Vaccine confusion at Alberta senior care homes

There’s growing confusion about which seniors are getting the COVID-19 vaccine in the earliest stages of the rollout in Alberta after Premier Jason Kenney made an announcement on Monday.

“We completed the first dose of vaccination at all of Alberta’s 357 long-term care, designated supportive living facilities,” Kenney said.

Read more: Alberta’s COVID-19 positivity rate declining but health system still under ‘severe strain’: Hinshaw

Some are wondering why their parents in care haven’t been vaccinated yet and why some facilities don’t fall under the long-term care and designated supportive living umbrella.

Janice McNalley’s 89-year-old dad is in a seniors’ lodge and hasn’t been vaccinated yet.

“I feel it [gave] the wrong impression to Albertans that people are thinking, ‘Well, we don’t necessarily have to worry about our vulnerable seniors as much now because they’ve all been vaccinated,’” McNalley said.

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“That just hit me wrong because they’re not. They’re not all vaccinated.”

McNalley is confused about why her dad’s facility doesn’t meet the criteria.

“Why are certain facilities designated this way? My dad is dependent upon the lodge for his meals, his housekeeping, his laundry and his recreational activities,” McNalley said.

Read more: COVID-19 isolation, quarantine pay reinstated for Alberta registered nurses

Alberta Health said: “The continuing care system in Alberta is structured by legislation.”

“Collectively, long-term care refers to sites governed by the Nursing Homes Act and auxiliary hospitals under the Hospitals Act. Both of these settings provide publicly funded care either directly by AHS or by a contracted partner. Supportive living refers to sites that are licensed under the Supportive Living Accommodation and Licensing Act,” it explained.

Click to play video 'Alberta Health Services prioritizing second doses of COVID-19 vaccine' Alberta Health Services prioritizing second doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Alberta Health Services prioritizing second doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Designated supportive living is where the operators enter into a contract with AHS for the provision of publicly funded care, Alberta Health said.

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“Residents in other types of supportive living have access to AHS home care if needed or can purchase care privately from the operator where offered. Private care is not currently regulated in Alberta,” it said.

“Long-term care facilities are for individuals with complex, unpredictable medical needs who require 24-hour onsite care from a registered nurse.

“Designated supportive living is community-based, with 24-hour onsite personal care and support services provided by health-care aides. It’s only those [who] have received the vaccine so far.”

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The Canterbury Foundation in Edmonton is a licensed senior facility that doesn’t qualify for this round of the vaccine either.

“The reason is we do not operate long-term care beds and designated supported living beds funded by Alberta Health Services. We do not have that designation,” Wendy King, executive director of Canterbury, said.

King said thousands of vulnerable seniors should be a higher priority.

“I think what [the Alberta government is] not saying is it’s only those that are living in a contracted bed… Many of our families [at Canterbury] don’t understand when they hear that. They think that their loved ones that live at Canterbury are included in that group but they’re not.

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“Just because they’ve chosen not to live in a contracted site then they’re not eligible for this vaccine? To them it doesn’t seem fair,” King said. “Many of them have mobility problems, many of them are living with dementia.”

Read more: Albertans taking care of senior and ill family members ‘isolated’ through the COVID-19 pandemic

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said two-thirds of Alberta’s COVID-19 deaths have been in long-term care and designated supportive living facilities.

“What we can see from our numbers is that these are absolutely the highest risk locations,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

“When we look at other seniors’ facilities and other types of accommodations, what we’ve seen is that there is a risk of age itself, so the older an Albertan is, the high risk they have of severe outcomes.”

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Seniors who are 75 and up, no matter where they live, will be vaccinated in Phase 1B of Alberta’s rollout and when they have enough vaccine.

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