By Gillian Slade
Alberta Newspaper Group
Seniors’ facilities across the country are frequently at the epicentre of the ravages of COVID-19, but in Alberta’s south zone and Medicine Hat, the health authority is confident.
“I feel very confident that people are well informed. We are working with all of our seniors’ facilities every single day making sure that all of the guidelines that’s been put out are in force,” said Katherine Chubbs, chief zone officer for Alberta Health Services’ south zone.
“We are confident that they’re doing all that is required.”
The Calgary zone has had the most COVID-19 cases and the most deaths with many at a couple of seniors’ residences in particular.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, identified part-time staff working at multiple facilities as one of the reasons for the spread of the virus. She said the challenge was limiting staff to one facility and at the same time maintaining adequate staffing levels.
Effective Thursday, workers in continuing care and supportive living residences are only allowed to work at one location. There is a one-week transition period and is to be implemented by April 23.
Chubbs says on Wednesday this week employees working at more than facility were required to identify which facility they wished to work at and stick to that one only.
“We haven’t encountered the challenges associated with that just yet,” said Chubbs. “We are anticipating some challenges.”
For owners/operators of these residences it could mean a reduction in staffing levels and having to hire additional staff during a challenging time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chubbs says one option is increasing the number of working hours those part-time workers. There are also graduate nurses who are seeking employment.
Seniors’ residences in Medicine Hat are privately owned and operated. There is no plan currently to assist with staffing if an operator has trouble getting enough staff.
“That’s not under kind of the plan at the moment,” said Chubbs.
In smaller communities where long-term care is part of a hospital, AHS would ensure there is sufficient staff.
Chubbs believes the south zone will get through this better than other parts of the province.
“There is nothing that’s caused me any concern in terms of their (privately owned and operated facilities) awareness, their comfort level with the information that’s coming,” she said.
Since last Wednesday, continuing care workers were required to wear masks at all times when providing direct patient care or working in patient care areas.