Posted on Dec 7, 2020


EDMONTON - Alberta’s NDP and medical experts are calling for a twice-weekly rapid testing regime to be introduced in continuing care centres after 150 people died in those facilities in November alone. As of Friday, there have been 374 deaths in continuing care, making up 64 per cent of total COVID-19 related deaths in the province.

“The continuing care situation is horrific and tragic,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley. “Jason Kenney and the UCP did not prepare for the second wave of COVID-19 and the consequences are most profound in Alberta’s continuing care sector.”

“We must immediately take steps to save lives and a major piece of that is testing for the presence of COVID-19 so we can keep staff that are infected home and so we can quarantine seniors living in continuing care before they spread the virus further. If we can do daily testing for NHL hockey players, surely we can adopt similar measures in our continuing care facilities.”

The testing regime, developed in consultation with infectious disease specialists and frontline workers during discussions with the NDP in recent days, would be two-fold:

  1. Twice-weekly rapid tests would be administered to residents daily and to staff at the beginning of each shift. Staff testing positive would be sent home to quarantine. Residents testing positive would be isolated from other residents.
  2. Those testing positive would also be pushed to the front of the line for a stand PCR test. The NDP believes results of these should be determined within 24 hours to allow for further contact tracing of potential infection in continuing care. 

Rapid testing should be used as a screening tool in long-term care to keep staff and patients protected,” said Dr. Kashif Pirzada, emergency physician at Toronto’s William Osler Health Care Centre. “Tests are best used 2-3 times a week. Better to use them there than to screen discretionary travel.”

In November, Canada’s largest province of Ontario recorded 273 deaths in continuing care due to COVID-19. Taking into account differences in population, Alberta’s 150 deaths in November was 1.8 more times severe.   

“We know a vaccine is coming and seniors will be at the front of the line, but we must act now to prevent new outbreaks in continuing care and to give facilities with outbreaks currently a fighting chance,” said NDP Seniors & Housing Critic Lori Sigurdson. “We also continue to press on this Government for a blanket single-site staffing rule because we know they granted exemptions due to a failure to properly staff care centres.”