Nineteen corrections officers have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Drumheller Institution. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

‘A very stressful situation’: Drumheller Institution experiencing big COVID-19 outbreak, says union rep

The Drumheller Institution is in the middle of a big COVID-19 outbreak, says a representative with the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers.

“We have 19 officers who have tested positive (for COVID-19). We have 79 officers off on contact tracing and awaiting (results) through isolation procedures,” said James Bloomfield, Prairies regional president for the union.

“That is just about half their staff of correctional officers. They’re obviously working through a very stressful situation, trying to maintain the safety and security at the site, as well as keeping up all the services required to deal with all the inmate population that’s also locked down.”

There are 70 active cases among inmates at the Drumheller site, along with 68 recovered cases, according to the Government of Canada’s website, that also states the institution has a rated capacity of 598 inmates. Additionally, there are 21 active cases among staff.

Members of the Red Cross have been onsite at Drumheller Institution since Monday to provide containment and mitigation strategies, staff refresher training, and donning and doffing techniques as needed, Correctional Service Canada said in a statement.

“Various measures are in place at Drumheller Institution including medical isolation of inmates who test positive, modified institutional routine to ensure physical distancing, suspended visits, increased use of personal protective equipment, enhanced cleaning measures and monitoring and testing staff and offenders,” the statement said.

Inmates transferring into Drumheller Institution are subject to testing for COVID symptoms upon arrival followed by 14 days of medical isolation in order to contain the spread of the virus, the statement reads.

While there are no active cases of the virus at the Bowden Institution, Bloomfield said, the site is being “heavily monitored” as well.

“We’re monitoring everything going in and out of there. We test all of our inmates and isolate all of our inmates going into that institution … for 14 days, unless there are very rare circumstances. We’re doing our best to maintain separation,” Bloomfield said.

Bowden and Drumheller sharing staff would only be done in rare circumstances.

“We don’t want to utilize staff from multiple facilities. We obviously want to cohort as much as we can and in a situation like this we want to make sure we don’t spread past any barriers that we are able to put up,” said Bloomfield.

Staff from Bowden may need to be used at Drumheller if the situation becomes “unmanageable,” but that is currently not the case, said Bloomfield.



sean.mcintosh@reddeeradvocate.com

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