By Sue Tiffin
A COVID-19 outbreak was declared at Hyland Crest long-term care home in Minden on Sunday [Jan. 31]. Two essential caregivers have tested positive for the virus. The outbreak is the first for a local long-term care home since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in March 2020.
The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge district health unit first posted about the outbreak on their community outbreaks webpage on Jan. 31, and a press release from Haliburton Highlands Health Services was distributed the next morning.
“HHHS has been vigorously working with public health authorities in managing the situation and identifying anyone who may have been exposed to prevent further spread,” reads the release.
According to the province’s webpage on policy long-term care homes must follow, “a caregiver is a type of essential visitor who is designated by the resident and/or their substitute decision-maker and is visiting to provide direct care to the resident (e.g. supporting feeding, mobility, personal hygiene, cognitive stimulation, communication, meaningful connection, relational continuity and assistance in decision-making).” They must be at least 18 years of age, and a maximum of two caregivers may be designated per resident at a time. The province’s webpage states the person might be, for example, a family member who provides meaningful connection, a privately hired caregiver, paid companions and translators.
In November, Carolyn Plummer, HHHS president and CEO said in a hospital services board meeting that the increase in COVID-19 infections in long-term care homes provincially at that time was concerning, and that HHHS had been maintaining strict vigilance with precautions put in place to keep people as safe as possible.
“We continue to have ongoing concerns about the rising number of long-term care home outbreaks in the province, and the possibility of an outbreak locally,” said Plummer in her report last year. “If an outbreak was to occur, our rural location puts us in a vulnerable position due to our limited staff availability and limited external resources upon which to rely for help.”
She said then that the outbreaks around the province had prompted HHHS to “tighten up” visiting policies, and put additional restrictions in place due to the challenge of not having easy access to back-up staffing if needed. At that time, she said essential caregivers were still permitted to enter the home, but were restricted to visits with their loved one inside of the resident’s room and not in the common areas.
Essential caregivers are required to be tested weekly at this point, a determination made by public health based on the colour-coded zone of the public health region, an HHHS spokesperson told the Echo.
“As per directives provided by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, stringent Infection Prevention and Control [IPAC] measures have been implemented in both HHHS long-term care homes since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” reads yesterday’s HHHS release. “These measures include but are not limited to: ensuring staff work in only one LTC facility; actively screening all staff and essential visitors upon entry to the buildings; conducting regular surveillance testing of all LTC staff and residents; limiting visitors to only those deemed as ‘essential caregivers’ who must undergo regular COVID-19 testing; ensuring adequate supply and proper use of personal protective equipment at all times.”
Outbreak protocols have also been implemented to minimize potential spread at Hyland Crest, according to the HHHS release. The measures include the immediate testing of all residents and potentially exposed individuals; isolating any residents experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms; limiting admissions, readmissions, discharges or transfers at this time.
“We have been preparing for this possibility, knowing that even with the most rigorous infection prevention and control measures in place, COVID-19 is a very contagious virus,” said Plummer. “HHHS remains committed to providing the best care and support possible for residents and their families. We are grateful to our staff and management team for their extraordinary and continued vigilance in the implementation of protective measures and for the guidance and assistance we have received from our local public health unit and health service provider partners.” HHHS told the Echo that residents were tested on Jan. 31 and the results are pending.
“Staff are regularly scheduled on Tuesdays for testing – last Tuesday’s test yielded no positive results – and they will be tested this Tuesday as per the requirement,” a spokesperson told the Echo.
HHHS manages two long-term care facilities in Haliburton County: Hyland Crest, and Highland Wood, which is located in Haliburton. Last Friday, 42 residents and 10 staff members at Extendicare in Haliburton received the first dose of the two-dose Moderna vaccine. The health unit was expecting the next delivery of vaccine on Feb. 1, but on Jan. 29 learned that shipment will be delayed until at least Feb. 5. Once more vaccine arrives, the health unit will continue with its plan to vaccinate residents of long-term care homes, including Hyland Crest and Highland Wood.
For further information on COVID-19, visit http://www.hkpr.on.ca.