Bruce County’s long-term care homes looking forward to resuming dining, social gatherings

·3 min read

BRUCE COUNTY – Staff and residents of Brucelea Haven and Gateway Haven are almost at the point where dining as a group, and social gatherings, can resume. However, they’re not there yet.

Megan Garland, director of long-term care and senior services, told the county’s long-term care homes committee of management that the rules are changing in response to the percentage of people vaccinated.

In her report, she stated that “flexibility may be implemented to suspend physical distancing for dining and indoor organized events and social gatherings if a home’s total immunization rate for fully immunized is 85 per cent for residents and 70 per cent for employees. Fully immunized means two doses plus 14 days after the second dose.”

The vaccination rate at Brucelea Haven is 98 per cent for residents and 68 per cent for staff. At Gateway Haven it’s 90 per cent for residents and 54 per cent for staff.

However, she noted that it wasn’t until mid-May that the province announced high-risk health-care workers could get their second dose of vaccine sooner than four months following the first dose. There are waiting lists of staff wanting to be vaccinated.

“Both homes anticipate that they will surpass the required immunization rate,” Garland said in her report.

She listed a number of changes that have occurred recently in response to an update by the Ministry of Long-Term Care, in collaboration with the office of the chief medical officer of health, of a document to help long-term care homes operate safely.

Fully immunized residents can have physical contact with their fully immunized essential caregiver.

Fully immunized essential caregivers may join the resident for meals if the resident is fully immunized as well.

There are changes to the isolation period for fully and partially immunized residents for new admissions and hospital transfers.

All staff, support workers and essential caregivers must continue to be actively screened, once per shift or visit. All staff and essential caregivers are required to wear a mask and eye protection when in an indoor area.

Effective May 22, family members and friends can visit outdoors with their loved ones who live in long-term care homes.

Chair of the committee of management, Chris Peabody, mayor of Brockton, asked, in response to a request for increased housekeeping hours at Gateway Haven, if “this is the best place to spend money, sanitizing when (the evidence is) the virus is airborne.”

The response was that “there’s also evidence it’s droplet” – people sneeze or cough on their hands and touch surfaces. From a compliance and best practices point of view, preventing the spread of COVID-19 involves sanitizing surfaces and cohorting staff (have staff assigned to a specific unit).

Peabody asked for copies of the ventilation reports from the homes, saying, “a lot of attention is being given to HVAC.” He went on to say that homes are “held to a higher standard than schools” and that he intends to introduce a bylaw in his municipality to hold schools to the homes’ standard.

“I hope the other mayors join me!” he said.

County Coun. Luke Charbonneau, mayor of Saugeen Shores, commented, “What we know works for sure is vaccination. I’m glad to see a move in the right direction for staff. Ideally, everyone who goes into those homes would be vaccinated.” He went on to say that it “breaks your heart” to see residents so isolated.

“We have to get those folks some social interaction.”

Charbonneau asked about the mood of residents. The answer was, “more uplifting than earlier.” The weather is warmer, and people can get outside in the fresh air.

“They are very hopeful.”

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times