B.C.’s five regional health authorities have banned non-essential visits to in-care seniors through the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the death toll continues to increase at North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley Care Home — from which all but three of B.C.’s 13 coronavirus-related deaths have stemmed — Northern Health, Interior Health, Fraser Health, Vancouver Coastal Health and Island Health are taking measures to prevent further anticipated pressures on the acute care system.
All health authority-owned facilities province-wide are adhering to the following advice given by B.C.’s Ministry of Health:
- Temporarily suspend inter-facility transfers, except in circumstances of intolerable risk, until further notice and ensure clients’ place on the waitlist for transfer is maintained during the suspension of transfers;
- Prioritize admissions to long-term care from acute care over those from community where possible;
- Temporarily suspend all health authority operated/funded home and community care (HCC) adult day programs.
- Temporarily suspend the provision of in-facility respite, except in circumstances of intolerable risk.
Essential visits include compassionate visits for end-of-life care and visits that support care plans for residents based on resident and family needs.
In-care seniors province-wide will also have access to the now expanded 211 hotline, which will provide virtual visiting service among other forms of aid for care home residents experiencing social isolation.
“Visits to care homes are being very strictly limited right now across B.C.,” said health minister Adrian Dix on March 26. “Care providers are looking for ways to support in what can be a period of real isolation where people really count on family visits and so on.
“In terms of calling and supports that would be available, although obviously, all care homes right now are under very strict control.”
Isobel Mackenzie, B.C.’s seniors’ advocate, said after the pandemic comes to an end, the fault lines in terms of how care homes handle outbreaks like this will be apparent.
“I think there will be a spirit to address those,” she said. “I think for the moment, my energy and attention is on making sure that we have a plan in place that is going to reduce and mitigate as much as possible the risks that our seniors are at in our care homes.
“When this is over we probably will be looking at how we are going to — in the future — not find ourselves with some of the frustrations that we have at the moment.”
Of the 725 cases province-wide, 66 people are in hospital, 26 of them in intensive care, and 186 people have recovered and been cleared by testing.
Regional totals are 359 in Vancouver Coastal Health, 241 in Fraser Health, 52 in Island Health, 62 in Interior Health and 11 in Northern Health.
Outbreaks in nine B.C. long-term care homes continue to be worked on.
Specific measures are being taken by regional authorities as follows:
Fraser Health has confirmed two cases of the virus at care homes. The cases are attributed to a staff member at Delta View Care Centre and a health care worker at Dufferin Care Centre in Port Coquitlam.
Both long term care facilities have teams in place that include an infection control practitioner, public health, clinical support and patient care quality officer to rapidly address quality and communication issues and actively check symptoms in staff and residents.
Fraser Health has also directed long term care staff currently working at Delta View Care Centre not to work at any other facility.
The authority’s medical health officer, Dr. Martin Lavoie, has issued a public health order to all licensed long-term care facilities in the region, which includes the following:
- Restrict visitors to only essential visits through a single controlled entrance point where a screening person is present;
- Carry out screening of all visitors including contractors before entering the facility;
- Actively screen all staff and residents twice daily for symptoms;
- All symptomatic staff and essential visitors will not be allowed to enter the facility;
- All symptomatic residents will be tested and immediately isolated;
- Train all staff and residents of infection control guidelines and adhere to the guidelines;
- Cease group activities in the facility and community;
- Perform enhanced cleaning twice a day;
- Maximize separation of residents while dining;
- Facilities are required to prepare staffing plans to ensure ongoing patient care;
- Require all facilities to submit an implementation plan that prohibits long-term care staff and volunteers (with the exception of physicians, paramedics and laboratory technicians) from working at more than one health care facility; and
- Facilities need to proactively plan and prepare for adequate supplies.
Vancouver Coastal Health
At Vancouver Coastal Health’s Lynn Valley Care Home, 46 residents and 24 health care workers have tested positive and 10 residents have died.
The authority’s medical health officer, Dr. Althea Hayden, has issued a public health order to all licensed long-term care facilities in the region. That order mandates the following:
- Prohibition of long-term care staff and volunteers (with the exception of physicians, paramedics and laboratory technicians) from working at more than one health care facility;
- Requirement of facilities to deny access to all visitors to the facility, with the limited exception of the immediate family members and spiritual advisor of residents who are clinically assessed to be at the end of their lives;
- Prohibition of resident transfers between health care facilities unless approved by a Medical Health Officer;
- Requirement of facilities to carry out enhanced cleaning of facilities and enhanced screening of staff, contractors and visitors, and to adhere to higher standards for notification of cold and flu-like illnesses;
- Cancellation or postponement indefinitely for all group social activities.
Interior Health/Northern Health/Island Health
Interior Health, Northern Health and Island Health have not yet recorded a COVID-19 outbreak in any of their long-term care facilities.
Regardless, they are following recommendations set out by Dr. Bonnie Henry and making changes to visitation, including banning non-essential visitors.
COVID-19 testing is currently included in all testing done for respiratory illness in long-term care facilities.