Letter to the Editor

Response to visitation rights: Mr. Denakker

Long-term care homes are considered highly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to the frailty of residents as elderly people are more susceptible to the virus. Over one half of the deaths in Canada attributed to COVID-19 stem from outbreaks in long-term facilities with sixteen senior homes reporting at least ten or more deaths due to the virus. Our seniors are a very vulnerable group that need to be protected. The facilities that care for them are  tinderboxes for COVID-19 as the virus is highly contagious and if introduced could spread like wildfire potentially killing all of those that reside within. This risk warrants very strict regulations with respect to visitation rights.     

On March 27 Sunnywood , the long-term care home in Pine Falls , suspended visitation rights and all outings except for exceptional or compassionate reasons. Only two individuals fit into that category, who came and went as they pleased. One who’s son didn’t like the food served, so his father was allowed to bring him in food ( who does like institutionalized food? )and was also difficult with the staff ( something they are trained to deal with) and the other who’s wife suffered from Alzheimer ( hardly a rarity in long-care homes ). At the height of a pandemic and the susceptibility of senior citizens to this virus these hardly seemed like “exceptional” circumstance. Most long-care faculties define “exceptional” to mean a patient with a critical illness or end of life so the parameters at Sunnywood appear extremly liberal considering the danger. It wasn’t until April 17, after three weeks of exposing residents to an unnecessary heightened risk and with community members complaining to health and political leaders did they finally restrict all family members from entry.

End of story. Not quite. Ron Van Denakker , CEO of the Interlake Regional Eastern Health Authority appears to have taken the overturning of his decision personally and in the April 20 edition of the Winnipeg River Advocate, makes some insensitive, broad, vague and unsubstantiated statements toward the people of  the Pine Falls area.

After further endangering the lives of the residents of Sunnywood an extra three weeks he proceeds to chastise the town by stating “due to staff and visitor concerns for their personal safety based on strong threats from the community members, we sadly made the decision to suspend all visitors…” and “it is one thing to be fearful but another to be aggressive”. I’m guessing he is talking about those citizens concerned about their parents well being . These are serious accusations yet he provided no proof to the Advocate, just innuendos. If there was threats why didn’t he, for fear of his staff’s well being, or anyone that was threatened notify the RCMP to investigate and press charges?

For a man in his position, Mr. Denakker’s  public statements were totally unprofessional , irresponsible and insensitive. These two individuals granted “special” visitation rights appear to have circumstances no different from the other families with loved ones in the facility. Allowing two extra people besides staff to come and go could have had disastrous results as proven by the number of deaths in long-care homes from COVID-19.    

Kim Trethart
Winnipeg, Manitoba

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