“This was a tragedy”.
That is what provincial ombudsman Mary McFadyen is saying about a deadly COVID-19 outbreak that hit the Parkside Extendicare home last fall, after releasing a report that looks into how the deadly outbreak occurred. That outbreak saw 39 residents of the home die with 194 out of 198 residents and 132 staff catching the virus.
McFadyen says the physical limitations of the building were well known by Extendicare, the Ministry of Health and the Saskatchewan Health Authority and that as early as March 2020, the SHA and Extendicare were aware that Parkside would be in serious trouble if an outbreak were to occur. Instead of reducing the population of the home so no more than two residents shared a room, the focus was on keeping some rooms vacant to isolate COVID-19 positive residents which was a mistake.
McFadyen goes on to say the following:
– Extendicare was not consistently screening staff for symptoms and failed to ensure staff were taking required precautions like social distancing and wearing masks during breaks.
– Authority and Extendicare officials both thought Parkside did not have to comply with the Authority’s masking guidelines (even though it did have to). Instead of giving staff at least four new masks per shift, Parkside gave one mask per shift and a paper bag to store it in on breaks. The Authority’s ‘hands off’ approach coupled with Extendicare’s ‘back off’ approach made collaboration on other issues more difficult.
– Parkside’s pandemic plan was to isolate positive residents in a hallway on its north wing. Instead, it isolated the first few positive residents in its main wing where they had been staying. By the time it decided to move positive residents as planned, it had so many cases it needed to convert its entire north wing into a COVID-19 wing. Its staff were not equipped to safely move so many residents at once. Positive residents were moved simultaneously with non-positive residents. Not all of them were masked and rooms were not fully disinfected between moves.
– Parkside did not have an outbreak staff contingency plan to replace staff who had to self-isolate. This created a staffing crisis within the first few days of the outbreak. Because it is not an Authority affiliate, it also could not directly access the Authority’s staff. This was one of the key reasons the Authority had to take over Parkside and manage the outbreak.
Based on her findings, McFadyen recommended that Extendicare: apologize to the families of the Parkside residents who passed away as a result of the outbreak, and to all the other residents whose lives were disrupted; that it collaborate with the Authority to conduct a critical incident review of the outbreak at Parkside, that it ensure its administrators and staff comply with its own rules and the rules laid out by the Ministry of Health and the Authority; and that it ensure it has resources on site so its staff will be able to comply with all relevant infection prevention and control management.
The investigation found the SHA generally gave Parkside reasonable support during the pandemic and outbreak; however, there were areas where oversight was lacking. McFadyen recommended that the Saskatchewan Health Authority immediately stop allowing four-bed rooms in long-term care facilities; that it update its agreement with long-term care home operators and ensure they comply with its care-related policies, standards and practices; that it conduct detailed annual reviews of all long-term care homes to ensure they are following its care standards and report publicly on each home’s level of compliance, and that it also ensure its communicable disease prevention and control management standards and practices are being followed consistently, including completing inspections of all long-term care homes at least once a year.