22 residents have died at Windsor LTC home experiencing region's largest seniors' home COVID-19 outbreak

·4 min read

A Windsor long-term care home is reporting 22 resident deaths related to COVID-19 as of Monday.

The Village at St. Clair, which has been struggling with a COVID-19 outbreak since Dec. 8, is reporting an increase of 11 deaths from Dec. 24.

Since the outbreak began, the home has reported 202 total cases of the disease.

Of these cases, 128 are residents, 47 of whom are resolved. Another 74 are staff member cases, with 24 currently resolved.

On Christmas Eve, staff from Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare hospital stepped in to take over specific operations at the home as it struggled with low staffing levels.

The hospital's CEO Janice Kaffer, who has been at the home to provide leadership support, says some residents have been taken to hospital for acute care, though she couldn't say how many.

Ten staff members from the hospital, including Kaffer, continue to help the home.

In particular the hospital is helping out by improving communication to family members of residents in the home, which she says has been a "big issue." The hospital team has also been training staff on infection prevention and control measures and providing "on-site leadership."

Five days since hospital staff stepped in, Kaffer said the home is meeting its baseline staffing level and is projected to maintain that for the next seven days. That baseline includes having the following in each of its eight neighbourhoods:

  • One registered practical nurse and three to four personal support workers for days and evenings.

  • One registered nurse for each neighbourhood and one registered practical nurse for two neighbourhoods during the night.

She said this has been a big improvement, especially considering on Christmas Day Kaffer = ended up working as a nurse in one of the neighbourhoods as they were so short staffed.

But she said staffing can change on a daily basis.

Chris Ensing/CBC
Chris Ensing/CBC

"The issue that we're having with this virus and community spread ... is that every day, every shift, they're getting call-ins from people who are sick and not able to come to work," she said, adding that they are trying to overstaff as a result.

On Monday, the home and hospital held town halls for family members of residents and staff to identify key concerns. Kaffer said more than 90 family members joined in to receive an update on the home and ask questions.

She said these sessions were recorded for other family members who couldn't join.

"There were some questions around what does the care look like right now? Is my loved one having a bath or a shower? How do I know that they're being well looked after? And I think a lot of folks have heard the horror stories of other homes where people were left in absolutely horrible conditions and they're concerned about that," she said.

She added that Schelgel Villages CEO James Schlegel was on the call and said the home is looking to do better with its communication and be more transparent.

"I think the big struggle is the virus is still here right? COVID is extremely contagious and very opportunistic and it is an incredibly difficult virus to remove," she said, adding that a team came in to re-swab negative residents Monday and on Tuesday staff will be checked again.

She said that she anticipates her team will be on site until Jan. 8.

'Celebrate those small gains'

Despite all that the home has been through, Kaffer said she is encouraging staff to recognize the positive moments and reminding them that things will get better.

"When you're in the midst of a crisis, the important thing is to remember that every day it gets a bit better and to celebrate those small gains," she said.

For Kaffer, that moment happened on Christmas Day when she said she visited with a resident/

Kaffer said she sat and spoke with the woman for 20 minutes and wasn't the only one to have taken the time to just have a conversation.

"[I] had the most delightful conversation and I wasn't the first to have dropped in to say hi to her that day, so I think that although she's alone in her room, she wasn't fully alone, there was a number of us dropping in to say hi," she said. "There's amazing moments of humanity every day in health care centres across Ontario ... and it's always a blessing to see them in action when I get to see them in action."