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Better communication, rapid COVID-19 testing needed in B.C. seniors care: report

Those responsible for taking care of the province's vulnerable are calling for changes to the sector as the second wave of the pandemic puts more pressure on long-term care homes.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Those responsible for taking care of the province’s vulnerable are calling for changes to the sector as the second wave of the pandemic puts more pressure on long-term care homes.

Rapid virus testing and improving contact between seniors and families are high on the list of 17 requests from the BC Care Providers Association.

RELATED: Visitors allowed back in B.C. long-term care homes

Terry Lake, CEO of the association, says the testing is already used elsewhere and could benefit the sector.

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“We have yet to understand why this hasn’t been implemented. It’s widely used in the United States, it’s used to keep the film industry going, to keep sports leagues going. We think it would be appropriate to use this kind of technology to protect our most vulnerable,” he tells NEWS 1130, adding stronger screening is needed to give seniors access to their families. “Lots of people are passing away, unfortunately, cut off from their families, and also to prevent the virus coming in from staff, which is what we find is happening in Fraser Health at the moment.”

The association went to its members in a series of consultations asking what they needed to keep patients and staff safe before cases spiked again the province.

RELATED: B.C. doctors, nurses face ongoing burnout as demand rises with COVID-19 cases’

Lake says another big ask is to address the staffing shortages, which have led to widespread employee burnout.

“We’ve been talking about the health-human resource crisis that the sector faces. The single-site order has somewhat exacerbated that pool because there aren’t a pool of casual employees that can fill lines when needed.”

Lake explains the Ministry of Health is already moving on some of their recommendations, such as improving the pandemic response and wage levelling, but long term, more money is needed for the sector to address its most serious challenges.

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Earlier this month, a report from the B.C. Seniors Advocate indicated most residents of care homes would rather catch COVID-19 than be alone. Isobel Mackenzie called for more visits to be allowed, among other recommendations.

Provincial health officials had restricted visits to long-term care homes back in March, when the first outbreak was declared at the Lynn Valley Care Centre. The majority of people who have died because of the virus in B.C. have been residents in long-term care and the province has warned the health-care system is facing added strain from the surge in infections.

-with files from the Canadian Press