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Pembina Lodge dealing with COVID-19 outbreak

One resident hospitalized and three others in isolation; facility remains open to visitors
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The Pembina Lodge is currently dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak, as four residents, including one in hospital in stable condition, have tested positive and are now recouping in self isolation.

WESTLOCK – One Pembina Lodge resident is in hospital in stable condition following a COVID-19 outbreak at the 68-unit seniors living facility.

Homeland Housing CEO Raymond Cormie confirmed Oct. 6 that four residents, including the one in hospital, have tested positive for COVID-19 and are now recouping in self isolation — the number of infected residents initially peaked at seven, “but now those people have come off of self isolation.”

In addition, Cormie said that on Oct. 5 four staff “complained of head-cold-like symptoms” and are now off work awaiting their test results which should be back before the end of the week — previously, three staff tested positive for COVID-19, but have since been cleared to resume work. Cormie said that roughly 98 per cent of the residents at both the Pembina and Smithfield lodges are double vaccinated, while the number of triple-vaccinated residents is quickly approaching that same total.

“When there is a COVID outbreak, Alberta Health Services comes in and swabs all of the residents and then a week later they come in and do it again — it’s called prevalence testing,” Cormie explained. “So we had prevalence testing done Oct. 4 and we got the results back yesterday and we have no new resident cases of COVID-19, which is good news.

“So we are working with Alberta Health Services and each day we meet with them to review. Everything is well in hand and we are following the CMOH (Chief Medical Officer of Health) orders and any directives from Alberta Health Services. Everyone is safe, so there’s no need to panic.”

Visitors are still allowed at Pembina Lodge, although Homeland has instituted a “heightened” level of screening. Cormie noted that as per the current CMOH order they cannot compel visitors to show proof of vaccination.

“Visitors are still welcome, we’re just doing the temperature check again. And if family are visiting an individual who is in self isolation, they’re provided with more PPE. So they would wear a mask, eye protection and a disposable gown,” he said.

Homeland Housing facilities, by and large, have been outbreak free since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. That said, keeping those facilities safe has become “a little more challenging” after visitor restrictions for continuing care facilities were lifted in July.

“When the pandemic first started, we did have a case at the Pembina and we also had a case a Diamond Spring, our Redwater site. But quite frankly those were the only ones. So I guess you could call us lucky,” said Cormie. “But certainly staff and residents at all of our sites have been very diligent in making sure they’re wearing their masks, their PPE and performing good hand hygiene.”

While Homeland Housing hasn’t mandated staff to be vaccinated, some will be required to due to the contracts it has with AHS at the Smithfield and Diamond Springs sites — the province has mandated all public employees must be full vaccinated by Oct. 30. For confidentiality reasons, Homeland Housing are not permitted to ask staff about their vaccination status. 

“For our other sites it’s under review. More towns, cities and school boards are having mandatory vaccination requirements and I think as time goes on that very well may the direction Homeland goes in as well,” said Comrie, who travelled to Westlock Oct. 6 to inform Smithfield staff of the news.

“We encourage and support all staff to be fully immunized against COVID-19. The same holds true for visitors and family members, as the current CMOH orders for continuing care prohibit us from asking about vaccination status, nor can we refuse entry based on vaccination status.”

George Blais, TownandCountryToday.com