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Support for stricter visitation and pandemic measures in long term care homes in Ontario

As of Friday, Sudbury health unit reported COVID-19 outbreaks in three separate long-term care homes in its jurisdiction
LTC care
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The organization representing long-term care (LTC) homes in Ontario says it supports stricter measures and visiting limits aimed at protecting the residents in those homes.

Donna Duncan, CEO of the Ontario Long Term Care Association (OLTCA), said she welcomed the new measures in light of the rapidly spreading Omicron Variant of COVID-19.

“The Ontario Long Term Care Association, representing 70 per cent of the province’s long-term care homes, welcomes today’s announcement by the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health (Dr Keiran Moore) introducing new measures to further protect residents in long-term care. These are important actions responding to the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant focused on protecting residents, and the staff, students, volunteers, caregivers and support workers who provide care and support for their well-being."

In a news release, the OLTCA said the new measures will make it easier to provide seniors with an additional dose of vaccine. 

"With the support of local public health units and their partners in hospitals, family health teams, and pharmacies, Ontario’s long-term care homes can begin the rollout of an additional fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to eligible long-term care residents for increased protection," said OLTCA.

As of last Friday, Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD) reported that outbreaks were active in three separate long-term care homes within the PHSD jurisdiction; two in Sudbury and one in Chapleau.

The new rules for LTC homes in Ontario came into effect on Thursday, as follows: 

-Access to long-term care homes by general visitors will be paused. 

-Designated caregivers may continue to enter long-term care homes.

-Day absences for all residents for social purposes will be paused.

“We know that long-term care residents face an increased risk of COVID-19. Given the high community infection rates we’re seeing with the Omicron variant, the time for more action is now,” said Rod Phillips, Ontario Minister of Long-Term Care. 

“In addition to the steps we’ve already taken, these new temporary measures will help keep residents safe and help critical staff remain on the job.”

FOURTH DOSE OF VACCINE

Also last week, the province said it will offer an additional fourth-dose of COVID-19 vaccines to residents of LTC homes and other homes for elderly people. 

"Based on the recommendations from the Ontario Immunization Advisory Committee, effective immediately the province will be making fourth doses of mRNA vaccines available to residents of long-term care homes, retirement homes, Elder Care Lodges and other congregate care settings if at least three months, or 84 days, have passed since their third dose," said a statement from the Ministry of Health on Friday. 

"In response to the uniquely high-risk nature of long-term care settings for Ontario’s most vulnerable individuals, the province is also mandating third doses for all staff, students, volunteers, caregivers and support workers by January 28, 2022 for those currently eligible for a booster, and will be requiring visitors to provide proof of a booster dose once the temporary pause on general visitors is lifted," said the Ministry.