Alberta Health Services is looking for contractors to take over its laundry services as the government embarks on a plan to outsource thousands of healthcare-sector jobs to private companies.
AHS issued a request for proposal on Friday seeking a contractor to assume responsibility for its remaining in-house laundry services. The move is expected to result in the layoffs of 428 full-time, part-time and casual workers. AHS and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees both cited the figure.
The proposal comes after Health Minister Tyler Shandro detailed a plan last week by AHS to lay off up to 11,000 employees — mostly in laboratory, cleaning and food services. Those jobs will be outsourced to private companies, a recommendation contained in the Ernst & Young cost-cutting review released in February.
In a news release, AHS said the laundry transition will save money and avoid the cost of replacing its aging infrastructure.
“By reinvesting savings from initiatives such as contracting out laundry services into the health system, we can improve patient care and ensure Albertans are provided with the best possible health care,” Shandro said in a statement Friday.
About two-thirds of laundry services are currently provided by a third party, including in Calgary and Edmonton. AHS said the move will eliminate the need to spend $38 million on upgrades to its laundry infrastructure that would otherwise be immediately necessary.
AHS said it “anticipates there will be some opportunities” for employees to work with a new contractor.
The AUPE, which represents the laundry workers, said the move will upend the lives of its members based at 54 sites across the province.
“Jason Kenney wants to corrode their working conditions, pay, benefits, hours and more,” AUPE vice-president Kevin Barry said. “Privatizing laundry also results in lower quality and sometimes unsafe services as staff are forced to cut corners to create profit for the private owners.”
The deadline for proposals is Dec. 1 and AHS is expected to pick a contractor by mid-March.
Laundry service accounts for $60 million of the health authority’s $15.4-billion budget, according to the Ernst & Young review.
The report said there had been frequent staff safety “near misses and injuries” due to workarounds from equipment breakdowns. Laundry workers’ disabling injury rates are about 60 per cent higher than other AHS staff, according to the review. It estimated AHS would have to spend about $200 million on equipment and infrastructure to maintain operations.
The request for proposal says the laundry contractors will be responsible for onsite pick-up and delivery, processing, replacement, quality control and inventory management.
“A contracted model will enable a sustainable service, while eliminating risk that our outdated laundry infrastructure poses,” said AHS president Dr. Verna Yiu.
In 2015, Sarah Hoffman, health minister in the NDP government, halted an AHS-proposed plan to privatize laundry services outside of Edmonton and Calgary.
Canada posts deadliest day of coronavirus pandemic since June as vaccine hopes rise – Global News
The new cases, which totaled 6,302, brought Canada’s caseload to 389,436. Health authorities also reported an increase of 114 deaths, though only 80 of those fatalities occurred in the past 24 hours.
The last time cases surpassed 110 was on June 4, which saw 139 deaths reported to have been caused by the virus.
Canada’s death toll from COVID-19 now stands at 12,325, while over 309,000 patients have since recovered and another 14.8 million tests have been administered so far.
As Canadian communities continue to grapple with surges in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, Canada’s chief public health officer said the priority list of people to get the coronavirus vaccine would have to be refined further, due to the initial six million doses not being enough to inoculate them all.
Coronavirus: Tam says priority list for first COVID-19 vaccinations being refined
As of now, Canada is set to receive four million doses from Pfizer and two million from Moderna within the first quarter of 2021. The amount would only be enough to vaccinate three million people, however, as a person would need two doses of the vaccine in order for it to be effective.
Tam hinted that the variety and supply of doses was expected to increase soon due to Canada having contracts for three more vaccines that are in late-state clinical trials, having said that “means we will have more flexibility as time goes on, and more and more vaccines come on board.”
“We’re expecting that in the second quarter. Depending on the approvals of the vaccines, we will have different amounts, but that is when the supply will become more and more plentiful,” said Tam Wednesday during a virtual speech at the 2020 Canadian Immunization Conference.
Canada’s health minister also said on Wednesday that the country’s review of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine was “expected to be completed soon” — comments that come shortly after news of the U.K. officially approving the vaccine.
“The news that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been approved in the U.K. is encouraging. Health Canada’s review of this candidate is ongoing, and is expected to be completed soon,” said Patty Hadju.
“Making sure a COVID-19 vaccine is safe before approving it is Health Canada’s priority, and when a vaccine is ready, Canada will be ready.”
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During the conference, Tam also revealed plans from the Public Health Agency of Canada to combat the increase in misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine using online webinars. According to her, the webinars would include several topics like the different types of vaccines available, how to run immunization clinics and guidance on how to use vaccines.
“Because of the social media and its internet age, we’ve got even more of a challenge on our hands than anyone else in tackling pandemics of the past,” said Tam, who also noted the importance of Canadians knowing how vaccines are developed
The federal government also introduced a new COVID-19 spending bill Wednesday, just days after revealing the country’s economic update.
The bill, which would effectively determine how billions of dollars in new pandemic-related aid would be spent, would follow the measures proposed in Monday’s fall economic statement.
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Several provinces across Canada also reported surges in new coronavirus cases Wednesday, with Ontario, Alberta and Quebec all reporting over 1,500 newly reported infections.
Ontario added the highest increase of 1,723 cases, pushing its total caseload to 119,922. Another 35 deaths were also reported by the province, which now has 656 people in hospital due to COVID-19.
Alberta added 1,685 more infections on Wednesday as well as 10 additional deaths. The new data also comes amid an announcement from Premier Jason Kenney that the province expects its first doses of the coronavirus vaccine to arrive by Jan 4.
“While we can’t control when these vaccines arrive in Alberta, we can make sure that when we get them, we’re ready to roll them out as quickly as we can,” said Kenny during a press conference Wednesday afternoon. To date, Alberta has seen a total of 61,169 virus cases and 561 deaths.
Quebec added another 43 deaths on Wednesday, of which only nine occurred within the past 24 hours. The fatalities bring the province’s death toll to 7,125, while health authorities reported an additional 1,514 cases Wednesday.
British Columbia added 830 cases as well, pushing the province’s caseload to 34,728. A total of 338 cases are considered “epi-linked,’ which are cases that show symptoms and were close contacts of confirmed infections, but were never tested.
Saskatchewan announced 237 cases and Manitoba another 277, bringing their total case figures to 8,982 and 17,384, respectively.
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick added another six cases while Newfoundland and Labrador reported just one. Nova Scotia reported an increase of 17 cases Wednesday, pushing its total infections to 1,332.
The Yukon added one more cases on Wednesday, while Nunavut added another 11. The Northwest Territories did not report any additional cases.
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Nunavut’s government also lifted its two-week lockdown on Wednesday everywhere except for the coastal town of Arviat, of which saw all 11 new cases reported by the province. To date, Nunavut has seen 193 cases of the novel coronavirus — the highest among Canada’s territories.
Cases of the coronavirus have since surpassed 64.4 million according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. A total of 1,491,000 people have also succumbed to the virus, with the United States, Brazil and India leading in both cases and deaths.
— With files from Global News’ Emerald Bensadoun and The Canadian Press
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Ontario long-term care home logs zero cases of COVID-19 in first and second wave of pandemic – CTV Toronto
One Ontario long-term care home continues to weather the pandemic without a single COVID-19 case.
As long-term care homes continue to grapple with the second wave of COVID-19, the Mariann Home in Richmond Hill, Ont. has so far weathered the pandemic without a single case of COVID-19, which families and staff attribute to a number of safety measures taken earlier this year.
“I attest that to communication and due diligence by our staff,” said Mariann Home CEO and Administrator Bernanrd Boreland. “Policies and procedures that the government rolls out I’ve looked at and in all honesty I wasn’t satisfied and I made enhancements to it.”
Since Ontario allowed essential visitors back inside long-term care homes, Boreland initiated stricter measures, requiring all visitors to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within seven days of their visit.
“The way it’s set up in the government, families just have to attest – we know that people don’t always tell the truth and my job is to protect our seniors, so I put that policy in place that they must show us evidence of a COVID test.”
The home has taken it a step further, giving families the option of a drive-in test outside the nursing home, which is performed by Director of Care.
“Because I put certain procedures in place I wanted to make things easier for the families, so that’s why I offered a drive-in testing centre, which is available to all families who come on to our COVID testing program,” he said. “By requesting those tests puts our families and residents minds at ease.”
Visits must be booked in advanced and are only limited to an hour. When inside, families are educated on safety protocols, are not allowed to roam the facility and must wear personal protective equipment at all times.
Boreland has spent tens of thousands of dollars on personal protective equipment (PPE), which he began stock piling in mid-January before Ontario recorded its first positive case. Extra funds were used to purchase the PPE, which the home now has enough to supply staff until Februrary.
Early on in the pandemic employees had to commit to only working at the 64 bed nursing home and they were being screened symptoms every two weeks. The screening is now done weekly.
Staff are also divided into cohorts, so they are caring for the same residents in the same unit at all times.
Residents are checked for symptoms three times a day at the start of every shift. This includes a temperature check, which Boreland says is more than ministry standards.
“If there is one or two symptoms from the resident they right away get swabbed and we put them into isolation until there is a negative result,” said Erly Valera, the home’s Director of Care.
Boreland has regular teleconferences with family members to keep them updated on policies and enhanced safety measures.
“All of our staff and families are grateful,” he said.
Michael Gregory’s mother-in-law has been a resident at the home for four years and praises the staff for how they’ve handled the pandemic thus far.
“At her age she is the most vulnerable,” Gregory said. “We have all the confidence she is in good hands and we longer worry.”
Worried about potential exposure to employees outside the home, additional PPE is provided to staff who is transit and a grocery order program continues to be offered to prevent staff from having to travel to busy public places.
Frontline workers should be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccine after healthcare workers and long-term care residents: OMA – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
A group representing more than 43,000 Ontario doctors says that essential workers at grocery stores and food processing plants should be among the first to receive COVID-19 vaccines once healthcare workers and long-term care residents have been protected.
The Ontario Medical Association says that health-care workers and “older adults living in long-term care or retirement facilities” should be the first in line for vaccines but that subsequent phases should focus on ensuring that other workers at high risk of exposure get vaccinated, such as employees at grocery stores and food production facilities and those working in transit.
The OMA says that other groups that should also be prioritized include people living in shelters, group homes and prisons, teachers and school staff and other older adults not vaccinated in the first phase.
“It boils down to the fact that essential care workers or essential workers aren’t necessarily safe just by being deemed essential,” OMA President Dr. Samantha Hill told CP24 on Wednesday afternoon. “It is crucial that if we consider these people and the services they offer essential to society’s wellbeing that they be protected to the ultimate capacity that we can. Before we had a vaccine that meant PPE (personal protective equipment) and social distancing. When we do have a successful vaccine it will still mean PPE and distancing but it will also mean access to the vaccine.”
The recommendations from the OMA come after the United Kingdom announced that it has approved the Pfizer vaccine for distribution in that country.
Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu also released a statement on Wednesday in which she said that Health Canada’s review of the Pfizer vaccine “is ongoing, and is expected to be completed soon.”
Speaking with CP24, Hill said that the principal behind the recommendations being made by the OMA is “minimizing harm.”
She said that healthcare workers, for example, make up nearly 10 per cent of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ontario and are much more likely to contract the disease caused by the novel coronavirus than any other single group.
“The recommendation quite simply put is that those with the highest risk need to be vaccinated first and that includes obviously physicians and other frontline health care workers like nurses and personal support workers and it also includes adults living in long-term care facilities or retirement facilities,” she said.
On Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford was asked about how his government will prioritize which groups of people will get access to the vaccine first and he said that the “goal is to make sure that all frontline health care workers, long term care workers and rural northern indigenous communities get taken care of” first.
Ford, however, said that he “wouldn’t disagree” with the OMA’s proposal to prioritize frontline workers in subsequent phases of the rollout.
“I think they’re great comments but that’s going to be up to the task force and General (Rick) Hillier and the Minister of Health to put that list together,” he said.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott has previously said that her government expects to receive a combined 2.4 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna Inc. COVID-19 vaccines during the first three months of 2021, which would be enough to protect 1.2 million Ontarians.
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