VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Five residents of a Vancouver care home have died due to a COVID-19 outbreak which has spread to more than half of the residents and more than two dozen staff.
Little Mountain Place care home declared on outbreak on Nov. 22, and the grim update about the virus’ spread was shared with family members and residents during a Zoom town hall meeting on Dec. 7
Audio of that meeting was shared with NEWS 1130 by a resident’s family member.
Vancouver Coastal Health’s Dr. Michael Schwandt explained the situation at the 116-bed home.
“For some of you it is your home, and for some of you it’s your loved one’s home, and all of you have a very close interest in this quite naturally,” he said.
“Regrettably, 59 residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19. So this has been affecting all the units of the home, and quite tragically we’ve had five deaths in the home among people diagnosed with COVID-19. As well as that 26 staff members have been diagnosed. Two of those have recovered at this point and have come back to work, while the remainder are isolating at home,” he said.
When reached for comment, Vancouver Coastal Health said it does not release specific numbers for active outbreaks, to avoid causing unnecessary concern.
Schwandt described the protocols that are in place including twice-daily symptom and temperature checks for staff and residents.
“Just knowing how elusive this virus can sometimes be, how sometimes people present with no symptoms and might be transmissible, or sometimes with very mild symptoms. In fact, every single person in the facilities have been tested at leasest once, sometimes multiple times if they develop symptoms,” he said.
A letter from Executive Director Angela Millar says a second round of testing is underway.
“As part of our approach to protect our community, all staff and residents have been tested at least once since the outbreak was declared, and we are currently conducting another facility-wide screening test of all residents and staff,” it reads.
Schwandt reassured families that “extraordinary measures” have been put in place to make sure the home has enough workers.
“Staffing can be a challenge when people are diagnosed with COVID-19, certainly when 26 staff are, there’s no question that’s a major challenge for the facility to provide the care that you appropriately expect,” he said.
The nature of the novel coronavirus means managing any outbreak is difficult, according to Schwandt.
“It’s not a flu outbreak where everybody who’s infected has obvious symptoms, it’s very challenging. One person might have a mild case, the person in the next room over might have much more severe illness,” he said.
“The work that’s happening at the site is extremely challenging, we won’t shrink away from that but we’re continuing to work flat out on the effort and it’s safe to say it’s the absolute priority to get this under control and limit the spread that we’ve seen to date.”
A profile of Little Mountain care home shows the average age of residents is 84, with 49 per cent over 85. More than half of the seniors who live there have dementia, and 36 per cent are “totally dependent” on staff for all essential daily tasks.
There are active outbreaks at more than 50 long-term care homes in the province. In a healthcare context, an outbreak is declared as soon as one worker or resident tests positive.