Two residents have died in a COVID-19 outbreak at the Hillsdale Estates long-term care home in Oshawa, despite vaccination among most of the residents.
Durham Region's public health unit declared an outbreak at the home on Aug. 27 after one staff member and two residents tested positive for COVID-19.
As of Sept. 6, Hillsdale Estates had 16 active COVID-19 cases among residents and six active cases among staff. The outbreak now accounted for a total of 28 cases — 20 residents and eight staff — according to a statement from the long-term care home.
Hillsdale Estates said that 95 per cent of the residents and 83 per cent of employees are fully vaccinated. Agency staff that come into the home are also fully vaccinated, the statement from the home said.
"At this time, we have not received confirmation on the COVID-19 strain to determine if it is a variant of concern. We are currently working with the health department to arrange vaccination clinics for the third dose."
The home, located at 590 Oshawa Blvd. N., has 300 beds for residents.
LTC advocate calls for mandatory vaccination
Vivian Stamatopoulos, an associate teaching professor of criminology and justice at Ontario Tech University and an advocate for long-term care home residents in Ontario, said the province must mandate vaccinations among staff at long-term care homes to prevent outbreaks.
She said she gets messages from worried family members "all the time."
"Families are fed up," she said. "They're scared, they're angry. They know there is an option to prevent this from happening over and over again."
She said the outbreaks have often been driven by unvaccinated staff and by the Delta variant.
"We've had rolling outbreaks in long-term care homes for well over a month now," she said, such as outbreaks at Tansley Woods in Burlington, Labdara Lithuanian Nursing Home in Etobicoke and The Village at St. Clair in Windsor.
She added that the Hill Estates staff should be at 90 to 95 per cent vaccinated, not at 83 per cent, in the context of the Delta variant.
"We're not where we need to be. It just takes one mistake, one infection and control error, one missed rapid test, one missed opportunity to detect the virus. Once it gets in that home, it causes havoc," she said.
"I don't understand why we're playing Russian roulette with these seniors' lives."
Ontario LTC ministry says vaccination efforts "extremely successful"
In response to questions about why long-term care home outbreaks are still happening in the province, the Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Care said that the COVID-19 pandemic has created "unprecedented challenges in the health and long-term care sectors."
The provincial ministry did not answer a question about whether vaccination should be mandatory for staff in long-term care homes, but said their efforts so far have been successful.
"Our efforts to improve vaccine uptake for long-term care home staff have been extremely successful," they said. "Based on the provincial system, it is estimated that more than 90 per cent of staff across Ontario have received at least one dose of the vaccine in total since the start of the vaccination program."
The ministry said the provincial government has provided $2 billion in COVID-19 emergency funding for the long-term care sector since March 2020 to improve infection prevention and control.
They said efforts to limit the spread of the virus also include the use of rapid antigen testing for staff and visitors, limiting admission of new residents to make sure only two residents are in each room and restricting the movement of employees between homes and other health care settings.