By: Vy Phan

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities have been battling with an intense fourth wave of COVID-19 across New Brunswick. 

On September 22, the PROMT (Provincial Rapid Outbreak Management Team) was issued by the government to look after 15 nursing homes located within zones under circuit breaker restrictions. Nearly a month later, the Department of Health says that the number of affected nursing homes has now increased to 19, 12 of which are experiencing major outbreaks.

The hardest-hit nursing home has been the Dalhousie Villa Renaissance, with 14 positive cases and five deaths as of October 17. During late September, there were 17 positive cases and two deaths at Shannex’s Losier Hall in Miramichi. 40 cases and eight deaths have been associated with the Drew Nursing Home in Sackville since mid-September. 

There is a rising concern about the government’s transparency in delivering reports on these outbreaks, especially the ones that are happening in nursing homes. 

Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch dismissed calls for an individual investigation in the Drew Nursing Home in Sackville on October 13, despite a high number of positive cases and a rising death toll. 

“[Fitch] says an investigation would be a wasteful exercise in finger-pointing,” reported CBC. 

Fitch also claimed that the cause ultimately stemmed from the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Michael Keating, the interim executive director of the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes, spoke with Global News saying there needs to be more transparency from the government in terms of disclosing the number of outbreaks, cases, and deaths to the public. 

Megan Mitton, the MLA for Memramcook-Tantramar, thinks that there should be more guidelines provided for nursing homes to reinforce their COVID-19 protocols if needed.

COVID-19 outbreaks have also had a great effect on paramedics, and, as more staff are becoming infected, many nursing facilities and hospitals have become understaffed. 

The Dalhousie Nursing Home has been relying on the incoming staff who have been sent in to help care for the residents after the recent outbreak. The Ambulance New Brunswick saw 0.6 percent of its paramedics tested positive while 0.8 percent more are in self-isolation due to potential COVID-19 exposures. This means other paramedics on site are needed to cover the unoccupied shifts and work around the clock.

As of October 20, New Brunswick recorded the highest death toll among all Atlantic provinces; the Campbellton health region saw the highest death rate per 100,000 nationwide five days later.