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Family and friends come out to show support of residents and staff in the McKenzie Towne Long Term Care Centre, where there are 35 confirmed COVID-19 cases, in Calgary, on April 2, 2020.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

The company that runs Calgary’s McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre, where about 100 residents and workers are infected with COVID-19, says staffing levels at the seniors facility are stabilizing.

But there are still concerns from the union representing workers about the workload for staff on the job, especially in parts of the facility affected by the outbreak. Almost 40 staff have tested positive for the disease, and Canadian Union of Public Employees has said in recent weeks that some other workers are scared to come into work.

Revera Inc., which owns and operates McKenzie Towne, says it’s still recruiting for jobs including food preparation, cleaning and clinical care.

“Staffing levels at McKenzie Towne are stabilizing, but we need to be able to provide relief for our staff, who have been working extra hours,” said Larry Roberts, a spokesman for Mississauga-based Revera.

“We know that a lot of people are temporarily out of work because of the pandemic,” he added. “We can use more staff to respond to the pandemic.”

Alberta Health Services announced Friday the number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths at McKenzie Towne jumped by four to 17, from the previous confirmed number of 13. About 58 residents and 39 staff at the 150-bed home have tested positive for the disease. Mr. Roberts said a dozen residents are considered recovered.

Lou Arab of CUPE, which has about 160 members working at the centre, said the facility is still short-staffed in wards where residents are suffering from COVID-19. “They are relying on temporary agency staff, who don’t always show up.”

Mr. Arab added that as of Thursday, staff were given access to N95 respirator masks. They did have personal protective equipment before, but not N95s. Mr. Roberts said Revera has “N95 masks on hand, to be used by our staff when appropriate.”

The McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre accounts for a significant portion of Calgary’s 900 COVID-19 cases, and is the province’s worst outbreak at a continuing care facility. Across Canada, seniors facilities have suffered some of the deadliest consequences of the pandemic. Residents are often frail and already suffering from chronic ailments that put them particularly at risk.

Renee LaBoucane’s mother Doreen Gauvreau, 81, was a resident at McKenzie Towne but died as a result of a COVID-19 this month. Her father, Sylvio, 89, is also a resident in the facility, and is bedridden with the disease.

Ms. LaBoucane said when a number of workers were sent home as a result of exposure to coronavirus or COVID-19 illness weeks ago, it created a significant staffing shortage. She’s unsure of the current staffing situation, but said those employees still able to work “are doing an amazing job.”

She said she and other family members would have benefited from better communication about the health of loved ones, and what was happening in the facility earlier in the outbreak. Ms. LaBoucane added long-term care centres with COVID-19 outbreaks need to use technology or other means for family members to have regular opportunities to interact with one another, “even for our own peace of mind.”

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health also announced Friday that continuing care facility workers can now only work at one site.

Mr. Roberts said the centre has hired 37 temporary staff since the outbreak. There is also about 10 staff from an agency that provides temporary certified health-care workers. He added that some staff that had been in isolation have recently returned to work.

Mr. Roberts said Revera is trying to support staff. “For example, we are providing hotel rooms and meals for staff who have been asked to self-isolate, but cannot do so in their home environments.”

Alberta Health Services has also sent a clinical nurse specialist, a registered nurse, and a respiratory therapist to provide services at McKenzie Towne. An AHS spokesman said health officials are also reviewing the centre’s measures before the outbreak.

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