Family calls for re-testing of recovered COVID-19 cases at McKenzie Towne care home

Like most families, Shauna Parks spent the Easter holiday apart from her mother, Brenda.

Parks wanted nothing more than to put her arms around her mom, but a window visit from her 78-year-old mother’s second-floor suite at McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre had to be enough.

“I’m grateful she seemingly got through the worst of it, but my guard has not been let down at all and I still feel a sense of real fear for her,” Parks said.

After testing positive for COVID-19 just over two weeks ago, Parks said her mom’s care providers told her she was now considered recovered, despite being on oxygen to treat her symptoms.

“She’s deemed COVID-free and we don’t have a test to prove that,” Parks said.

“Testing needs to happen to determine this. Let’s not give these residents a false sense of hope, especially when they’re still having symptoms and being told they’re COVID-free. I think that seems really ridiculous.”

Parks wants Alberta Health officials to re-test the residents.

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“As a society, we are all looking for relief. With this perceived notion that residents who have tested positive have been through their 14 days and are now deemed recovered, I wonder if that’s going to create a sense of more flexibility with the rules,” Parks said.

Revera spokesperson, Larry Roberts, said 25 residents have recovered.

“In terms of re-testing residents who have recovered, any decisions in that regard would lie with AHS,” Roberts said.

 “We had one more resident test positive for COVID-19 today (Monday), for a total of 60 cases since the outbreak began,” Roberts said.  “Twenty residents remain symptomatic for the virus.

“Regarding staff members, we have one additional positive swab, so the total is now 41 staff who have tested positive, all of whom are isolated at home. In total, 11 staff members have recovered.”

Advocates with Canada’s National Seniors Advocacy Organization (CanAge) said while Alberta seems to be leading the way, more needs to be done.

CEO of CanAge, Laura Tamblyn Watts, said its team is calling on widespread reforms of the long-term care system. 

“What we know is those people can still be spreaders. Where possible, we need to make sure older people are getting priority testing as well as those providing care for them,” Tamblyn Watts said.

“This is just the beginning. Unless we take precise and careful action now, this is going to get so much worse.”

She hopes this outbreak triggers change.

“Long-term care was under-funded and understaffed and held together with a lot of hope and good-hearted people, so what I’m hoping happens is we start a national conversation re-thinking long-term care,” Tamblyn Watts said.

According to Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan, if the case didn’t require a hospitalization, or the person was healthy after 14 days, that person is considered recovered.

“Any re-testing would depend entirely a case-by-case basis,” McMillan said.

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