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Families asked to pitch in at Winkler PCH due to fear of staff shortages when vax mandate kicks in

·4 min read

A Winkler care home is so concerned about the possibility of severe staff shortages when new vaccination mandates kick in, that they are now asking clients’ families to be prepared to pitch in just to provide basic care.

In a letter sent out on Wednesday by Salem Home, the Winkler personal care home laid out what they called their contingency plan for if there is a significant exodus of staff this upcoming Monday.

New provincial mandates come into effect Monday that will require all staff who provide care to residents in the home to be either fully vaccinated, or undergo rapid COVID-19 testing every 48 hours.

Salem Home now says they worry that some employees simply won’t show up for work, or will refuse to be tested.

“We want to keep all our residents as safe as possible, so we are planning for worst-case scenario starting on this day if staff refuse to get tested or not come to work,” the letter states.

In the letter Salem Home laid out their plan for that worst case scenario, stating that family and friends of home care residents may be asked to chip in with basic care needs such as laundry, meal time assistance, room cleaning, organizing activities, and helping with basic sanitary needs like cleaning and tooth brushing.

The care home also said there is even a possibility that family members could be asked to take residents to their homes to live with them temporarily.

“We are incredibly grateful for each family’s support and willingness to assist wherever possible these past 18 months,” the letter states. “All of this has not been easy for anyone, and we are once again asking you to walk with us these coming weeks.”

The letter says families can expect to be contacted next week if they do need to put the contingency plan in place.

During a Friday press conference in Winkler on an unrelated matter, chief executive officer Jane Curtis claimed that Southern Health has a fairly strong idea of who will be coming into work at the care home on Monday, and who has not yet said if they will come in, or agree to testing.

“We have a lot of confidence that we know who is going to come in because they’ve told us, so it’s that last percentage that we’re waiting on,” Curtis said. “We are really hoping for the best, but we are making sure we have those plans in place if we need to implement them.”

Curtis added she could not give numbers on how many or what percentage of employees may not be available to work on Monday at Salem Home, and she could not say what areas of service in the home could end up being most effected.

“This just reflects that vaccine hesitancy that we have seen in all pockets of our population,” she said. “It doesn’t belong to one group or one demographic.”

Curtis added she understands that some may be frustrated by a request for help depending on their own schedules, but she said that any requests will be meant for those with the “capacity to help.”

“Even in normal times, families are an important part of our care team, so it’s not unusual to have families in on a daily basis,” Curtis said. “So we would never put a family into a position where they have to come in, but we do know there are families out there that will be willing to.”

Health Minister Audrey Gordon also spoke on Friday, and said she could not say how many health care workers in the care home in Winkler and across the entire province are expected to either not show up for work or refuse COVID-19 testing starting next week.

“I do not have the final number, the data is still coming in,” Gordon said. “Health care professionals are going online or meeting with their managers every day, I think it will be a small number.”

In a statement released on Friday afternoon, a Shared Health spokesperson said they have identified about 42,000 staff, physicians or others in the province whose work duties involve direct contact with patients, residents or clients, and who will need to be either fully vaccinated or agree to regular COVID-19 testing starting next week.

Shared Health said that of those 42,000 individuals, so far about 32,000 have completed a disclosure process, and approximately 30,000 have said that they are fully vaccinated.

Shared Health said disclosures from employees are still coming in as of Friday, and are currently coming in at the rate of about 2,000 per day.

Wednesday’s letter from Salem Home is another in a string of bad news and bad headlines coming out of the southeastern Manitoba city of about 13,000 residents, as Winkler currently has one of the lowest vaccination uptake rates in the province, has seen several public anti-COVID-19 health order and anti-vaccination rallies held, and even saw the community’s police chief put out a public call for calm and civility.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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