Ottawa’s Embassy West senior housing declares suspected COVID-19 outbreak

On Wednesday, Embassy West Senior Living Retirement and Nursing Homes in Ottawa announced that several employees were testing positive for COVID-19 using a rapid antigen test.

The facility takes care of 39 Nunavummiut elders.

Nunavut’s health minister, John Main, told CBC that on December 26, the government was warned that the embassy west was dealing with potential COVID-19 cases among staff at the facility.

Main said five employees have tested positive so far.

“This has meant some changes to the facility in terms of their programming, the protocols. It has affected the residents’ meal times, their other activities in terms of interaction with other residents,” Main said.

The health department has been working with the facility to learn more about how they can support them at Embassy West and their families, Main said.

“There has been stress associated with this outbreak. We are doing our best to ensure that the needs of Nunavummiut residents are met and that things are offered to support them during this difficult time,” Main said.

There are still interpreters employed at Embassy West, but the department is seeking additional interpreter support, Main said.

“Many seniors down there do not have family or important caregivers in the Ottawa area, and as such, we arrange trips for important caregivers who are able and willing to help their loved ones during this time,” he said.

Asked what this outbreak says about the need for improved services in Nunavut, Main said that elderly care has been an “active” topic among MLAs and ministers.

He said there would be further discussion, but as the government is working to develop its mandate, he could not provide details on elderly care.

‘It’s months ago’

Former MLA Pat Angnakak says elderly people in care are not getting enough time with Inuktitut speakers to help them in southern facilities. (Nunavut Legislative Assembly)

In May, when a case of COVID-19 was confirmed at the Nunavut Elderly Center, the territory sent elders south to the embassy west.

They were told they would stay there “not long,” said MLA Pat Agnakak, whose father will stay there.

“It’s months ago,” she said.

“I was quite worried about my father and everyone else who was there from Nunavut and all the elders,” she said.

Angnakak’s father called her to say that they were locked up and should be in their rooms 24/7.

She keeps in touch with her father, whom she can often call.

“It’s a true blessing, otherwise I would be so worried because I would not really know what is happening to him on a daily basis,” Angnakak said.

However, Agnakak said there should be more than one Inuktu interpreter staffed at the facility at all times to keep the elderly company, to help contact and update families and share information on how their loved ones are being cared for.

Agnakak said she “can not help but feel a little angry” over a failed proposal for a Nunavut-based long-term care facility, which received no response from the Nunavut government.

“I really, really think we can not just wait for the government to do this. It’s not going to work that way,” Agnakak said.

“When it comes to our elderly … we as members of society, like those who have loved ones who are elderly, have a responsibility to try to make their lives better, to make their lives easier.”

Inuit elders living at Ottawa senior facilities struggle with lack of Inuktitut-speaking staff

The language barrier between Inuit elders and Embassy West Senior Living staff raises some major security issues, and some families want the elders sent back to Nunavut. 7:54

Only necessary carers and staff

Embassy West said only significant relatives can visit and have to book an appointment in advance and arrive 15 minutes early to take a quick test.

Communal dining and activities have been put on hold on “only suitable floors” and that there are currently enough staff to look after the residents, reads a message from the home.

Embassy West asked people to minimize phone calls to the facility so that nursing staff can give as much attention as possible to the residents.

Asked for more information about the outbreak, Embassy West said in a statement to the CBC that they are unable to provide further information and cannot release information related to the worker due to privacy.

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