Increased visits to B.C. long-term care homes not likely any time soon | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Increased visits to B.C. long-term care homes not likely any time soon

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides an update on COVID-19 on July 6, 2020.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Province of B.C.
November 05, 2020 - 4:44 PM

The call for a quick loosening of visitation restrictions in long-term care homes in B.C. is up against some extremely resistant health authorities.

Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie released the results of 13,000 responses to her survey of conditions in long-term care homes during COVID-19 earlier this week. Two of her three recommendations were to increase the number and length of visits for those family members currently allowed in along with increasing the number of people who can visit.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s first chance to respond to that report was today, Nov. 5, during her COVID-19 press briefing.

Neither she nor Health Minister Adrian Dix mentioned the report in their opening comments and only talked about it in response to questions from media.

READ MORE:B.C. may have to adjust COVID-19 strategy to get more visitors into long term care homes

Those responses showed a strong resistance to those recommendations, even on a regional basis.

“I know it’s very challenging,” Dr. Henry said. “We are working with the care home operators... to make sure we can put in these measures. It is the most challenging problem we are dealing with.”

The measures she’s talking about are to have enough personal protective equipment and staff to make sure more visits can be done safely.

Mackenzie had pointed out that having existing visitors being able to visit for longer or more often takes pressure off currently overburdened staff and doesn’t increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 because there are no additional people coming in.

But there have been a number of new outbreaks in long-term care homes in the last week so there are now a total of 28 outbreaks in long-term and assisted care homes in B.C., including one in Kelowna and another in Dawson Creek.

READ MORE: COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kelowna care home

“We’ve seen this week we have to be so, so careful because outbreaks can spread very rapidly in care homes,” Dr. Henry said.

Mackenzie noted there have been no documented cases in B.C. of COVID-19 being taken into a long-term care home by visitors.

And, Dr. Henry said that the vast majority of exposures have been confined to single members of staff who contracted COVID-19 outside of work.

Still, even a single staff member testing positive is reported as an outbreak.

In her report, Mackenzie noted many seniors are dying of other ailments and are desperate to see their families before they die so COVID-19 is not such an issue for them. While 151 long-term care residents have died of COVID-19 during the pandemic, more than 4,000 have died from other causes.

READ MORE: COVID-19 has had no impact on death rates in B.C. long term care homes

Mackenzie said she will be meeting with health authorities next week to discuss her report.


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