65 cases of COVID-19 at Calgary’s McKenzie Towne care centre

Melanie Morris’ 76-year-old mother, Audrey, is one of the dozens of McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre residents who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Morris and her husband, Jeff Balzer, say they’re worried about the lack of staff at the Calgary long-term care home, and say Audrey isn’t having her basic care needs met.

“She hasn’t had a shower since the 14th of March and a lot of times, residents are staying in bed for hours on end,” Morris said.

READ MORE: Grieving families share heartbreak as 4th death from COVID-19 reported at Calgary care centre

Morris said her mother has congestion issues and is often lying in the prone position — meaning she’s flat on her stomach — which makes the fluid buildup worse.

“I don’t need her getting pneumonia, especially being positive for COVID-19,” she said.

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76-year-old Audrey Morris.
76-year-old Audrey Morris. Courtesy: Melanie Morris

Morris said she understands the front-line workers are overwhelmed dealing with the outbreak, and is pleading with Alberta Health officials to intervene.

“The lives of people in the home are left hanging in the balance,” she said.

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READ MORE: Community supports seniors as 2 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed at Calgary continuing care home

“My mom is struggling, being cognitively aware, she knows what’s going on. These are real people,” Morris said. 

“She’s said: ‘Is AHS [Alberta Health Services] just going to wait for us all to die in here?’”

Audrey Morris with daughter and son-in-law.
Audrey Morris with daughter and son-in-law. Courtesy: Melanie Morris

Jeff Balzer, Audrey’s son-in-law, said having more staff working at the facility would give them comfort.

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It’s a horrible existence in the home,” Balzer said. “It’s the staffing and communication. Let’s try to get them the best care possible under the circumstances.”

Yellow ribbons outside care home.
Yellow ribbons outside care home. Jill Croteau/Global News

Strangers continue to visit the long-term care home with gestures of hope, giving residents and staff inside silent moral support. They’ve left bouquets of flowers and tied yellow ribbons on the locked gate at the entrance to the facility.

Hinshaw says it’s possible more cases will come from McKenzie Towne in Calgary

Hinshaw says it’s possible more cases will come from McKenzie Towne in Calgary

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said Thursday there are 65 positive cases at the McKenzie Towne facility, and as a result, introduced new measures that are enforceable by law.

“Staff and operators will be required to notify public health as soon as a case is  suspected or confirmed and if two or more residents exhibit COVID[-19]-like symptoms,” Hinshaw said.

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“Staff who may work at multiple facilities are required, when there is a confirmed outbreak, to immediately inform their supervisors if they have worked at or are working at a facility where there is a confirmed or suspected case.

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Hinshaw said those working at multiple care facilities will not lose their jobs, but won’t be allowed to move between care centres. Staff at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre have been prohibited from working at multiple facilities since the pandemic began.

AHS needs to balance staffing and limiting COVID-19 exposure at continuing care homes

AHS needs to balance staffing and limiting COVID-19 exposure at continuing care homes

“My colleagues at the local level are doing everything they can to work with that facility to make sure that further restrictions that are required there to prevent any further spread from happening,” Hinshaw said.

“However, we know that with an incubation period of up to 14 days, we can continue to see new cases that may have been exposed last week or the week before.”

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But the Morris family says they’re at the mercy of the authorities and wonder if it’s enough.

“I feel a lot of guilt about not bringing my mom out of there, not looking after her in our home. But she’s medically fragile so that’s hard to deal with every day,” Morris said.

READ MORE: 3rd COVID-19 death reported at Calgary care centre; officials flag operational concerns

Dr. Rhonda Collins, the chief medical officer of health for Revera which runs the McKenzie Towne facility, said they are doing all they can to manage the outbreak.

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“The staff at McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre are working tirelessly to provide compassionate care to our residents in the most difficult of circumstances. We continue to work closely with Alberta Health Services to follow their clinical care directives in managing this unprecedented outbreak,” Collins said.

“We continue our staff recruitment efforts and greatly appreciate the clinical support that Alberta Health Services is providing.”

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