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Transparency still questioned around deadly outbreak at East Vancouver care home

Last Updated Jan 5, 2021 at 8:26 am PST

Summary

Transparency remains a concern as Vancouver Coastal confirms 38 people have died from COVID-19 at Little Mountain Place

Families were informed of deaths at the Vancouver care home in December, but VCH has only confirmed figures on Jan. 4

B.C.'s top doctor says she was 'taken a bit by surprise' after learning data sharing was lacking

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The outbreak of COVID-19 at the Little Mountain Place care home in East Vancouver, which is the deadliest of its kind so far in B.C., continues to raise questions around transparency on virus data.

An update from the facility shared with families on Dec. 29 confirmed that 38 residents had died from COVID-19 since an outbreak was declared there on Nov. 22.

However, it was only on Monday, Jan. 4, that Vancouver Coastal Health confirmed to NEWS 1130 details about virus spread and related deaths among residents.

In addition to confirming the number of deaths at the facility, the health authority said in an email that 98 residents and 69 staff members had tested positive for the virus as of Dec. 29.

“VCH recognizes the concern families have when a COVID-19 outbreak is declared, and we want to reassure families that the health and safety of residents and staff in long-term care homes remains an utmost priority as part of Vancouver Coastal Health’s (VCH) pandemic response,” the statement to NEWS 1130 reads.

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“VCH has worked closely with Little Mountain to ensure implementation of comprehensive interventions to bring outbreaks under control. These interventions include screening of staff and residents for symptoms of COVID-19, appropriate testing of residents and staff, prompt isolation of cases, monitoring and execution of proper infection prevention and control practices. Staff also ensure the appropriate care and treatment of those residents who are infected with COVID-19 as well as the ongoing care of residents who are not affected by the virus.”

Families have told NEWS 1130 that updates on COVID-19 numbers at Little Mountain Place are not provided in writing, but only through weekly Zoom calls. Several family members who have contacted NEWS 1130 have said they are concerned about what they describe as a lack of transparency. These family members have also said they do not think the home has given them an adequate explanation of how and why so many of their loved ones became sick.

B.C.’s top doctor ‘taken a bit by surprise’ by lack of information

At her regularly scheduled briefing on Monday, Dr. Bonnie Henry said she was “taken a bit by surprise” by the lack of details shared about the Little Mountain Place outbreak.

She confirmed there had been no changes to policies when it comes to sharing data on these types of situations at care facilities.

“As the numbers increase, the actual person power to get that information every day and collate it was taking hours and hours and hours of epidemiology time because we do not have an IT system that allows us to do that efficiently,” she said.

“So we went to aggregate numbers, which we report on every day, and we went to still reporting the outbreaks, and then the aggregate numbers, and then on a periodic basis, getting the more detailed numbers. So it’s not a policy change, it’s merely trying to keep up with the amount of data that we were trying to collect.”

Henry added that her understanding is that regular updates are being provided to families.

“It has been a very challenging outbreak. It’s one of the ones that we know have been incredibly lethal and one of the reasons why we have so many measures in place in long-term care and why we’re focusing our vaccination on long-term care,” Henry said of the Little Mountain Place situation. “I know Vancouver Coastal has been on site daily and bringing in staff to support people in Little Mountain and that it has been very challenging for them.”

According to VCH, all eligible residents and most staff have received COVID-19 vaccines.

It’s unclear if any more deaths have been recorded at Little Mountain Place apart from the 38 confirmed.

Families say the next Zoom update on the COVID-19 situation at the care home is set for Tuesday.