Manitoba Hydro is rejecting claims that it was unprepared for the COVID-19 outbreak at the Keeyask Generating Station, where a total of 24 workers have contracted the disease.

On Wednesday, the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) alleged in a news release that during the spring it repeatedly attempted to work with Manitoba Hydro as it was concerned about Keeyask as a possible site of a COVID-19 outbreak.

The news release goes on to say that Manitoba Hydro needs to improve its communication and that it wasn’t prepared for the outbreak at Keeyask.

Manitoba Hydro released a statement on Thursday, calling these allegations “inaccurate and false.”

The Crown corporation said it has had its pandemic response plan in place since the spring, and that it has followed this plan along with implementing additional precautionary measures, including testing all onsite staff at Keeyask and a temporary workforce reduction. Hydro noted staff will be reduced from 760 workers to about 550, who will continue the critical work.

“Throughout the pandemic the plan has been adjusted to reflect new information, pandemic conditions and public health guidance,” Manitoba Hydro said, adding that its Keeyask pandemic response plan has been available to workers, First Nations partners and the public since the start of the pandemic.

The Crown corporation said it continues to have open, frequent and ongoing communication with all of its partners.

“Our engagement with the Keeyask partners has been ongoing since the start of this pandemic,” said Jay Grewal, Manitoba Hydro president and CEO, in the news release. “As we learned more about COVID-19, we updated our pandemic response measures engaged all our partners in tabletop planning sessions and maintained open lines of communication.”

Grewal noted that few organizations have taken the same scale and scope of measures as Manitoba Hydro.

“Claims and allegations that are categorically incorrect, is frankly, irresponsible and misleading, particularly when we have a collective obligation to uphold and protect the safety and well-being of all site workers and the neighbouring communities,” he said.

Manitoba Hydro said it will continue to work with public health officials to implement any additional recommendations.