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Care home workers at B.C.'s most devastating COVID outbreak struggling

Last Updated Jan 6, 2021 at 8:38 pm PST

(Image Credit: CityNews)
Summary

Workers trying to contain B.C.'s worst COVID-19 outbreak are tired, stressed out and scared

NEWS 1130 is hearing from some of the nearly 120 workers as a B.C. care home where 41 people have died since Nov. 22

BURNABY (NEWS 1130) — Staff trying to contain the province’s worst COVID-19 outbreak are reporting they’re tired, stressed out and scared.

That’s the latest on Vancouver’s Little Mountain Place where 41 people –more than a third of the residents– have died since that outbreak was declared Nov. 22.

Mike Old, the interim Secretary-Business Manager with the Hospital Employees Union, says nearly 120 HEU members work there.

“I am concerned over the long term about the mental health of our members. I mean, we’re going to be living with the consequences for a very long time. The most important thing is that we control community infection because, as community infections rise, it’s inevitable that they will get into care homes and as we’ve seen, it can have devastating consequences.”


For weeks, families with loved ones at the privately-operated complex have been complaining about information not be readily shared with them by operators of the home in which 114 of the 117 available beds were occupied before the outbreak was declared.

Old says they’re aren’t the only ones having trouble accessing data.

“It’s really important in terms of ongoing confidence and sort of our public health direction that we have transparency around numbers –especially in the long-term care system. Nobody wants Public Health officials to be doing busy work that takes us away from trying to protect seniors and save lives.”

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During a conference call Tuesday night, family members were told 53 of the 99 residents who tested positive are now cleared and only three of the 70 infected staff members have yet to recover.

Old tells NEWS1130 Little Mountain Place is a tight-knit community and many HEU members have been part of that team for several years.

“Workers there are very stressed, a bit scared and very tired, but they’re going to work every day to try and make sure that residents get the care they deserve. You know, under the single-site order, our ability to bring in staff from other sites is somewhat limited.”

Old also confirms employees from other hospitals and care homes within the Vancouver Coastal Health region have been brought in to help address staffing shortages until this outbreak can be declared over.


Public Relations staff with Vancouver Coastal Health say all eligible residents and most staff at Little Mountain Place have received their first vaccine dose.

As for how long it may take for visitors to be allowed back into long-term care homes across B.C., Health Minister Adrian Dix says no firm timeline has been set, but when that decision is made, it will be province-wide and not on a home-to-home basis.

Old says HEU members don’t want the people they care for to be socially isolated and that’s why “we need to do everything we can collectively to flatten the curve, reduce community infections, make sure that the vaccination campaign proceeds as quickly as possible, so that we can be in a place where family members and other visitors can be welcomed back into long-term care because that’s very important for residents.”