Hundreds of seniors who are waiting to move to a Manitoba care home aren’t on the list to be vaccinated for COVID-19, which is unlike the practice in other provinces.
Meanwhile, hundreds of beds that became vacant when care home residents died of the novel coronavirus, have stayed empty.
In some cases, those awaiting a vaccine include people stuck in hospital beds that are located in the same building as a care home in which immunization is taking place.
"They won’t walk down the corridor and vaccinate my wife. It’s not rocket science," said Desmond Leen, whose spouse has been waiting for a spot since July 2019.
There's no plan for the 355 Winnipeggers on a care home waiting list to get their first shot.
Manitoba officials say they’re working on a way to ensure new admissions to care homes get immunized, but they don’t have a protocol in place.
The Free Press surveyed all 10 provinces, and found others have made it a priority to vaccinate waiting care home residents.
British Columbia explicitly includes "individuals in hospital or community awaiting a long-term care placement" as one of its four target groups.
Quebec, which has already given the first dose to all care home residents, says local public health officers are expected to arrange shots before someone enters a care home, or shortly after, based on vaccine availability.
Saskatchewan is similarly watching out for those situations on an ad hoc basis, until they’re able to vaccinate more of the general population. Alberta Health Services is strategizing follow-up visits for new residents.
"Strategies will be determined by local circumstances, including the number of residents needing immunization, logistics such as remoteness of locations, and the need to not waste doses," wrote spokesman Kerry Williamson.
In Manitoba, anyone who is moving to a care home is supposed to isolate for two weeks, either inside the home or their previous location, regardless of whether they’ve been immunized.
More than 360 Manitoba care home residents have died from COVID-19 since the outbreak started last March.
Yet it appears those beds are not being filled due to the risk of sparking a new outbreak.
In Winnipeg, provincial data show 316 people are waiting at home for a PCH placement, while another 39 are waiting in hospital.
That’s more than double the number of people waiting in hospital a year ago, and a quarter more of those who were waiting in the community in January 2020.
In the Southern Health region, 61 patients are in an acute-care hospital waiting for a PCH spot, 16 of whom are in "a hospital that is adjacent to a personal care home," a spokesman wrote Friday. Nineteen patients are waiting at home for a spot.
Manitoba plans to wrap up the first round of care home immunizations soon. Vaccine teams that administer the second-round shots are supposed to give new residents their first dose, and sort out a plan to administer the second dose in a timely fashion.
But there’s no protocol for vaccinating anyone admitted to a care homes after that point. The province still hasn’t finalized its plan to immunize the general population based on age.
"Once we complete immunizations at all personal care homes, our plan is to regularly revisit PCHs and settings where individuals are awaiting placement to provide immunizations," a provincial spokeswoman wrote.
Since April, Leen’s wife has stayed at the St. Pierre Jolys medical centre, which has a personal care home in the same building.
Yet only care home patients are getting shots.
"To me that makes no sense at all… you could put people in wheelchairs up to the front door," Leen said.
"They've been abandoned by this vaccination task force."
Leen has been a physician for five decades, but stressed he was speaking as a private citizen.
He’s been disheartened by days of no response after reaching out to Drs. Brent Roussin and Joss Reimer, who oversee the medical side of the pandemic response and vaccine rollout.
"There’s no way of communicating with these people," he said, arguing he had no choice but to contact the Free Press.
"I have no other method of advocating."
The province did not have any response to that criticism.
— With files from Danielle Da Silva and Michael Pereira