'It's dire': Families caring for senior care home residents amid fatal COVID-19 outbreak
NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Family members of frail seniors living in an assisted care facility say they’ve been feeding and caring for their loved ones and other residents after care workers refused to work at the North Vancouver location in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak that’s seen an elderly resident become Canada’s first fatality.
The Lynn Valley Care Centre has more than 200 residents, most of them in advanced old age and requiring care for dementia and other serious health conditions.
"The time for action is now. We need boots on the ground — people in there are suffering. They’re not getting fed," said Deanna Harlow, whose father lives in the facility.
Several relatives of family members told CTV News they had to feed and clean their family members and take trays of food to others on Sunday. They also removed garbage and wiped down surfaces with just two staff members to care for a wing with up to 50 residents.
"We were feeding the residents. We were reassuring the residents. We were helping the residents adjust to a very new routine," said Debra Drew, whose 96-year-old father lives at the care home. "We were trying to keep them apart, but that was one of the issues. We could not maintain the procedures (officials recommended) to protect everyone."
Multiple family members told CTV News they were called to an urgent meeting Saturday morning with Vancouver Coastal Health officials and doctors from the Centre for Disease Control letting them know about the infections and that they could still see family members if they followed infection control measures. B.C.’s provincial health officer revealed Saturday morning two residents were confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, possibly from a worker who was also diagnosed. Monday morning, they announced one of the two residents, a man in his 80s, had died, and a second health care worker was sick.
Dr. Bonnie Henry acknowledged that some of the regular workers are simply too scared of COVID-19 to go to work.
"Managing and caring for people during an outbreak, particularly an outbreak of a new disease where there's still very much an element of fear for a lot of people is a challenging situation at the best of times," said Henry at a press conference in Victoria. "With some of the staff being sick themselves and others being isolated at home in quarantine because of close contacts, it's a very difficult situation for all of them."
Health Minister Adrian Dix said the local health authority is working to get more staff on site.
"There are obviously going to be challenges in a care home facing this kind of thing, so Vancouver Coastal Health is working very heavily to recruit more support for people in the care home and to ensure those issues are addressed," said Dix.
But those with frail and elderly parents said they’re still waiting for what Vancouver Coastal Health officials had promised would be daily updates. They had only seen a handful of staff on Monday afternoon when CTV spoke with them, but had nothing but praise for those coming in to work.
"Some of the workers that did come in work double shifts," said Drew. "It’s dangerous and a really atrocious situation we’ve got here."