Red Deer senior lodges face COVID-19 outbreaks following cancelled immunizations

The residents of five central Alberta seniors’ living facilities are still waiting to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, including two that are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.

Though lodge residents weren’t included when Alberta Health initially prioritized vaccine rollout for long-term care and designated supportive living residents and staff, they were added to phase 1 of the vaccine rollout when eligibility expanded to Albertans over the age of 75.

Lodges were told Alberta Health Services would bring the vaccine to them and any other congregate living settings with residents over the age of 75.

But after a year of avoiding any COVID-19 cases, both Parkvale Lodge and Piper Creek Lodge in Red Deer are now on outbreak, according to Geoff Olson, the executive director of Bridges Community Living.

“All of our lodges have been COVID-free up until the end of last week,” he said.  

He said one resident and two staff members have tested positive in one of the lodges.

The only positive case in the other lodge was a visiting home care worker, and Olson said they’re hopeful there won’t be further spread. Olson also oversees the Sylvan Lake Seniors Lodge, where residents are also still waiting to be immunized. He said the average age of residents is about 82 or 83.

Olson said the outbreaks are particularly frustrating because all three lodges were expecting AHS to immunize residents in late February or early March. 

Geoff Olson is the executive director of Bridges Community Living. (Bridges Community Living)

“They had all been given a tentative date and then they were all cancelled,” he said. 

He said they’ve been told that all three sites should get vaccine this week, but anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or who has symptoms will have to wait to be immunized. 

Olson said it was disappointing that seniors’ lodges were excluded when vaccine went to long-term care and designated supportive living facility residents and staff. And then, once they were eligible, the vaccine still didn’t arrive for lodge residents who he described as high risk, despite becoming increasingly widely available to a growing group of Albertans.

“Just extremely frustrated. From our experience, this has not been a smooth rollout,” he said.

Shots expected soon

A staff member at Revera Inglewood Retirement Living in Red Deer confirmed that its residents hadn’t been immunized yet but that AHS was expected to arrive with vaccine on Friday. 

The roughly 84 residents of the Lacombe Senior Citizens Lodge have also not been immunized. 

Outi Kite, director of housing and lodging for the Bethany Group, which oversees the Lacombe Senior Citizens Lodge, said they expected AHS to arrive to administer vaccine on March 5, then March 11, but it didn’t happen. Now they’ve been told it’s coming in the next several days and that they will get 48 hours notice prior to the AHS team arriving.

“Obviously everybody is anxious to get vaccinated, but we also realize it’s out of our control,” said Kite.

She said the lodge’s managers are doing their best to keep residents’ spirits up. She said the past year has been stressful, but the lodge has been doing everything it can to keep residents and staff safe. There haven’t been any outbreaks at the Lacombe lodge.

“We are just excited that we now at least have a week’s time frame for when the vaccination will happen, and we look forward to hearing the details,” Kite said.

AHS says inconsistent supply caused delays

In an emailed statement, AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said some vaccine administration in lodges and care homes had to be rescheduled due to inconsistent supply. He said all of the central Alberta sites will get vaccine by March 26.  

“We apologize to anyone whose vaccination has been delayed, and for the uncertainty and frustration these delays may cause. We want to assure you, and your families, you will receive the vaccine,” Williamson said.

AHS said it is working with operators of homes and lodges to set up immunization in the coming days and weeks, but  that exact timing is subject to availability. 

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