Currently Browsing: The Ottawa Citizen

‘I have never seen anything like it’: Calls for more help, new measures as outbreaks at long-term care and retirement homes reach record levels

Staffing challenges are making it more difficult for some homes to cope with the outbreaks
Elizabeth Payne, The Ottawa Citizen

More Ottawa long-term care and retirement homes are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks than at any time during the pandemic as calls grow for more support for homes province-wide. Ottawa Public Health reported 20 outbreaks in long-term care homes and 37 outbreaks in retirement homes on Wednesday, the highest number of ongoing outbreaks since the pandemic began according to OPH data. Some of the outbreaks in Ottawa involve just a few of the highly contagious OMICRON variant, but others are larger and growing. Among them: a total of 43 infected residents and three infected staff at  Camilla Gardens Retirement Home, five residents, including one resident death, and 24 staff at the city-run Peter D. Clark long-term care home and a total of 17 infected residents and 44 infected staff at St. Patrick’s Home long-term care. One resident death was also reported at the St. Patrick’s home outbreak, which began (at this care home) in December 2021.

Area of Peter D. Clark long-term care home in outbreak status

Megan Gillis, The Ottawa Citizen

One area of the Peter D. Clark home, a city-run long-term care facility, has been placed in outbreak status with confirmation that two residents and another staff member have tested positive for COVID-19. As of Tuesday, there was one active staff case at both Carleton Lodge and the Garry J. Armstrong facility, two at Peter D. Clark, and three at Centre d’accueil Champlain.

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Ontario to tighten vaccination and testing requirements at long-term care homes

Elizabeth Payne, The Ottawa Citizen

Health officials and advocates have been calling for rapid action to protect long-term care homes as cases of Omicron increase at a rate in the province that is almost too quick for officials to keep up with.

The Ontario government is tightening vaccination and testing requirements at long-term care homes, among other measures, in an effort to protect vulnerable residents from the surging Omicron wave. “Our priority is to protect long-term care residents from COVID-19,” said Long-Term Care Minister Rod Phillips on Tuesday.

“Based on the rising rates of community infection and the emerging threat of the Omicron variant, we are immediately implementing further measures to protect our most vulnerable based on the best scientific and medical advice.” Those measures include:

  • Testing all fully vaccinated staff, students, volunteers and caregivers two times a week, beginning on Friday. Negative tests will be required on entry, unless there is a negative test from the previous day.
  • Requiring full vaccination for all general visitors who want to enter.
  • Caregivers must now have a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 20 and a second dose by Feb. 21 for entry. Outdoor, masked and distanced, visits will be permitted for unvaccinated visitors and caregivers.
  • Fully vaccinated residents will be screened or isolated after day absences from the facility. No overnight absences for social reasons will be allowed.
  • PCR testing and enhanced screening will be required for any transfers from another health-care facility that is not in outbreak. Negative PCR tests will be required on arrival and after seven days. Residents will isolate until there is a negative test result.
  • Homes will also be audited weekly if in outbreak and every two weeks if not and be directed on ventilation, and infection prevention and control.

Earlier in the pandemic, the province ordered that no more residents be admitted to long-term care ward rooms with three or four beds. But around 350 residents who were already in those. Some research found that homes with ward rooms — which includes the oldest homes — were more likely to have had worse results during the pandemic. Last Friday, when he announced that Omicron was spreading rapidly in Ontario, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore promised more action to protect long-term care residents. He said the province has learned lessons from the past. Health officials and advocates have been calling for rapid action to protect long-term care homes as cases of Omicron increase at a rate in the province that is almost too quick for officials to keep up with. Last Friday, Moore warned Omicron could be dominant in Ontario by the end of December. It is now expected to be dominant within days.

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Read the December 12, 2021, Citizen COVID-19 update for Ottawa for mention of COVID outbreak at one local LTC facility. 

We need help: Home care in Ontario – the lynchpin of the health system – faces a staffing crisis

Elizabeth Payne, The Ottawa Citizen

Thousands of nurses have left jobs providing home care during the pandemic for better-paid work in public health, hospitals and long-term care homes. The result is a crisis that home care officials warn could jeopardize the province’s entire health system. “We need help. We are in a crisis,” said Sue VanderBent, CEO of Home Care Ontario, which represents most home care providers in Ontario. During the pandemic, money was poured into long-term care and hospitals to help retain and increase staffing. Many of those workers came from home care, which has received no additional support from the province during the pandemic, said VanderBent. Home care officials say it is not surprising workers are opting to go elsewhere where they can earn between $6 to $15 more an hour. But the funding in home care has not kept up. Home Care Ontario says additional funding is needed urgently to keep the crucial home care system running so hospitals can begin catching up on surgeries and people in need of care can get it.

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Province looking at toughening long-term care enforcement as part of revamp

Elizabeth Payne, The Ottawa Citizen

The Ontario government is considering adding former police or security officers to its inspection teams and toughening enforcement as part of its plan to improve accountability in long-term care, according to sources. The province has signalled it will bring in legislative and other changes this fall to answer recommendations and calls to improve Ontario’s beleaguered long-term care system.

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