Open letter: The Association and MGNA request information from Minister Friesen about long-term care strategy

December 3rd, 2020

Dear Minister Friesen,

RE: Resources for long-term care homes 

Recent weeks have put Manitoba at the top of the COVID-19 chart in Canada, with the highest rate of cases per capita. This disturbing trend includes a significant number of cases in long-term care homes. Nearly 50 long-term care homes have declared outbreaks and nearly half of Manitoba’s COVID-19 deaths are related to these homes.

These outbreaks have also decimated the number of available healthcare staff. With many staff ill or isolating, the lack of resources has become so severe you have elicited help from the Canadian Red Cross, and homes are asking for volunteers to support their efforts. 

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) has been the hardest hit. In response, the WRHA has announced that services in other settings are being reduced to redeploy staff to personal care homes, and a rapid response standby pool of nurses and healthcare aides is being established for urgent and emergent situations. While this is necessary, it means that once again, clients and communities are not receiving needed services as we continue to pull nurses away from their regular work. Additionally, more COVID-19 cases mean more hospitalizations, creating further resource needs in many areas.

These issues demonstrate not only the lack of preparedness despite an expected second wave, but that long-term care homes lacked the necessary resources prior to the pandemic. While we first need to deal with the immediate issue of safely caring for long-term care home residents during the pandemic, we then need to ensure that standards are enhanced, and long-term care homes are adequately resourced going forward. We welcome the opportunity to work with you to do this.  

Right now, long-term care homes need nurses, but at minimum they need immediate capacity to provide basic care. In a recent interview with CBC Information Radio, Shawn Feely, Canadian Red Cross vice-president for Manitoba and Nunavut said, “We need people, plain and simple.” Which leads us to the question – why hasn’t the province asked for military support? We have seen this strategy in Quebec and Ontario when they experienced outbreaks during the first wave of the pandemic. It seems like it would provide an immediate injection of personnel and resources in long-term care homes and save lives. 

With cases rising in other jurisdictions across Canada, now is the time for us to reach out for the additional help desperately needed in Manitoba.

We look forward to receiving your response to our questions and gaining more insight into your strategy. 

Sincerely,

   
Dr. Cheryl Cusack RN PhD
Executive Director 
Association of Regulated Nurses of Manitoba
  Jennifer Fulcher RN MN
President 
Manitoba Gerontological Nursing Association

       

CC:   
The Honourable Brian Pallister, Premier of Manitoba
Dr. Brent Roussin, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer
Lanette Siragusa, Provincial Lead, Health System Integration, Quality / Chief Nursing Officer