This sign was put up at McKinney Place in Oliver to thank the heroes working through Okanagan’s deadliest outbreak of COVID-19. (Facebook)

This sign was put up at McKinney Place in Oliver to thank the heroes working through Okanagan’s deadliest outbreak of COVID-19. (Facebook)

Oliver councillor calls on province to give seniors dignity and safety in long-term care

Coun. Larry Schwartzenberger’s resolution urges for single-bed rooms for all seniors in care

Seniors in care should be able to enjoy their lives in safety and dignity.

That is part of Oliver coun. Larry Schwartzenberger’s call for the province to move entirely to single-bed long-term care facilities, away from the multiple beds in a room structure that many older facilities like McKinney Place in Oliver have.

“They don’t have the pride or dignity that they deserve in their end of life care, and they’re not safe from any kind of pandemic,” said Schwartzenberger.

The community of Oliver suffered the worst long-term care facility outbreak in the Okanagan, ending with a total of 78 cases and 17 deaths at McKinney Place.

“There’s many residents in Oliver who know, or were related to, or were affected by these two outbreaks at the long-term care facilities in Oliver, and they want a change,” said Schwartzenberger. “I hope this resolution changes things.”

Schwartzenberger’s resolution calls on the province to cease supporting the construction of further long-term care facilities that don’t have single-bed rooms, and to fund the conversion of existing multi-bed facilities.

By the end of the outbreak at McKinney Place, 55 of the 59 residents had caught COVID-19, while the outbreak at Oliver’s Sunnybank long term care facility ended with 38 cases, including 27 residents and six deaths.

Interior Health’s chief medical officer Dr. Albert de Villiers attributed McKinney Place’s four-bed-to-a-room style of accommodations as the reason for how the outbreak had been able to spread so quickly and thoroughly through the facility during a media briefing in December.

READ MORE: One in hospital, one dead and several sick from outbreak at Oliver home

“My feeling and the feeling of many people is that any respiratory illness, like flus or COVID-19, there’s no way to isolate people in places like this,” said Schwartzenberger. “I just think that has to stop.”

The resolution, passed by Oliver’s council, will go on to the Southern Interior Local Government Association for consideration at their April annual general meeting. If approved, it would then go before the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

“I think the people in Oliver deserve to have answers and deserve to know the government is going to go forward and look at long-term care facilities that only have single rooms. I certainly hope that the province will look at the resolution carefully and realize it is very much needed.”

Schwartzenberger also pointed to the David E. Kampe Tower at Penticton Regional Hospital, which added 84 new single-bed rooms to the hospital’s capacity, as a sign of how the future needs to look.

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