With all non-essential visits to Huntsville’s two long-term care homes being suspended, family and friends of residents are relying heavily on staff to tell them how they’re coping and what protocols are being put in place to ensure our most vulnerable population is protected during this pandemic.
Fears that COVID-19 could devastate long-term care homes have been mounting. A nursing home in Bobcaygeon has lost almost half of its residents to the virus. In Simcoe County, a staff member at Spencer House in Orillia has tested positive for the virus, and as of Apr. 8, 14 residents and two staff members of a long-term care home in Bradford have contracted COVID-19.
“We are working very hard to protect people in long-term care facilities. They are very vulnerable…This virus can have devastating impacts on long-term care facilities because the people there are vulnerable to it and are very high risk of having serious outcomes. We need to do all that we can to protect those facilities,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU), in a media briefing on Apr. 1, 2020.
Recently, a respiratory outbreak at The Pines in Bracebridge caused concern but further testing revealed that the infection did not involve COVID-19.
“I think that people are rightfully concerned about any respiratory outbreak in a long-term care facility. They are common through the winter and at this time of year we have a number of facilities that have respiratory outbreaks,” added Gardner.
Doppler reached out to both long-term care homes in Huntsville. While Fairvern’s executive director, Carolyn Zacharuk, refused to comment, Muskoka Landing community relations coordinator Stephanie Barber confirmed via email that to date there have been no positive cases of COVID-19 at Muskoka Landing Care Centre.
Barber stated that staff members are following the directives from public health. All group activities have been suspended, the home remains closed to non-essential visitors, and staff are required to work for only one employer.
“To further protect our teams, we have mandated that all staff work for a sole employer, as this will help to mitigate community spread. In addition to these measures, our home upholds the practice of proper hand hygiene, enhanced cleaning measures and physical/social distancing whenever possible,” she stated.
The need to free up acute care hospital beds being taken up by patients in need of alternate levels of care is critical at this time in anticipation of a possible surge in COVID-19 cases. “Patients are being transferred to various care environments that are appropriate for them. Alternate Level of Care [patients]are being moved to available long-term care beds in the community as is possible. Once situated in an ‘idle bed’, these individuals will be at the top of the list to move to their first choice long-term care bed when available,” explained Natalie Bubela, CEO for Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare, which manages both the Huntsville and Bracebridge hospitals.
Muskoka Landing is monitoring anyone entering the facility, added Barber. “Additionally, we are actively facilitating 24-hour screening for anyone entering or leaving our home, including temperature-taking. If anyone is exhibiting any symptoms related to the COVID-19 virus or is feeling unwell, they are prohibited from entering the home and are directed to seek immediate medical attention. Additionally, resident monitoring is taking place multiple times a day, including temperature-taking. Anyone feeling unwell or exhibiting any symptoms of the virus will be isolated to their rooms and proper isolation procedures will be put in place.”
Barber also said consultation is ongoing “with our infection prevention and control specialists, along with Public Health and all guidelines and directives are being followed.”
Gardner said that in the event of an outbreak, they ensure that the home has enough swabs to test all residents and staff.
“We follow up with the public health laboratory to expedite testing, we make sure that all the other control measures are in place, nobody should be visiting anyway under the provincial directive but we make sure that’s the case, we make sure that there is the availability and use of personal protective equipment by the staff to prevent spread and all joint, collective activities are not happening, that too should not be happening anyway because of provincial direction,” said Gardner, adding other protocols involve ensuring cases are isolated from others in the home, and that enhanced disinfection takes place, and “that there’s excellent surveillance for the identification of new cases and follow up isolation of any new cases. And of course, we ensure appropriate reporting to the Ministry of Health.”
— with files from Dawn Huddlestone
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