Shalom Village continues to struggle with outbreak

Jan. 8, 2021
Steve Arnold

Two more Shalom Village residents have died as the Hamilton nursing home struggles to get through a COVID-19 outbreak.

The latest deaths, as of Jan. 8, bring to 19 the number of lives claimed by the virus since the start of the outbreak Dec. 9.
In addition, the non-profit institution reported 185 staff and residents have tested positive for the virus.
Newly-installed CEO Ken Callaghan told an online town hall meeting of residents and families the outbreak is a dark time in the home’s history, but staff are being aggressive in facing it.
“This is the darkest time in Shalom Village’s history and COVID has wreaked havoc at all levels,” he said. “This is a tragic process internally.”
Shalom Village managed to stay free of the COVID pestilence from March until Dec. 9 by closing the campus to most visitors, regularly testing residents and staff and closely questioning anyone coming in to the facility.
Since those defenses have been breached the campus of 127-bed long-term care beds and 81 apartments has been locked down with all non-essential visitors banned, apartment residents confined to their units and staff being urged to get vaccinated as medicine becomes available.
In addition, the home has voluntarily signed a three-month management agreement with St. Joseph’s Healthcare.
Staff shortages are being covered by workers from contract agencies recommended by St. Joseph’s. Under that agreement a St. Joseph’s staffer has taken over as interim director of care while a permanent worker is sought.
Callaghan said about 70 staff have been injected with the Pfizer vaccine so far. Up to 10 workers a day are being inoculated whenever clinics and vaccine are available. Progress has been slow because the medicine must be stored at extremely low temperatures. That means the vaccine cannot be brought to the home and staff must travel to inoculation sites.
Callaghan added most staff are accepting the need to be inoculated and managers have been told they can’t require staff to be vaccinated. In addition, unvaccinated staff cannot be scheduled differently than co-workers who have taken the shots. 
Callaghan said he understands the “multiple levels of concern” some people have about the vaccines, but he still encourages inoculation for the sake of the community.
Another vaccine, by Moderna, doesn’t require such precise storage and Callaghan said he hopes that will be available to residents soon.
Of the infections reported to date, 134 are listed as resolved – meaning the patient has served out a quarantine period with no further illness. 
In addition, four essential caregivers, who assist residents with daily living needs, have also tested positive. Three other people are in hospital as of Jan. 6.
The continued lock down of the facility is starting to wear on apartment residents who can’t even leave their units to use the communal showers or stroll around their floors. Callaghan said that is necessary because every time a resident does go out their unit requires deep cleaning.
It will be up to the city’s public health department to decree when those restrictions can be lifted, he said.
Until then, residents are being treated to guided meditation on the home’s internal TV channels as well as a virtual hike through Banff National Park in an effort to ease boredom and isolation.
Callaghan added the home’s employee benefits program offers counselling and other supports to staff who are feeling the weight of the outbreak.
“This outbreak is not only hitting our residents and families, but if very devastating for our staff as well,” he said.  “We are in this together and we are going to get through it, but it will be a hard process.”
Since the start of the outbreak Shalom Village has been providing a daily update of cases. That information flow is now being reduced to three times a week – Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The next town hall meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at 1 pm.