Proactive measures helped Miramichi deal with outbreak

·3 min read

Pembroke – Lots of good planning, taking extra precautions and putting special measures in place before any COVID-19 infections helped Miramichi Lodge deal with the recent outbreak which claimed two lives and now is considered over.

In giving her presentation to Renfrew County council last Wednesday, Director of Long-Term Care for the County of Renfrew, Shelley Sheedy, said the first thing on everyone’s mind when talking about the outbreak was the fact two residents lost their lives.

“Despite pulling out all the stops, it demonstrated the ‘wiliness’ of this virus,” she said.

As these residents were mourned, there was also the conviction Miramichi was prepared for the possibility of COVID infections and had put measures in place to protect residents as much as possible.

“I really don’t think we could do more,” she said.

Several precautionary measures were put in place early in the pandemic to deal with COVID, she said. The county brought in a sole employer policy for staff before it was mandatory to stop workers from working at more than one home. As well, the home was closed to community admissions and eye protection was brought in. Because the home was closed to admissions it meant it was possible to isolate patients if necessary.

“If we have a suspect resident, we are able to move them to a private room if necessary,” she said.

Ms. Sheedy said staff and essential caregivers were tested at each shift or visit. They also require proof of negative COVID-19 test results. As well, another layer of screening was brought in in January 2021. Staff worked with both the Renfrew County and District Health Unit as well as the Local Health Integration Network Regional Infection Prevention and Control Team, she said.

The first signs of possible outbreak occurred on February 20 when a close contact of a resident was diagnosed as having COVID-19. The resident was then isolated and tested and on February 21 “case 1” tested positive. The COVID isolation unit was set up and the resident was separated there. As well staff working there were cohorted so they did not mingle with other staff. Ms. Sheedy said this was a key factor in containing the outbreak.

“The COVID care unit was the former auditorium,” she explained. “It is quite large.”

Sadly, case 1 and case 4 died from COVID but five other residents who did test positive recovered, she said. As well, she added the vaccines did help with the recovery and severity of illness. Ms. Sheedy noted during the whole process residents had the option of asking to be transferred to hospital.

During the outbreak there were no variants at Miramichi. If the outbreak occurred now when the variants are in the county the outcome would likely be worse, she said.

“Vaccinations, even one dose, reduced the severity of symptoms in the Miramichi Lodge outbreak,” she added, noting 100 per cent of residents are vaccinated, 89 per cent of staff and 98 per cent of caregivers. “I would say these are among the highest uptakes in Ontario and no doubt that it did have a huge impact on the residents who did recover and the severity being quite minor in those residents.”

During the outbreak, no visitors were allowed for five weeks.

Ms. Sheedy also thanked county councillors for their forward thinking when Miramichi Lodge was built. She noted during the design and construction a decision was made to maximize single rooms.

“I can’t thank you enough for your foresight on that,” she said.

The outbreak at the Lodge is now considered over.

Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader