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Industry group calls for mass COVID-19 testing at B.C. long-term care homes

A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Summary

Group calls for B.C. to mandate mass testing any time a case is found in a long-term care home

SafeCare BC wants to see same strategy that's being implemented at Alberta's border crossing at B.C. care homes

Association says the sooner cases can be identified, the better we can reduce the risk of transmission

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, there are calls for the B.C. government to implement mass testing when any case is found in a long-term care home.

There have been exposures and deaths at dozens of these facilities across the province, and SafeCare BC — the health and safety association for more than 28,000 continuing care workers — says staff members are living in fear.

“What we’re asking for is the same strategy that’s being deployed at the Alberta border crossing, the same type of test that you can have a Heathrow Airport. We’re asking that we can integrate that into the long-term care setting so that we can keep our workers safe and we can keep our seniors safe,” Jen Lyle, CEO of SafeCare BC, explains.

She adds this is a prevention tool, because the sooner cases can be identified, the better we can reduce the risk of transmission.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Lyle tells NEWS 1130. “We would like to see a testing strategy implemented as a way to screen people coming into long-term care so that the staff have reassurance that we’re not inadvertently introducing COVID into the care home, the family members themselves have reassurances.”

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She stresses the importance of a proactive approach to help ease the burden on the health care system.

In turn, she says this type of testing could also minimize the size of any potential outbreaks at these facilities.

In addition to being a proactive approach, Lyle says mass testing help help “facilitate greater family member presence” at long-term care homes, tying in with a recent recommendation from B.C.’s seniors’ advocate.

On Tuesday, Isobel Mackenzie released a report that found more people in long-term care homes would rather get COVID-19 than be alone, without family. In response to those findings, she has made recommendations, including more visits, though she notes the risk of the virus getting into care homes increases.

Almost 70 per cent of COVID-related deaths in B.C. have been residents at care homes.