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‘Not again’: New outbreak declared at Regina nursing home where 39 people died in previous COVID eruption

Public health officials have declared a new COVID-19 outbreak at a Regina nursing home where a previous eruption of the disease killed 39 residents.

Over the weekend, the Saskatchewan Health Authority confirmed to residents and families at Parkside Extendicare that one fully-vaccinated resident and an unspecified number of staff had tested positive for COVID-19.

“My first reaction was, oh my God, not again,” said Barbara Cape, the president of SEIU-West, a union that represents health-care workers at Parkside. “This is awful. There’s no other way to describe it.”

The second Parkside outbreak comes only weeks after an independent investigation found that Extendicare was “woefully unprepared” for the original outbreak that swept through the home last winter.

The new outbreak also comes about midway through a month-long period in which the SHA is stepping up its oversight of the privately-operated home.

“The enhanced oversight is pretty limited, it sounds like to me,” Cape said. “It sounds like there’s policy review and sort of clinical oversight. But it’s not like a wholesale ‘they are in charge.'”

The period of SHA oversight began on Aug. 5, but according to one of the SHA’s updates this past weekend, the health authority has only been on-site at Parkside since Aug. 16. 

“We’ve been working with Parkside throughout this pandemic,” said Dr. Rashaad Hansia, the SHA’s physician executive for integrated urban health, in a Monday news conference. “That’s just the date from which people have been on site to help care for those residents.”

Visitation restricted

News of a second outbreak at Parkside comes as another Regina nursing home warns of a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases at more than one Saskatchewan long-term care facility. 

In an email sent to families and residents on Sunday, Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home did not specify which homes have been recently hit with COVID-19. Only two Saskatchewan care homes, Diamond House in Warman and Capilano Court in Moose Jaw, are currently listed by health officials as being in an active COVID-19 outbreak. 

The Santa Maria note went on to say that visitation is once again being limited to end-of-life or compassionate care reasons at all long-term care homes in Regina. CBC News has reached out to the SHA for confirmation. 

The health authority’s note to Parkside families noted steps being taken to contain the new outbreak there, in addition to restricting visits, including:

  • Keeping residents in the south wing (where the one infected resident lives) confined to their rooms and wings.
  • Sending infected staff home to self-isolate.
  • Ensuring staff only work in one part of the building.
  • Testing staff at the beginning of each shift.
  • Requiring staff to wear N-95 respirators.
  • Requiring visitors to wear masks.

Some Parkside residents may be moved to other facilities, the health authority said. 

“Difficult decisions need to be made to respond to the COVID crisis within our system in real-time and with the care of Saskatchewan residents and the safety of all health care providers in mind,” said an update from the SHA on Sunday.

This sign greeted people visiting Parkside on Sunday. (Submitted to CBC)

 

The independent investigation conducted by Saskatchewan’s ombudsman into the original Parkside outbreak found that residents’ rooms effectively received no ventilation and that HEPA filter fans were brought into the home.

Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili raised concerns about the home’s ventilation when tweeting about the new outbreak on Sunday. 

 

“Serious ventilation problems still have not been addressed,” Meili posted. 

In its Sunday update, the SHA said HEPA filter fans will again be brought to Parkside.

HEPA filter fans, like the one pictured here at Extendicare’s Preston home in Saskatoon, are being brought into Parkside, according to the health authority. Ventilation concerns at Parkside were flagged during the previous outbreak. (Submitted to CBC)

From November 2020 to January 2021, 42 infected Parkside residents died after COVID swept through the facility —39 of COVID-19 and three of other causes. Soon after, Saskatchewan’s Ombudsman Mary McFadyen launched her probe looking into what happened.

In addition to finding that staff continued to work while having symptoms of COVID-19 and did not distance from each other in the break room, the investigation also highlighted issues long known to both Extendicare and the Saskatchewan government, including crowded four-person rooms and cramped conditions in other parts of the home. 

During the original outbreak, Extendicare began limiting occupancy in all rooms to two people. 

According to the ombudsman report, Parkside is now home to about 160 residents, down from its capacity of 228. 

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