making improvements where needed right away.

“Initially we concentrated on a complete deep cleansing of the building,” he says.

Cummings says the reason community members noticed large amounts of trash in front of the facility near walking trails was also because staff were using a high volume of disposable PPE.

“We had higher volume of trash than we would normally have, but that has been addressed. That was part of the deep cleaning process which we thought was really important to reassure everyone.

“The good news is we have adequate PPE for the staff and they’re using it,” he says.

Screening is being done whenever anyone enters the facility, whether they are staff or essential visitors.

Measures are also being taken within Manoir du Lac to try to limit the continued spread of COVID-19.

“So that’s why people hear stories about being isolated to their rooms and not being able to have visitors,” Cummings says.

However, select family members or other people close to residents may be able to be designated as “essential visitors” and allowed to come into the facility.

“That would normally be for someone who is in palliative care, who we know is dying, or there might be other kinds of needs that we cannot address as well as a family member or a friend,” he says.

Cummings says people granted an exception to visit a resident are screened for symptoms and their temperatures taken, and only one person is allowed to visit at a time. Visitors are given a short education by staff on how to protect themselves such as with safe use of PPE and proper hand washing and are escorted by staff during their visit.

He says AHS recognizes that – tragically – sometimes people are not in local area and aren’t able to travel to the facility in time to say good bye to a loved one.

“Our ideal situation is that they would contact us and we could have that conversation with them about how to facilitate whatever kind of access that they need,” he says.

“It’s really about making sure that that connection is made.”

With a COVID-19 death now confirmed at the J.B. Wood Continuing Care Centre in High Prairie on April 21, fears have risen about a similar outbreak there.

Cummings says the same procedures are used in all facilities across AHS, and medical officers keep staff up-to-date on a daily basis on decisions that have been made to support preventing the spread of the virus.

“I would say lessons are being learned locally, zonally, provincially, nationally and internationally. And so as we learn and as we take direction from our Medical Officer of Health who is Dr. Deena Hinshaw, and through the provincial emergency command centre and the zone emergency operations centre, we make decisions that are applicable to all of our facilities.”

He adds Manoir du Lac, and J.B. Wood, and perhaps other facilities, are all at different stages.

“Some of the facilities have seen no incidence of positive cases and others have.”

Cummings said the best case scenario is always to prevent the spread to a facility in the first place.

“It’s the same basic principles of environmental health and inspection prevention and control that apply,” he concludes.

By the numbers [as of April 24]

10 Total Deaths
4 Deaths since AHS takeover
29 Residents testing positive for COVID-19
13 Staff testing positive for COVID-19

Note: 68 residents at Manoir du Lac

Share this post