Posted on Mar 27, 2020


EDMONTON - Alberta’s NDP Official Opposition is calling for surge funding of 20 per cent over monthly operating costs for six months to seniors’ housing providers to prevent and combat the spread of COVID-19.

Seniors’ housing administrators are taking necessary steps to protect vulnerable seniors in facilities such as long-term care and seniors’ lodges.

However, housing administrators, seniors’ groups, caregivers, residents and their families are expressing serious concerns about the significant impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the staff and the supports provided to seniors..

Wynne Shapka wrote to Health Minister Tyler Shandro last week to express her concerns for her mother with dementia, who resides in a seniors’ housing facility, in hopes the government will commit to providing adequate levels of care during the COVID-19 crisis.

“The facility and staff are wonderful, but there are many other residents at progressed stage dementia at the facility, who depend on family members and privately-hired caregivers to provide basic needs,” said Shapka. “These family members and most caregivers are not allowed access at this time because of the coronavirus. This puts families in crisis now.”

An increase in government support to the seniors' housing facilities' operational budgets will help them expand staff capacity, ensure protective personal equipment and screening resources are available for residents and staff.

“Seniors may have complex needs and families play a vital role, ensuring those needs are met. Due to the strict restrictions on family members entering facilities, they are no longer able to assist as they did previously,” said NDP Seniors and Housing Critic Lori Sigurdson. “Also, while we recognize the need to prevent transmission, staff taking precautions to self-isolate for various reasons creates shortages of qualified professionals at a challenging time. I’ve heard some facilities only have skeleton staff and are needing to recruit and train new staff. This two-fold challenging situation is putting seniors at risk.”

In her March 26 COVID-19 update, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said to date, 17 cases have been identified in staff and residents of continuing care facilities, including 14 in McKenzie Towne Long Term Care, one case in Rosedale on the Park and two at Shepherd’s Care Kensington Village.

“We know that healthcare staff are doing their best to ensure meals, laundry, bathing and other services continue, while complying with the orders of the Chief Medical Officer,” Sigurdson said. “But we also know health care workers are at higher risk of coming into contact with COVID-19 and must take all precautions necessary. This may mean they must self-isolate which takes them away from their duties and the staff still on site have to do more – sometimes double shifts. This isn’t good for the workers or seniors.”