Shalom Village reported its first deaths Tuesday from a fast-growing outbreak, while numbers continued to rise at Grace Villa, the site of Hamilton’s biggest and deadliest outbreak.
A man in his mid-80s from Shalom Village died Dec. 13, marking the first death reported from the outbreak that was declared Dec. 9. Cases rose from 48 to 72, making it the city’s third-biggest outbreak with 42 cases in residents, 29 in staff and one case listed as “visitor/other.”
But on the phone Tuesday evening, interim CEO Larry Levin said four residents had died at Shalom Village over the last two days. He added that 34 staff had tested positive, bringing the total to 77 cases as of Tuesday evening.
The city also issued an order Dec. 14 for Shalom Village to allow St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton to monitor, investigate and respond to the outbreak.
On Dec. 14, Levin told The Spectator that the hospital was supporting the home’s response to the outbreak after Shalom Village sought help from public health. Michelle Baird, a director with Hamilton public health, said the order is “a collaborative tool” that gives St. Joe’s the authority to act in Shalom Village, but doesn’t mean the home wasn’t complying with public health.
“In some cases, it’s not for lack of willingness as opposed to lack of ability,” she said, noting Shalom Village had contacted public health about “staffing challenges” when the outbreak was declared through a public health working group that regularly checks in with long-term care homes.
“They don’t have the staff to allow them to do what they need to do,” she said.
In an email, Agnes Bongers, spokesperson for St. Joe’s, said the hospital is in “early stages of assessing needs” and “will provide guidance and education” on cleaning, PPE and infection control “as assessed and required.”
Levin said St. Joe’s was providing nursing staff to help with resident care, and was helping identify sources for external staffing contracts, noting Shalom Village had recruited additional cleaning and dietary staff.
But Levin added the home was “finding difficulty in recruiting staff” and was looking into the possibility of hiring volunteers to help in “non-medical areas,” such as sanitizing or offering companionship to residents.
“There is a problem in recruiting staff across the city,” he said. “We’re getting to a very thin level, and I hope that it doesn’t go below that level because that would then produce serious problems.”
Meanwhile, the city’s largest outbreak at Grace Villa continued to grow rapidly. Cases rose from 132 to 177 as of 3 p.m. on Dec. 14, mostly among residents, whose cases climbed from 77 to 118.
Mary Raithby, CEO of APANS Health Services, which runs Grace Villa said “cases are resolving both in staff and residents” but declined to provide numbers.
“We don’t want to focus on numbers because they change regularly,” she said.
“My comment is that we are working closely in partnership with Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) and they are overseeing the outbreak, so that any responses and numbers need to come from them,” she said.
Asked about active and resolved cases, HHS spokesperson Mary Siegner said, “We’re relying on public health for the reporting of numbers ... so that it all comes out the same way.”
In an email, city spokesperson Aisling Higgins said, “I am to understand this would be hard to pull together this information at the moment and would take some additional time and work in order to conduct data cleansing.”
Chartwell Willowgrove, which is tied with Grace Villa for the most deaths and has the second-largest cumulative outbreak at 100 cases, now has nine active cases, according to Sharon Ranalli, spokesperson for Chartwell Retirement Residences.
Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator