Revera CEO promises action on Winnipeg care home outbreaks as families demand answers
The head of the for-profit company Revera delivered a written update Wednesday on two deadly outbreaks at Winnipeg long term care homes.
It comes one day after the company held a virtual town hall for family members, which some say lacked answers and accountability.
At least 22 people who lived in the care home have died of COVID-19, including seven COVID-related deaths in a period of 48 hours late last week, when the home was experiencing a serious staffing shortage.
Lawrence Lewsey’s mom Ethel Lewsey died Nov.2, just three days before celebrating her 100th birthday.
“I had spoken to her probably an hour before she passed away and we were just telling her ‘Let go, we’ll be okay',” said Lewsey.
Instead of having a milestone celebration, he’s now seeking answers.
Ethel had been living at the Revera-run Maples Long Term Care Home for the past two years and is being remembered as a dedicated family woman and church member.
Lewsey said he called the health minister’s office about staffing concerns before paramedics were called in to treat 12 residents on the night of Nov.6.
“The problem was there beforehand,” said Lewsey. “It just hit the fan on the weekend.”
The situation has left many family members concerned about the well-being of their relatives.
One of the main things people wanted at the virtual town hall is simply a better system for them to be able check in on their loved ones.
According to Alvin Cadonic, who has an aunt and an uncle in the care home, Revera told them staff are so busy they’re having trouble documenting the work they’re doing with residents.
“The most disturbing part of Revera’s response is the lack of reliable communication throughout this ordeal, before this incident and especially afterwards,” said Cadonic in a written statement. “We want transparency and honesty, as it is evident that there are so many aspects of this terrible situation that we remain in the dark on.
“This was brought up during the meeting and we want to see this improved significantly. A dedicated person for families to contact. A written protocol for doing so.
Kaitlyn MacLeod’s family only found out Oct. 28 their 94-year-old great grandmother Melita Tumosa had tested positive for COVID-19 six days earlier.
“As soon as cases started picking up, I think all of us as a family we felt hopeless,” said MacLeod, who now lives in Thunder Bay, Ont. along with most of her great grandmother’s close relatives.
MacLeod said they haven’t been able to get any updates on her condition since, even after taking part in Tuesday’s virtual town hall.
“And we never really got the answers that we needed,” said MacLeod. “Even now, I don’t even know if she’s okay.”
In a Nov. 11 update on Revera’s website, the company’s president and CEO Thomas Wellner said its focus remains on caring for residents.
Wellner said the second wave of COVID-19 has hit its Parkview Place and Maples care homes in Winnipeg, where there’s significant community spread of the virus, particularly hard.
“Our hearts ache for the families of those who have lost a loved one, and our staff who cared for them,” Wellner wrote. “In Winnipeg, we are grateful that the (Winnipeg Regional Health Authority) will be providing additional staff; together with Red Cross personnel, they will provide some much-needed relief for our devoted but exhausted staff.”
It’s too late for Lawrence Lewsey, who is now considering legal action and is speaking with other families.
Lewsey said both the company and the Manitoba government should’ve been better prepared for the second wave.
“They’ve just ignored the seniors,” said Lewsey. “Revera ignored their staff in my opinion, they ignored their employees which in turn went against the residents there.”
Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen has already signalled there will be an independent investigation – that’s in addition to an investigation being done by the Winnipeg Police Service.
The WRHA announced earlier in the week a team of clinical experts is being formed to provide better oversight and the health region is looking to add medical staff and nurse practitioners.
The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service has had an ambulance stationed at the care home to provide a rapid response, if needed.