WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is working with the owners of a privately-operated long term care home to get the city’s largest and deadliest COVID-19 outbreak under control but staffing remains a challenge, according to an update Monday given by the health region and company.

Of the positive COVID-19 cases among residents so far at Parkview Place, 18 people have died, 36 are active and 38 people have recovered.

Among the 29 staff members who’ve contracted the virus, there are 18 active cases and 11 recoveries.

There are currently 14 outbreaks at personal care homes in the province, four of which are operated by Revera, the company that runs Parkview Place.

“Yes, we have other homes that are in outbreak and that I anticipate in a city where there is a high rate of positivity,” said Dr. Rhonda Collins, Revera’s chief medical officer. “What we have learned from other provinces is that the higher the rate of community spread, the higher the likelihood that we’re going to see it within our homes.”

At Parkview Place, 220 people reside in the 261-bed care home.

The WRHA said there are cases across the majority of the floors within the facility, but stressed staff are working to isolate and cohort residents who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 to dedicated units in the facility.

During a media conference held online, a WRHA official said one of the biggest problems right now is a staffing shortage. 

“We certainly want to acknowledge that this has been a tremendously difficult time and stressful time for our residents at Parkview Place, their families, for the staff who work there and really for our entire community,” said Gina Trinidad, the WRHA’s chief health operations officer.

“Our shared goal is to mitigate the risk of further COVID transmission within the facility, to reduce and ultimately stop that transmission at the facility and to be able to declare the outbreak over.”

Trinidad said as of last week Parkview Place was in need of 40 additional health care aides and 20 nurses. 

“So the standard for personal care home staffing and what we consider baseline is 3.6 hours per resident a day,” said Trinidad. “Based on the most recent data provided by Parkview, they are at 3.16 hours per resident a day.”

“They are asking staff to work overtime and in some cases may need to also mandate staff to work as well.”

Trinidad said care home staff are in need of relief so it’s working with Revera to recruit and hire additional employees to work at Parkview Place to help out during the outbreak.

Revera has said some workers who previously tested positive can now return to work. The company has also said it’s trying to hire additional workers and move both frontline and management staff from other locations to Parkview Place, with approval from the province.

Trinidad said on the evening of Oct.17, more than a month after the outbreak started, a five-person team from WRHA’s long term care program made an unannounced visit to Parkview Place to complete a review of the site.

Trinidad said the inspection, which took place on all 12 floors of the building including in resident areas and common areas and involved interviews 20 staff and 20 residents, identified several issues.

“There were several concerns identified in infection prevention and control: mainly limited housekeeping staff, following established protocols on PPE use for staff,” said Trinidad. “The facility appeared to be in fair repair and cleanliness from the areas observed.”

Twenty-four recommendations were made following the review surrounding staffing, resident care and infection prevention and control practices.

Trinidad said Revera is working with Shared Health’s recruitment team and tapping into existing casual staff available through the provincial recruitment team. Trinidad also said the company is also working with educational institutions on-site for training opportunities, specifically for health care aides.

Since the review, the care home has hired 11 staff.

Trinidad said a nurse practitioner, will be on-site five days a week starting today. That’s in addition to a physician who visits the facility once a week.

When asked why the Oct. 17 inspection didn’t happen sooner, Trinidad said the WRHA has been in contact with Revera remotely throughout the outbreak.

Trinidad said the widespread community transmission Winnipeg is experiencing during the second wave has been a different experience than health officials dealt with during the first wave of COVID-19.

“With that kind of situation we could expect that we would also have transmission within our personal care homes,” said Trinidad.

“I think there were, through our first wave, a lot of protocols and guidelines were developed to prepare for us for the second wave but when we’re actually in it and you actually have staff who are also ill themselves, it does make it very challenging. 

“We do have a limited pool of resources.”

When asked, neither the company or WRHA was able to immediately provide a breakdown of numbers showing the sources of transmission within Parkview Place but they did say contact tracers are working on identifying how the virus is spreading.

Collins stressed it’s an “incredibly challenging time.”

“It’s why we are introducing screening protocols and testing and tracing protocols early on to try and identify anyone’s that’s positive,” said Collins. “What we know over the past eight months is that this virus has not behaved the way we thought it would in the beginning, based on what was coming from the World Health Organization, the CDC. 

“We were looking for specific symptoms back in the beginning being cough, fever, shortness of breath. What we didn’t know in the beginning is that asymptomatic health care workers could spread the virus, that residents often didn’t have the same symptoms that we were looking for.”