EDMONTON—As COVID-19 cases at the Southgate Care Centre continue to surge, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees which represents the centre’s workers is denouncing the reckless management that led to the crisis.
Good Samaritan, the private non-profit which owns and manages the Southgate Care Centre, lists 10 active resident cases of COVID-19 at Southgate as of Jan. 22, along with 20 worker cases. The virus has claimed the lives of 14 patients during the current outbreak.
Susan Slade, a Licensed Practical Nurse and Vice-President of AUPE, says that those numbers only scratch the surface of the problems at Southgate.
“Over the summer, Alberta Health Services created a protocol for how to deal with COVID outbreaks in long-term care,” Slade says. “As soon as workers detect any cases of COVID, those patients were supposed to be isolated, and workers who interact with them were not supposed to interact with other patients.
“Based on what the workers are telling us, none of that happened at Southgate,” Slade says. Management told workers to continue moving from floor to floor, even when residents tested positive.
“It was a disastrous decision by management, and it spread the virus all over the facility,” Slade says. “Those workers should have been allowed to follow public health recommendations, as they repeatedly asked to do.”
Because so many staff are in isolation, Southgate is facing another crisis of short-staffing, Slade says. “Management is trying to fix its own mess by bringing in agency workers. These workers are doing their best, but they don’t have the training or the knowledge of the facility to be effective. So staff now have to train the agency workers, on top of everything else.”
“How are workers supposed to clean and disinfect the building when there’s barely enough staff to keep the lights on?” asks Slade. “How can workers isolate COVID cases and stop the spread when the virus is in every corner of the building?”
Slade says that workers at Southgate have been trying heroically to bring the outbreak under control, but can only do so much on their own. “Workers didn’t make the decision to ignore public health orders. Management did. But workers and patients are paying the price now.”
“We will continue to fight for the health and safety of workers and patients at Southgate, and everywhere that workers are on the frontline against this pandemic,” Slade says. “Stop treating these workers as expendable, and start treating them as essential—because that’s what they are.”
Susan Slade is available for comment Contact Jon Milton, AUPE Communications Officer, for any requests.