‘Absolutely nothing but a window to look through’: Yellowknife woman describes seclusion room

A Yellowknife woman who tested negative for COVID-19 twice still finds herself in a government-run isolation facility that is essentially a single cot in an empty room.

The woman requested anonymity, which CBC granted, as she is seeking employment with the territorial government’s Department of Health and fears her comments could affect her chances.

The woman is currently at the Aspen Apartments on 51st Street, which is furnished with a cot, a single blanket, a TV not connected to cable, a Brita water filter but no glasses and a chair but no table. She said there was no hand soap either.

“When I came here, there was absolutely no convenience to make a person comfortable,” she said.

“Absolutely nothing but a window to look out of.”

She said the food is often cold and she doesn’t have a microwave to reheat it.

His only relief from boredom comes from the occasional cigarette break.

The woman says she is being forced into self-isolation because two of her housemates tested positive for COVID-19 and she started developing symptoms. She has been at the Aspen Apartments since January 10 and is due to stay for 10 days.

She said she doesn’t know why she can’t just self-isolate in her apartment, especially after testing negative, and she hasn’t heard from public health in days.

She said there was no phone in the apartment which could be dangerous for those who don’t have a cell phone.

The woman said the situation was made more stressful because she had to take time off from her job as a cashier and did not know how she would pay her rent next month.

The Aspen Apartments on 51st Street in Yellowknife are run by the territorial government as a place where people can self-isolate. (Hilary Bird/CBC)

Safety before fun

Dennis Marchiori is the Director of Compliance and Enforcement Operations at the territorial Department of Health and Human Services.

In an interview with CBC News, he said he recognizes some accommodations may be lacking in entertainment, but he said it’s not the government’s priority.

“Although some of our pitches are bare…we need to be able to provide a pitch for someone to take shelter and be able to pick it up quickly, so some of them don’t have all the amenities” , said Marchiori.

He said Aspen Apartments was a particularly difficult situation because the building is federally owned and its transition to an isolation facility was very sudden.

“So having to put something like this in place in a weekend, like we did, it’s very limited to what we have in there,” he said.

“But our biggest goal is to try to keep the residents of Yellowknife and the Northwest Territories who have to use it safe, so we can keep a roof over their heads.”

Marchiori said the department, like all organizations across the country, is facing staffing issues related to the Omicron variant.

Try to have a little patience with us, because things are going very fast.– Dennis Marchiori, director at the Department of Health and Human Services

“They are mostly related to human resources … because even our employees who take the necessary precautions to try to be safe can still get sick,” he said.

“Try to have a little patience with us, because things are changing very quickly.”

Asked about phone connections for isolation facilities, he said Northwestel was also struggling with staffing issues as a result of the outbreak.

He said they were trying to lend cell phones, but they ran out of supplies.

But Conrad Baetz, director of policy and corporate services at the COVID Secretariat, said the department will ensure that every user of the isolation facility has some sort of device to contact the outside world.

It’s a matter of security,” he said. “We’ll make sure there’s the ability to communicate.”

This woman in isolation at Aspen Apartments is not the first person to contact the CBC about her concerns about isolation accommodation in Yellowknife.

CBC News requested an interview with Premier Caroline Cochrane, who is in charge of the COVID secretariat, but this request received no response.

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