Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday April 1, 2020
Long-term care homes are worrisome COVID-19 hotspots
Monday’s news of a deadly outbreak of COVID-19 in a long-term care home in Ontario has once again put the spotlight on how these facilities are coping with the pandemic, and what measures are being taken to protect their residents.
The Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, about 150 kilometres northeast of Toronto, has lost 12 residents, and a volunteer whose husband is a resident also died.
It’s a big heartbreak for a little town, and that pain is being experienced by Canadians across the country.
On Tuesday, a care home in Calgary reported its third death, while a home in Toronto, the Rekai Centre reported one of its residents died. There have been at least 29 deaths at seniors’ residences throughout Ontario and four in Quebec.
Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver was one of the first and hardest hit seniors homes in Canada. It’s where the country’s first death related to COVID-19 occurred on March 8. In all, 11 residents died, 40 more got the virus, and 21 staff became ill.
Nineteen long-term care homes in B.C. are currently dealing with outbreaks. Several homes across the country are in the same boat.
These residences are the kinds of places where an illness like COVID-19 can easily take hold. Residents share living spaces — in some homes there are four people to a room — as well as eating spaces and other communal areas.
They can be high traffic places, with staff, visitors and deliveries coming and going. The residents are elderly, and some may have compromised immune systems that can’t fend off the virus or underlying conditions, or both. The people caring for them are hands on — they can’t stay a hockey-stick length away from their patients, as other Canadians are being instructed to do.
Long-term care homes are used to dealing with outbreaks of influenza and other illnesses within their walls, but this pandemic has led them to go far beyond their usual infection control protocols.
Non-essential visitors have been shut out for weeks now at homes across the country, and governments and home operators are implementing more restrictions.
Isobel Mackenize, the B.C. government’s seniors advocate, said in an interview that lessons were learned from the Lynn Valley outbreak, and that a number of steps have been taken to prevent more residents, and staff, from getting sick. (CBC)