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There's hope the COVID-19 outbreak at Vancouver's Little Mountain Place will soon be over

Last Updated Jan 15, 2021 at 5:40 pm PST

FILE - Little Mountain Place care home in East Vancouver. (Courtesy Vancouver Coastal Health)

Only two active cases of COVID-19 remain at the Little Mountain Place care home in East Vancouver

Little Mountain Place COVID-19 outbreak has been the deadliest in B.C., but there is hope it will soon be over

Family members with loved ones who died at Little Mountain Place still have questions about how outbreak was handled

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – While questions remain about why it wasn’t contained sooner, there’s hope B.C.’s deadliest outbreak of COVID-19 will be over soon at Little Mountain Place.

Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, says only two cases remain active. She also confirms most residents and staff have now been vaccinated.

“Many, many people are very, very anxious to get their shot. We have to get consent from every family member to give the resident their shot and we don’t vaccinate residents who have already had COVID-19,” she explains.

So far, 41 residents of the East Vancouver care home have died.

The outbreak at Little Mountain Place was declared on Nov. 22, two days after a staff member tested positive for the coronavirus. However, Daly says that person had no contact with the first patient who ended up having the virus.

“The very case identified in Little Mountain was a staff person and we did put the facility under enhanced surveillance,” Daly says. “And because we did that, that’s how we identified that transmission had already occurred in the facility and that’s why we declared an outbreak. So, in that situation, and we’ve had a couple situations like this in other facilities, ideally, you want to identify the very first introduction of the virus into a facility. And it’s most often, although not always, been a staff person.”

However, family members with loved ones who have died at the facility have been expressing frustration with what they’ve called a lack of communication from operators.

Bernadette Cheung, who lost her grandmother on Dec. 20, still has questions about why the outbreak wasn’t declared sooner.

“Also, a few days before the vaccine was available for those residents. Yeah, that part hurts the most, I think,” she tells NEWS 1130. Vaccinations at Little Mountain began on Dec. 24.

Cheung believes it wasn’t until the media began pushing for more information that the Patient Care Quality office started to pay more attention to her requests.

Families still searching for answers

In addition to speaking with facility and Vancouver Coastal Health about her concerns, Cheung says she’s also been in touch with Health Minister Adrian Dix.

“I do feel like he cares. He cares about the families who have been impacted. He wasn’t able to go into specifics about exactly what he will be looking into for investigative purposes and things like that, but he did say that he would be following up with me about his discussions with Little Mountain Place and Vancouver Coastal,” she tells NEWS 1130.

Cheung continues to press for a full investigation into how the situation at the care home got so bad.

“From the beginning of the initial staff member who was infected and, to be honest, why that was not deemed a risk factor,” she explains, adding families did receive a memo on Nov. 20 informing them about the staff member, but that “it was determined to be a minimal risk exposure, so no outbreak was declared.”

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It’s now become very clear that was not the case.

“Within those two days, what was being done to ensure that even if there was a staff member infected that was low risk, what did they do to ensure that there was no exposure, and things like that?” Cheung says.

Communication with families and the associated inadequacies is also something Cheung is hoping will be under the microscope.

It’s still unclear how the first resident at Little Mountain Place contracted the virus.

“What became clear to us is that first staff case was not actually the initial introduction of the virus into the facility. It had already been spreading in the facility,” Daly says.

Normally, all it takes for an outbreak declaration to be triggered is for one resident or staff member to test positive.

Dr. Daly says that happens when it’s clear an employee — who may have been exposed in the community — sheds COVID-19 in the workplace, but not if that staff member had zero contact with someone else in a care home, assisted living facility, or hospital.

B.C.’s seniors’ advocate has promised to investigate some of the worst outbreaks at facilities in this province.