Pub­lic health train­ing long-term-care staff — again

COVID-19 in­fec­tion con­trol mea­sures not be­ing fol­lowed at some homes

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Front Page - GRANT LAFLECHE THE ST. CATHARINES STAN­DARD

Ni­a­gara’s pub­lic health depart­ment has had to bol­ster its ef­forts to help long-term-care homes cope with COVID-19 out­breaks be­cause of lax in­fec­tion con­trol mea­sures even af­ter in­ten­sive train­ing, says the re­gion’s act­ing med­i­cal of­fi­cer of health.

Dr. Mustafa Hirji said Thurs­day pub­lic health of­fi­cials have found a few days af­ter staff at the fa­cil­i­ties with the worst out­breaks re­ceived in­struc­tions, in­fec­tion con­trol mea­sures were not be­ing main­tained.

“What we have found is that those mea­sures are in place for a few days and then they are fall­ing off,” said Hirji. “So we are there now very reg­u­larly. Some staff work on dif­fer­ent shifts, so we are try­ing to come in at dif­fer­ent times to en­sure we can catch ev­ery­one.”

There are six Ni­a­gara long-term­care homes with COVID-19 out­breaks, but three of them — Sea­sons

Re­tire­ment Com­mu­nity and Royal Rose Place in Wel­land and Lundy Manor in Ni­a­gara Falls — are the epi­cen­tre of the pan­demic lo­cally.

The other three homes — Hen­ley House in St. Catharines, Bethesda in Lin­coln and Wood­lands of Sun­set in

Pelham — only have a few cases and, so far, ap­pear to have fol­lowed out­break con­trol mea­sures, Hirji said.

“We are test­ing staff and res­i­dents who share rooms or live next to

some­one with COVID-19 so hope­fully we can catch any ad­di­tional cases be­fore those out­breaks get worse,” Hirji said.

Of the three homes hard­est hit by COVID-19, Hirji said it is im­por­tant to give staff “full marks” for work­ing in very dif­fi­cult and dan­ger­ous en­vi­ron­ments to look af­ter vul­ner­a­ble res­i­dents — par­tic­u­larly as dozens of staff have been sick­ened by the virus caus­ing staffing short­ages.

He said those short­ages are re­sult­ing in homes bring­ing in re­place­ment staff who may not have ad­e­quate in­fec­tion con­trol mea­sures.

How­ever, he said, the only way to stop out­breaks is to con­sis­tently ap­ply in­fec­tion con­trol mea­sures. In re­cent weeks, pub­lic health has found some long-term care staff are not us­ing dis­in­fec­tants and per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment prop­erly.

“It is dis­ap­point­ing to see

those mea­sures not fol­lowed af­ter we have had many, many dis­cus­sions with homes about what needs to be done,” he said.

Since the pan­demic be­gan, there have been 10 homes that had COVID-19 out­breaks. Four of them have been de­clared over and Hirji hopes the three homes with only a few cases will be in the clear soon.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween a home that can ef­fec­tively con­tain an out­break is the strength of their in­fec­tion con­trol mea­sures, he said. Royal Rose con­tin­ues to have the most cases, with 68 res­i­dents and 47 staff in­fected. Thir­teen res­i­dents with the virus have died.

Lundy Manor, which has had 18 res­i­dent deaths, has not had a new case since April 19, and Hirji said if that trend con­tin­ues, the out­break may end in the near fu­ture.

With many of its res­i­dents re­cov­ered, Sea­sons looked like it was on its way out of its out­break, which has claimed the lives of seven res­i­dents. But re­cent

test­ing of asymp­to­matic res­i­dents found new cases, re­set­ting the out­break clock.

While Hirji would not com­ment di­rectly on staff at Hen­ley House say­ing they are be­ing de­nied pro­tec­tive equip­ment, par­tic­u­larly N95 res­pi­ra­tor masks, he did say staff in longterm-care homes with out­breaks should be wear­ing the same equip­ment as hos­pi­tal clin­i­cal staff.

“Ab­so­lutely they should be,” Hirji said.

He said homes should have ad­e­quate sup­plies to en­sure their staff have the gear they need and the train­ing on how to put it on and take it off with­out in­creas­ing the risk of virus trans­mis­sion.

Long-term-care home cases com­prise about 32 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in Ni­a­gara since the first case was found in a St. Catharines re­tire­ment home on March 13.

Five new cases an­nounced Thurs­day — most of them linked to the out­breaks — bring

Ni­a­gara’s his­toric to­tal of COVID-19 cases to 483. At least 45 peo­ple with the virus have died, 38 of them be­ing long-term­care res­i­dents.

The rate of new daily cases con­tin­ues to fall even as test­ing in­creases. The Ni­a­gara Health hos­pi­tal sys­tem, which is con­duct­ing the bulk of lo­cal test­ing, is now test­ing as many as 400 pa­tients a day. To date, 7,518 peo­ple have been tested by the hos­pi­tal sys­tem and 335 of them, or 4.45 per cent, have tested pos­i­tive for COVID-19.

Hirji said the de­clines in the in­fec­tion rate is due in large mea­sure to the pub­lic tak­ing phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing and hand hy­giene se­ri­ously. How­ever, he said the pan­demic is not over and those mea­sures will re­main crit­i­cal even as the prov­ince looks to start open­ing up the econ­omy.

“The more peo­ple fol­low those mea­sures vol­un­tar­ily, the more room it will give the gov­ern­ment to open things up,” he said.

BOB TYMCZYSZYN TORSTAR FILE PHOTO

Sea­sons Re­tire­ment Com­mu­nity in Wel­land has been hit hard by COVID-19, mak­ing it even more im­por­tant to main­tain in­fec­tion con­trol mea­sures.

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