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Long-term care homes screening visitors due to COVID-19 concerns

Expect to be questioned at the door if you're visiting someone at a care home
St. Joseph's Villa. (File)

If you're visiting someone at a long-term care home, expect to be questioned at the door as to your health, recent travel history and if you've been in contact with someone who's sick.

With COVID-19 infections on the increase — including this area's first confirmed case — the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has directed Ontario long-term care homes to screen people at the door.

Kari Gervais, vice-president of clinical services and chief nursing officer at St. Joseph Health Centre, said the directive was sent out by the ministry Wednesday afternoon.

“We just want to make sure that we're really stopping people at the door who have the potential to be infectious, and spread that infection to our residents,” Gervais said.

St. Joseph's Health Centre runs two long-term care homes in Greater Sudbury with a total of 256 beds — St. Joseph's Villa located on Laurentian University's campus and St. Gabriel Villa in Chelmsford.

It also runs St. Joseph Continuing Care Centre, a rehab facility with 64 beds, also located on Laurentian's campus.

Gervais said people are also asked to self-screen before showing up at one of these facilities to prevent spreading infection to the care homes' vulnerable residents.

So far, Canada's only death from COVID-19 was a man in his 80s with underlying health conditions who lived at a long-term care home in North Vancouver, British Columbia.

“Anybody who's in those vulnerable demographics does seem to be at greater risk from COVID-19,” Gervais said.

“Certainly we are wanting to be very diligent in making sure we can do everything we can to protect them.”

She said St. Joseph's Health Centre has a pandemic plan, so they didn't have to create one, and it also has “really good infection control and practices in place.”

Andrée Quesnel, director of care with the Elizabeth Centre, a 128-bed long-term care home in Val Caron, said earlier Wednesday that the facility was already screening everyone who entered the facility.

That includes staff, volunteers and visitors. They're asked if they've been ill or have recently travelled to COVID-19 infected areas.

“If they were to fail the screening, they would be asked to leave the premises,” Quesnel said.

So far, the Elizabeth Centre remains open to visitors as long as they pass the screening.

As for infection control, Quesnel said the care home always follows Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care standards. 

“I'm also the lead for infection control, so if there's any type of concerns, I make sure I do a follow-up,” she said. 

Extendicare, which runs the Extendicare York and Extendicare Falconbridge long-term care homes in Greater Sudbury, provided with a written statement from president and CEO Michael Guerriere, regarding the screening measures.

“We ask that visitors refrain from visiting if they exhibit symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, chills, muscle pain or a headache, and this is displayed on a poster at all locations in all required languages,” said the statement. 

“Procedures are also in place for screening care team members who are prohibited from coming to work if they are ill. We actively monitor and screen our residents to determine if they are showing any of the related symptoms, and we take necessary precautions if they do. 

“We adhere to measures to reduce the risk of infections and to help prevent transmission, starting with hand washing. We remain committed to providing high quality care and service to our residents.”

The statement said when news of COVID-19 started to come out, the company activated its Incident Management System (IMS) team led by its national director of infection prevention and control, and comprised of leaders and clinical staff from across the company.

The IMS team has been meeting daily since January to develop and implement strategies to manage the virus threat, according to company.

In a brief written statement, the City of Greater Sudbury said its long-term care home, Pioneer Manor, “continues to follow their respiratory protocols and is asking screening questions of all visitors.”


Heidi Ulrichsen

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