Rapid testing in long term care homes is essential for reducing the spread of COVID-19, new reports say | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Rapid testing in long term care homes is essential for reducing the spread of COVID-19, new reports say

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November 20, 2020 - 7:45 AM

Two reports are now out on conditions in B.C. long term care homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While one was based on a survey taken by more than 13,000 family members and residents of care homes and the other one was based on input from privately owned care home operators, they have some key recommendations that are quite similar.

“What we’re doing is not enough,” Mike Klassen, vice-president of the B.C. Care Providers Association told iNFOnews.ca today, Nov. 19. “It’s so important and so incredibly sad, what we’re dealing with right now, and we’re going to do everything we can to get it right.”

His association represents owners of private care homes in B.C. who are often vilified by family members who are struggling to get more and better visits to their loved ones living in care homes.

Many operators have sleepless nights fearing COVID-19 will invade their facilities and go to extremes to try to keep residents safe, Klassen said.

The association’s report calls on government to have more consistent and clearer guidelines, not only on how to keep COVID at bay but also on how to safely accommodate family visits.

“(There needs to be) widespread use of rapid testing systems that will allow us to have a much stronger and clearer idea of where COVID is and where it’s moving,” Klassen said. “If we can test people at airports, if we can test the Vancouver Canucks and if we can test people working in the film industry every day, we surely should be doing the same in the care homes and assisted living residences where the most vulnerable British Columbians are living.”

The vast majority of B.C.’s 320 deaths have been residents in long term care homes, with 190 dying as of Nov. 7.

Klassen noted that there are no confirmed cases of COVID entering care homes through visitors. It has always been staff who brought it in or, in rare cases, residents who were transferred from hospitals.

Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie authored the other report after surveying residents and family members this fall, getting more than 13,000 responses.

READ MORE: B.C.'s seniors advocate calls on province to make family

Her recommendations focused on increasing and enhancing family visits. But, she told iNFOnews.ca last week, one of her key goals over the next few weeks will be to lobby for testing of staff coming into the homes.

READ MORE: Seniors advocate fighting to improve visits in long term care homes despite surge of COVID-19 cases

While Mackenzie focussed on family visits, the Care Providers Association dealt more with ways to keep care homes safe, which included recommendations for more training and staffing.

Klassen fully supports Mackenzie’s work and recommendations but his members also need clearer direction from health authorities and a focus on what’s important in the fight against COVID-19.

Care home staff are trained to deal with outbreaks of influenza and other diseases but, when COVID-19 outbreaks hit, health authorities have been able to jump in and help.

But, especially in the Fraser Health region where COVID-19 is running rampant, that help isn’t always available and care home staff aren’t necessarily trained to treat residents with COVID.

What they don’t need is a repeat of inspections, for example, that focused on “decluttering” this past summer.

“Some kinds of enforcement we were seeing was not punitive but serving no purpose,” Klassen said. “Decluttering audits were a source of confusion and frustration.

“Decluttering means taking all the possessions of somebody living in a suite in a care home and putting them in storage because there’s a concern that COVID might spread through a picture hanging on a wall or sitting on top of a dresser. I think there was some pushback against that, because these are people’s homes.

“Licence inspectors were told to do this and we said this is not effective and it’s not helping residents, it’s not helping with infection control so make it stop. Of course, other inspections are important but you just have to make sure the goal is clear and that is to stop COVID and make sure people remain healthy.”

See the B.C. Care Providers Association report here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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