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Families say plans not clear for COVID-19 units in P.E.I. manors

Denise Millette-Caissie and Marcel Caissie are worried Marcel's 91-year-old mother will be shuffled out of her room at Summerset Manor to make way for a COVID-19 unit. The family has been unable to find much information about the province's plans.
Denise Millette-Caissie and Marcel Caissie are worried Marcel's 91-year-old mother will be shuffled out of her room at Summerset Manor to make way for a COVID-19 unit. The family has been unable to find much information about the province's plans. - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter



Some Islanders are upset after they were told their loved ones in long-term care may be moved to accommodate a COVID-19 unit.

Families of residents at the Prince Edward Home in Charlottetown and Summerset Manor in Summerside were informed in early May their family members would be the people affected in the shuffle.

If there was one case of coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) in a long-term care home on P.E.I., families were told a wing of both the Prince Edward Home and Summerset Manor would be emptied, renovated and isolated for patients with the virus.

Residents would remain in the same facility, but they may have to share a room with another resident.

This was not good news for Denise Millette-Caissie.

Her mother-in-law, 91-year-old Aline Caissie, is one of the Summerset residents who could be moved. 

“Those people are used to having their own space, and now at 91, you’re going to share a room?” she said in an interview early last week.

Millette-Caissie affectionately calls her mother-in-law a “roadrunner” because she will just get up and go with her walker. She’s worried if the elderly Caissie is squeezed into a shared room, she’ll trip or stumble. 

Prince Edward Home - Government of P.E.I.
Prince Edward Home - Government of P.E.I.

Helen Bergeron’s mother, Rita Arsenault, 98, is also potentially affected by the plan.

“What’s concerning me is COVID-19 is here to stay. Those residents are never going back to their rooms once the COVID unit opens,” she said.

Desperate for more information, the families made calls and sent emails to the province and the manor but weren’t able to learn any further details.

Millette-Caissie said it’s important to advocate for their loved ones in long-term care.

“We have to be a voice for the people in there,” she said.

“We want them to die with dignity, not like sardines.”

“We have to be a voice for the people in there. We want them to die with dignity, not like sardines.”

Marion Dowling
Marion Dowling

Marion Dowling, chief of nursing for P.E.I., told reporters the plan has been modified since the original communication to families. Now, the former Riverview Manor in Montague has been repurposed as a COVID-19 facility and is nearly ready to accept patients, if needed.

“As we learned where this virus has been most impactful … it’s been in long-term care,” said Dowling.

Finance Minister Darlene Compton said Friday $61,200 had been invested in the former Riverview Manor. It’s just a portion of the more than $5 million in COVID-19 funding invested at long-term care facilities across the province.

Units in both the Prince Edward Home and Summerset Manor are also in development, but as a backup to the former Montague manor, a Health P.E.I. spokesperson said by email.

Until the Montague facility is operational, any long-term care residents with COVID-19 will be treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. 

This is a change in plans from what families heard in early May.

“We have adjusted our approach to creating space in long-term care,” the spokesperson said in an email.

“We are now creating the separate COVID-19 units in Prince Edward Home and Summerset Manor by moving residents out of the area into beds in another section of the home only as spaces become available.”

The wings in the Prince Edward Home and Summerset Manor will only be designated for COVID-19 patients in the event an outbreak fills the Montague facility’s 50 beds.

“Unfortunately, in this scenario, we may have to require residents to share rooms for a short time,” wrote the spokesperson. 

The email said the current plan was communicated to residents, their families and partners in care by letter beginning on Thursday. 

Evangeline-Miscouche MLA Sonny Gallant spoke on behalf of the concerned families during Thursday’s question period.

"To my knowledge, nowhere else in Canada have they used long-term care facilities for COVID units.”

“Earlier this month, many residents and families at Summerset Manor and at Prince Edward Home were alarmed when they heard that those places were going to be used as COVID facilities," said Gallant.

"To my knowledge, nowhere else in Canada have they used long-term care facilities for COVID units.”

Health Minister James Aylward said the first line of defence will be the Riverview Manor.

“Secondary, for emergency planning purposes only, would be a wing at the Prince Edward Home and potentially a wing at Summerset Manor. Our clinicians, our health-care professionals and the engineers have all verified that these two wings can be completely isolated, not only from staff moving from one to the other, but more importantly from ventilation systems, that they can be completely, completely self-contained,” said Aylward.

“This is just emergency planning in the event that we could ever require those beds.”

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