24-hour hotline set up for families to access information on Cedarcroft residents
HURON-PERTH – Over the weekend, to stabilize the ratio of staff to residents in the Cedarcroft Place Retirement Home, the healthcare organizations involved in the management of the outbreak at the facility started a decanting process which has already seen 10 residents moved to local hospitals.
“One of our residents tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 27,” said Lilly Goodman, chief operating officer OF All Seniors Care Living Centres, the company which operates Cedarcroft Place Retirement Home.
“COVID has hit our residences hard and fast.”
As of Nov. 15, there are 60 positive cases at the home (42 cases in residents and 18 in staff).
“We have lost four cherished residents in this outbreak which is heartbreaking,” said Goodman.
Cedarcroft has 85 suites for individuals or couples. Goodman said many residents have entered as healthy seniors and feel comfortable enough to stay until they are in palliative care.
“Since Oct. 27 we have been working with local Public Health, community and medical partners to assist our residents … this has included providing us with much-needed staffing which is challenging during this outbreak,” said Goodman.
Infected staff who were in isolation but have recovered have started to return to work.
“We’re very thankful for their return,” said Goodman. “This will assist in further stabilizing our staffing levels. We intend to have a significant contingent of staff on hand – essentially higher staffing levels than what we would find in normal times.”
Goodman said they understand the importance of direct communications between families and staff but admitted they have not been able to reach out to as many families as they would have liked because of staffing shortages.
“Today we are setting up a hotline for the families to have a centralized point of communication,” she said. “We intend to staff the number 24 hours a day. From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., we plan to get back to families within an hour. From 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. we will get back to families within four hours. You can call us at the home’s number which is 519-273-0030.”
Dr. Miriam Klassen, Huron-Perth’s medical officer of health, said that the third round of prevalence testing will begin Monday for staff who have been negative and asymptomatic since the beginning of the outbreak.
Andrew Williams, president and CEO of Huron Perth Health Care Alliance, said many healthcare organizations in the area have pitched in to help supply staff to Cedarcroft since the outbreak began.
“With staff going off ill obviously the numbers available has dropped so we’ve been able to redeploy staff from the LHIN, from the hospital, from LSHC this week which is remarkably beneficial and helpful,” he said.
The other area of focus he mentioned is serving the needs of residents.
“We have two physicians … in the home,” said Williams. “We have tremendous physician support. Their focus has been to access all residents and make decisions which are in the best interest of the immediate health and well-being of the residents.”
Those decisions have resulted in 10 transfers from Cedarcroft to hospitals in Stratford, Ingersoll, Woodstock, Wingham and Goderich. There are more transfers anticipated.
“It is based purely on the medical assessment of needs of individuals and the staffing complement to support – it is in the best interest of the people who we are supporting today,” he said.
Moving forward, Williams said the commitment at Cedarcroft is to stabilize staffing.
“We’re in a better position now than we were last week,” he said. “I want to give an absolute shout out to the staff who are there from Cedarcroft, the HPHA, the Southwest LHIN, physicians, the paramedics – it is remarkably impressive for me to go in and witness the caring and compassion.”
According to Dr. Paul Gill, Huron-Perth pandemic primary care lead, the differences between the infrastructure of a retirement home and a long-term care home meant changes had to be made when they were preparing Cedarcroft for physician response. They needed to get care items such as oxygen, medication supplies and equipment into the home.
“So to that end I do want to send a thank you to Stratford Shoppers Drug Mart for mobilizing medications, the Ontario Home Oxygen company and Perth County EMS for mobilizing oxygen to help support residents in place,” he said. “As well as physicians … for accommodating and helping manage the transfer of patients in a high quality and seamless way.”
On Nov. 14 the physician response centred on identifying acute medical needs which resulted in five COVID positive patients and five who had acute medical needs but remained COVID negative being moved out of the retirement home. The movement of patients is mainly being done to maintain staffing ratios.
Klassen said the preferred approach with an outbreak in a congregate setting would be to provide resources to keep all the residents in their home which would minimize the risk of introducing infection into other settings.
“As well it preserves hospital capacity,” she said. “However, if we are no longer able to provide safe care in the facility because the demand is outstripping the capacity then decanting is the next option.”
She acknowledged capacity around personal support workers and resident aides is tight in the health care system across Canada.
“During an outbreak … the need for staff goes up because the workload goes up with all the enhanced outbreak measures,” said Klassen. “So, in the interest of keeping every resident safe and receiving the appropriate care, this decanting is happening.”
As the decanting continues, efforts are being made to increase resources in Cedarcroft to provide care for the remaining residents.
To assure the rest of the community that decanting is a safe procedure, Klassen reminded people local hospitals have been preparing to receive COVID positive patients since the first wave began.
“They’ve been preparing for this and dedicating space to receive COVID positive patients,” she said.
“Just to add to that, from the paramedic service perspective, the actual act of the transfer itself is well coordinated with physicians as well as the hospitals and all the protocols and processes which take place at both ends are in place to ensure the safety of everyone involved including the patient,” said Mike Adair, chief of Perth County Paramedic Service.
Williams said they keep track of all available beds across the region and attempt to organize transfers with that knowledge in mind.
“We certainly gave hospitals the heads up a couple of days ago we were going to be looking at this so they started to employ their protocols to free up beds if they could,” he said. “So it is a system focus.”
According to Goodman, All Seniors Care Living Centres have set higher standards than all levels of government have set across Canada.
“By that, I am saying before government thought of single-site employment I implemented it across the country for my employees,” she said. “I implemented it so we would only have them coming in (to our retirement homes) and not have them working at McDonald’s or the Dairy Queen so that has been something we have been doing for a very long time. Again, at this facility as recently as two weekends ago, I was on with the union saying we will pay extra money to have that happen here out of our pockets because, as you well know, we are not subsidized by anyone. So we are paying extra money to do that. An extra $2 premium has been implemented by us for all of our staff members who are coming in to work.”
She said she believes it is very common within the healthcare industry for people to work at two different locations.
“Before COVID I think a lot of people did but during COVID, no, not in our buildings,” said Goodman.
“Quite frankly, as we’re trying to bring staff in, oftentimes we’ll get staff from agencies … they may not have the comfort level we think is necessary so we’ve deployed an infection prevention and control professional right into the home who is ensuring that any person coming in there to work has all of the right skill sets from an infection prevention and control perspective because … people are moving around the communities and we want to make sure when they come into this environment or any environment hospital-related they are following all the right protocols and they have all the resources they need to be safe,” said Williams.
Gill closed out the press briefing on Sunday by saying all the key stakeholders dealing with the management of the outbreak are having multiple meetings daily and decisions have been made to allow “for adjusting on the fly to the requests of the leadership at this table, to adapt and do things differently than the system typically supports in the best interest of the patients and individuals at Cedarcroft.”
Colin Burrowes is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the Listowel Banner. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.