Owner of infected long-term care facility says COVID-19 outbreak was unavoidable

The owner of the Manoir de la Vallée in Atholville, N.B., said an outbreak of COVID-19 at his facility was unavoidable.

An employee in their 30s at the long-term care facility near Campbellton, N.B., tested positive for the virus last week. Since then, four residents at the facility have also tested positive. Three of the residents are in their 80s and one resident is in their 70s. 

"We knew COVID would start somewhere in our facilities, but we didn't know exactly when it would start," said Guy Tremblay, president and general director of Groupe Lokia, which owns the special care home for seniors.

About 100 people, including 57 residents, may have been exposed to the worker, who was contagious during three night shifts at the facility. 

All of the residents at the facility have been tested, Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health said at a news conference on Sunday.

As many staff "as possible" have also been tested, she said.

Tremblay feels he did as much as he could to prevent the virus from entering his facility.

'"All our staff have been prepared to prevent the spreading of COVID since the first week or second week of March," he said. 

'All the prevention, all the techniques we demonstrated to our employees was pretty much well-learned over the last two months."

More than a third of staff at the long-term care facility are no longer working there. 

Ten of the 28 staff chose to leave the Manoir de la Vallée long-term care facility because of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

"As soon as the staff learn that COVID is around, many of them are just scared about that." 

Ambulance New Brunswick and Extra-Mural, the province's home health-care program, are on site to provide additional help caring for residents at the facility.

Tremblay said he is happy the government chose to bring in help. 

"It's not bad news for me really. It should be like that. We should work all together to face that situation." 

Cecile Cassista, executive director for the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents Rights, is also pleased the government chose to ask for additional help.

Wayne Chase Photography

Cassista is "very upset" about the outbreak at the home, however. 

"This is about our aging population and our seniors," she said. "I had the greatest fear when I heard of one person being infected and now we have it spreading throughout the home."

There are 132 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province. Of that, 120 have recovered since the pandemic began in March. 

The 12 active cases are all in the Campbellton region, or Zone 5. 

Three of the long-term care cases are in the hospital, including one patient in ICU.

A cluster of COVID-19 cases sprung up there after doctor who travelled to Quebec contracted the coronavirus and didn't self-isolate when he returned to New Brunswick.