Marc Kinna was curled up with his wife watching a cop show when he got a call notifying him that a care aide at the West Vancouver nursing home run by his non-profit society had tested positive for COVID-19.
The worker’s last shift at the 230-bed facility was a week earlier, March 21, but the outbreak protocol for Baptist Housing was put in place immediately and a team from the Vancouver Coastal Health authority was on the ground within 24 hours, Mr. Kinna said.
A similar squad from the Fraser Health Authority was deployed last month at his organization’s Evergreen Heights assisted-living complex in White Rock, B.C., when a resident tested positive for the virus after a doctor’s visit over what the resident thought was a common sore throat.
At both sites, only one person was confirmed to have caught the highly infectious virus and both are now close to or fully recovered, he said. The West Vancouver nursing home lifted its outbreak protocol April 3, he said, and the White Rock facility should lift its own next week some time.
The novel coronavirus has ravaged long-term care homes in and around Vancouver area, killing 47 residents at eight facilities – almost two thirds of all deaths linked to the virus in the province, according to a Wednesday update provided by the B.C. Ministry of Health. But 14 of the two dozen facilities with outbreaks have kept the number of people infected to single digits and seven, like Mr. Kinna’s complexes, have kept the virus at a single case, according to that Wednesday update.
Outbreaks at seniors’ homes across the country have caused hundreds of deaths, with large clusters active in Ontario and Quebec, where officials in both provinces struggle to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus at hundreds of homes.
B.C.'s seniors watchdog and nursing home operators such as Mr. Kinna say these are grim times but the communication and oversight from B.C.'s five regional health authorities have helped streamline the sector’s response to the deadly virus.
This response includes many practices that have been in place for weeks in B.C. that are only now being adopted and enforced in Quebec and Ontario.
“We have found both Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health to be very supportive and active,” said Mr. Kinna, who is the chief operating officer of Baptist Housing, which runs 21 facilities for seniors across British Columbia.
“As soon as there is any sign of a case, they jump in and that’s what you want, that’s what you rely upon.”
The Delta View Care Centre, owned by the Good Samaritan Society, joined the list of B.C. long-term care facilities with COVID-19 cases on March 22, when Fraser Health announced that a staff member had tested positive for the new coronavirus.
A Fraser Health “SWAT” team consisting of an infection control practitioner, public-health representative, clinical support and a patient care quality officer was brought in, and staff directed not to work at any other facility, according to Good Samaritan’s interim president and CEO Michelle Bonnici.
The centre has had no other cases since.
Martin Lavoie, Fraser Health’s chief medical health officer, told reporters earlier this week that these public-health teams act very aggressively to trace all the people an infected person may have recently come into contact with. This detective work leads to these contacts getting tested and isolating themselves – even if they are asymptomatic, Dr. Lavoie said.
“We’re on high vigilance for about four weeks after the last case,” he said of outbreak protocols at facilities where infections are confirmed.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford called for similar contact tracing earlier this month and said this week that similar SWAT teams are now being deployed at nursing homes in that province.
B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie, who reports to the Ministry of Health, said it is too early to make definitive statements about why B.C.'s nursing homes seem to be doing better than those in Ontario or Quebec. But, she said, it is clear that authorities and operators in B.C. learned from the initial outbreak at Lynn Valley Care Centre, where the first Canadian died in the country from the virus on March 8.
“We happened to have the first facility outbreak and we learned from it,” said Ms. Mackenzie, who was appointed six years ago.
B.C. has also benefited by having a more streamlined health care system, she said, noting this structure allowed Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry last month to enlist the five regional health authorities to take over staffing of care homes for the next six months.
“It’s all over the map in Ontario and Quebec," she said, adding dozens of local public-health units in those provinces are dealing with the response in nursing homes.
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