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'The word I would use is helpless': Son of long-term care patients worries about COVID-19
CALGARY -- A Calgary man whose parents are living in a southeast extended care facility where more than a dozen residents and staff have tested positive for COVID-19, says he feels helpless as officials deal with the outbreak.
Brian van Vliet says he hasn’t been able to see his parents since early March, when McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre began limiting visits to those whose loved ones are palliative.
“It’s definitely challenging. I’m used to going in there and being boisterous and I can check on them. The care has always been A-one but I always liked to just double-check,” said van Vliet.
Despite the measures, the province’s chief medical officer of health announced March 24 an outbreak had occurred at the long-term care facility, resulting in one death and positive test results for three others — two residents and a staff member.
On Friday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw confirmed another two people had tested positive, bringing the total to 15. The facility is waiting for the results for an additional 10 residents who have respiratory symptoms.
“Right now I feel the word I would use is helpless. I can’t do anything for them if they are infected,” said Van Vliet.
“There is always a concern they are going to get it. I’m not concerned about the level of care they’re getting, I’m concerned with how fast this virus is moving around, and of course people always think it won’t happen to them.”
The chief medical officer for Revera — the parent company of McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre — says they’ve had pandemic preparedness in place for weeks, anticipating the virus may affect them.
Dr. Rhonda Collins says they facility received their first positive case of the virus on March 22 and isolation measures were taken immediately, along with enhanced cleaning protocols.
“The challenge in long-term care, particularly is this is a population, is that they’re very vulnerable to this particular virus as well as most other respiratory outbreaks like influenza,” said Collins.
“We’re used to dealing with outbreaks. We have very stringent protocols in place and now we’ve enhanced those protocols because of covid-19."
Collins says staff members have personal protective equipment and take precaution when caring for residents. There are 27 residents currently in isolation.
“We need to protect everybody but we also need to make sure we’re not isolating our residents who don’t understand why they need to be isolated, who can become frightened, who can become confused," said Collins.
Because of the long incubation period of the virus, Hinshaw said it’s hard to tell if the situation at the facility is contained.
“I think it will take some time before we are able to tell if all of the people who were exposed at the beginning of this outbreak have passed through that incubation period," she said.
"What's important is that every single one of the residents there who have symptoms and those who don't have symptoms are all getting the support and care that they nee."
Van Vliet says communication is limited with his parents and he will only get a call if his parents have fallen or if there is an update on the coronavirus he needs to know about.
“I want them to be comfortable no matter what happens but there’s definitely a risk that they’re going to get this … a high risk,” said van Vliet.
“It actually attacks the most vulnerable people in the community so don’t think of yourself, think of the vulnerable people in the community and stay home.”