October 13, 2019

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Deer Lodge Centre scabies outbreak upsets families, staff

A scabies outbreak at Deer Lodge Centre has family members of residents there upset about "poor communication" and the union representing employees of Veterans' Affairs calling for more resources for the facility it says is declining "at an alarming rate."

On Tuesday, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority confirmed it has eight confirmed cases of scabies among residents with no staff affected.

"An outbreak – defined as two or more cases within the same facility – was declared on May 14 and remains in effect," a WRHA spokesman said. "Scabies outbreaks are unfortunately not uncommon in health care and other institutional settings across Canada and around the world," the WRHA spokesman said in an email.

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A scabies outbreak at Deer Lodge Centre has family members of residents there upset about "poor communication" and the union representing employees of Veterans' Affairs calling for more resources for the facility it says is declining "at an alarming rate."

On Tuesday, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority confirmed it has eight confirmed cases of scabies among residents with no staff affected.

"An outbreak – defined as two or more cases within the same facility – was declared on May 14 and remains in effect," a WRHA spokesman said. "Scabies outbreaks are unfortunately not uncommon in health care and other institutional settings across Canada and around the world," the WRHA spokesman said in an email.

'Staff are already overworked because of cutbacks and funding losses...How are they expected to bring the scabies to an end without impacting other portions of care for the clientele?' - Virginia Vaillancourt, national president of the Union of Veterans' Affairs Employees

"Standard infection prevention and control measures, including standard contact precautions, have been in place at Deer Lodge Centre for staff, residents and visitors since May 15.

"Examples of such measures include limitations on the number of visitors; hand-washing requirements when entering and leaving the unit; the use of gowns and gloves by staff caring for patients, and disinfecting medical equipment following its use to mitigate any risk of further transmission." It said "families of residents have been advised of the outbreak and provided with information about visitor restrictions and standard precautions, as well as some general information about scabies. Any risk to visitors, staff and fellow residents can be addressed by following proper precautions. There is no risk to the general public who are not in contact with affected residents."

What is scabies?

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Scabies is an infestation of the skin by the human itch mite (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis). The microscopic scabies mite burrows into the upper layer of the skin where it lives and lays its eggs. The most common symptoms of scabies are intense itching and a pimple-like skin rash. The scabies mite usually is spread by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with a person who has scabies.

Scabies is found worldwide and affects people of all races and social classes. Scabies can spread rapidly under crowded conditions where close body and skin contact is frequent. Institutions such as nursing homes, extended-care facilities, and prisons are often sites of scabies outbreaks. Child-care facilities also are a common site of scabies infestations.

The microscopic scabies mite almost always is passed by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with a person who already is infested. An infested person can spread scabies even if he or she has no symptoms. Humans are the source of infestation; animals do not spread human scabies.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A Winnipeg woman whose relative is in Deer Lodge Centre said she was upset that she only found out about the outbreak by word of mouth recently and saw a sign posted Tuesday notifying visitors of the scabies outbreak. "If you haven't been in to visit, you don't know know what's going on. It's very upsetting," she said.

"It's very, very poor communication on their part not to tell people and not to tell their families," said the woman who didn't want to be named and identify her family member who has a suspected case of scabies and is quarantined. "He showed symptoms — very bad itching and a rash." She said she and others should've been notified as soon as the first case was confirmed to prevent its spread.

"Other people could be carrying it and walking around," said the woman whose relative was treated with a cream from head to toe before bed that was washed off in the morning. "They wrap up all their clothes and put them in bags and clean the room. Anyone who goes in the room has to wear gloves and a gown," she said.

There's no activities or physiotherapy for the 36 residents during the outbreak to try and prevent its spread, she said. And funding cutbacks have already taken a toll on resident care, she said.

"The staff are run off their feet," said the woman. She said she was surprised to learn how the outbreak came to the centre's attention.

"This was not discovered by Deer Lodge," she said. "This was discovered when one fellow went to a dermatologist and complained about an itch over a week ago."

"It's very, very frustrating: Where it where did it come from? How long has it been around?"

The latest scabies outbreak in Deer Lodge — there have been at least two previous outbreaks there in recent memory — is just one of the problems they've been trying to bring to the attention of Manitoba's Health minister following funding cuts that are affecting how veterans are being treated, the national president of the Union of Veterans' Affairs Employees in Ottawa said Tuesday.

"Staff are already overworked because of cutbacks and funding losses," said Virginia Vaillancourt in Ottawa. "How are they expected to bring the scabies to an end without impacting other portions of care for the clientele?"

Deer Lodge Centre transferred from a Veterans Affairs Canada hospital to a provincial facility in 1983. Since changing from an acute general hospital to a facility caring for adult patients with complex needs, it became the largest rehabilitation and long term care facility in Manitoba, with a bed capacity of 429.

There are now 60 veterans staying at Deer Lodge Centre and one veteran is on the waiting list to get in, said Vaillancourt. Since January, the centre lost four dietary aide positions, nine messengers, two ward clerks, a volunteer co-ordinator and saw a reduction in health care aides, and rehab workers, said Vaillancourt, who has also been trying to get a meeting with the federal Veterans' Affair Minister to raise concerns about their care at Deer Lodge Centre.

"We've seen this facility go down at an alarming rate," said Vaillancourt.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Reporter

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

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