Right in the centre - Time to change care home policy


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Forgive me for repeating the information below. Just about everybody has seen these statistics or heard them, but it’s important for context.

Manitoba COVID-19 update as of Monday, July 6:

•Zero new cases July 6 (1,749 were tested over the past weekend).

•Six days in a row with zero cases.

•It has been seven weeks since a health care worker in Manitoba contracted COVID-19.

•The number of active cases has decreased by two.

•The number of cases remains at 325.

•The number of deaths remains at seven.

•An additional two have recovered for a total of 304.

•That leaves 14 active cases (down from 16).

•Zero are in hospital, including zero in intensive care.

•A total of 66,717 tests conducted.

The province, Manitoba Health, all the health care staff, care home workers and Manitobans in general have done a very good job of curtailing COVID-19. The battle isn’t over, but it is indeed time for some different tactics.

Let’s look at what has happened. Many people are very afraid, afraid for their health and lives. Many businesses have suffered greatly from the shutdown, some will not recover. Parts of Canada and parts of the world have suffered very deeply over this disease. We know all that.

What we don’t know, and will never know, is what would have happened if Manitoba had not shut down the economy. Would there have been a huge epidemic? We will never know, only speculation can deal with that question.

What we do know is reflected in the stats above. For the most part, COVID-19 has been kept at bay from hospitals, care homes, schools, the meat packing plants and from the population in general.

It is now time to change how we do things and the place to start is the care homes. As stated above, health care workers have not contracted C-19 in several weeks. That is wonderful news. The care and caution that has been taken have apparently helped a lot. That all said, in our care homes, residents are suffering in another way. They are suffering and dying from loneliness. They are feeling very alone and, in many cases, are totally confused about not having any visitors. Similarly, people are being deprived of seeing their spouses, their parents or grandparents, their friends. It’s a horrible situation.

The current visitation protocol imposed by Manitoba Health on care homes is totally out of line. They say it’s to prevent the spread of C-19. Ok, we all get that, but keeping visitors away over such a long haul isn’t helping . There has only been one death in a Manitoba care home. There have been many, many deaths in the care homes from things such as influenza and we have no idea how many elderly people have just given up and died of loneliness.

Keeping visitors away doesn’t make sense anymore and here’s why.

Staff have to have their temperature taken, are warned not to come to work if they aren’t feeling well and have to take numerous precautions. BUT, they all go home and live with their families, who are going to work in other places. They all go shopping and are going about their business in a more or less regular fashion. Then they come back to work in the care home.

That’s the way it has to be, society has to keep working, sleeping, eating and going about life as much as is possible. My point is that regular controlled visits from family and friends will pose no greater risk than the regular coming and going of staff does.

Certainly, take all the precautions, take people’s temperature, fine. Wear a mask, if needed. Don’t come in if you are sick. Don’t come in if you have been out of province or out of country.

And yes, there is some risk that a care home resident will get C-19 and could die. But think about it please, especially Manitoba Health, please think it through. There is very small risk that C-19 will come into the care homes. Influenza is already there. Loneliness, emotional stress leading to people simply giving up on life, is already there. Far more elderly people are dying in Manitoba from the side effects of the fight against C-19 than are dying from the disease itself.

Manitoba Health can take pride in their success, but need to change their approach before their efforts turn into a bigger threat than C-19 itself.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer chair of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.