Public health officials are set to return to a Burlington, Ont., long-term care home (LTCH) on Wednesday to launch a vaccination clinic in the hopes of inoculating more staff amid a COVID-19 outbreak that has now claimed a life.
Halton Region revealed the death at the Tansley Woods LTCH on Monday. It’s tied to a current surge that began on June 28 and now includes 20 total cases as of Tuesday involving at least 15 residents and one staff member.
“This resident had tested positive for COVID-19 and public health officials have indicated that the more transmissible Delta variant is of concern in this outbreak,” the operator of the home Schlegel Villages said in a statement on Monday.
“We are grateful loved ones were able to be with this resident and the thoughts of our entire organization are with them and the team facing this sorrow today.”
Officials say the virus spread within the home despite 96 per cent of residents having been fully vaccinated and 98 per cent receiving at least one dose.
About 86 per cent of staffers at the home have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose while 52 per cent are fully vaccinated.
The home said as of Monday, all its team members have been tested and all results returned negative.
The clinic on July 7 will be the sixth at the home since the pandemic began last March, according to director of communications Kristian Partington.
The operator is also offering paid time off for vaccinations and arranging transportation to and from clinics.
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The death comes just days before the province moves ahead with a plan to loosen restrictions in homes allowing indoor visits with two general visitors and two caregivers, as well as outdoor visits with up to 10 people.
Newly-appointed Minister of Long-Term Care Rod Phillips made the announcement last week after revealing 99 per cent of nursing home residents and 84 per cent of staff had been fully vaccinated.
Personal care services are also set to resume in the homes, and there will no longer be a limit on the number of people who can be designated as caregivers.
Ontario is also set to move ahead with a plan to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates among staff at long-term care homes amid easing restrictions.
Vivian Stamatopoulos, an associate professor at Ontario Tech University specializing in family caregiving, told Global News she was “shocked” to learn only 52 per cent of staff at Tansley Woods were fully vaccinated.
“There’s still many outgoing questions and a real need for transparency to understand why the staff vaccination rates are so low at this home,” said Stamatopoulos.
She says the province needs to provide more “oversight and accountability” for LTCHs and that information on cases, deaths and outbreaks should be made public.
“This information is not publicly posted,” said Stamatopoulos.
“I have told Mr. Phillips himself that he needs to publicly post this information like the U.S. began doing in May, because they are very aware that it will serve a self-correcting function.”
In response to three current LTCH outbreaks in Ontario tied more than 30 active cases, premier Doug Ford said getting more personal support workers (PSW) vaccinated is a priority to lower the risk of seniors getting infected.
“The only way it’s coming in is, unfortunately, through people from the outside and … we need to see more PSWs get vaccinated,” Ford said in a press conference on Monday.
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The premier’s office says it’s committed to making a $3 an hour pay increase brought in for personal support workers during the pandemic permanent, but has not yet said how or when it might happen.
Dr. James Tiessen, Director of Health Administration & Community Care and an Associate Professor with Ryerson University, says the increase could potentially be “good news” since it essentially increases the average wage by about 10 per cent.
“Roughly we’re talking about a $1 billion a year to pay for that $3-increase for home care and long-term care workers,” said Tiessen.
“So if you figure the health-care budget alone is about $70 billion a year, I think it’s a billion well spent.”
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