Supportive housing facilities hit by COVID are still waiting for vaccines

·3 min read

Hamilton residents in supportive housing are still waiting for vaccines while seven facilities are in outbreak, leading one agency to get its clients vaccinated elsewhere.

Mila Ray-Daniels, CEO of Head Injury Rehabilitation Ontario, says while staff were already eligible for their vaccines, the agency’s clients — brain injury survivors living in congregate care — were being left behind in the vaccine rollout.

“Within 100 kilometres of Hamilton, there are all kinds of places you can go (for vaccines),” said Ray-Daniels. “Our clients who are people ... who live in congregate settings who don’t have access, who can’t pop in their car and drive.”

So, she decided to contact another public health unit — which she declined to name — to arrange their shots. By Thursday afternoon, all the residents were inoculated.

Ray-Daniels said Hamilton public health had previously been in touch to arrange vaccines, but there was no action. She said the city contacted her again on Wednesday about a possible clinic next week, but by that point she was already finalizing her plans.

“The other public health unit said, ‘Yes I will put the vaccine in the arm,’ so we took it,” she said.

Asked to comment, public health said Hamilton is prioritizing Phase 2 groups — about 300,000 people — with “a steady but limited” vaccine supply based on Ontario’s plan.

Hamilton “continues to offer vaccine to eligible congregate settings with shared dining and will reach out to facilities to schedule vaccine administration,” said spokesperson James Berry in an email.

Congregate settings are places where people who are not related “live or stay overnight and use shared spaces” such as sleeping areas, bathrooms and kitchens, the province says. Not every supportive housing facility necessarily fits in that group.

At a briefing Monday, public health said the rollout has begun in these facilities.

But Michelle Baird, director of operations, said the city doesn’t know how many supportive housing facilities in Hamilton qualify. “They’re still really being identified,” she said. “If facilities feel that they are meeting that definition of congregate setting, absolutely reach out to us.” The city says administrators of eligible facilities can call the city hotline.

YWCA Hamilton says it was contacted last week to collect resident information for clinics. The agency runs Laurier Place, a home for adults with developmental disabilities, which has an outbreak with the B.1.1.7 variant. Four residents and three staff have tested positive since April 20.

Medora Uppal, YWCA Hamilton’s director of operations, said it was “unfortunate” that their clients “only started to be prioritized for vaccines last week in Hamilton.” So far, the home is still waiting for their turn.

Other local supportive housing facilities in outbreak include Beth Tikvah Group Home on Main Street with one staff case of the B.1.1.7 variant. Hatts Off Inc. on the east Mountain has five cases in the B.1.1.7 outbreak, including two in residents and three in staff. Another Hatts Off location on Ninth Avenue is in outbreak as of April 28, with one resident testing positive for a suspected variant case.

Kelly’s Residence on Sherman Avenue has one resident case of the B.1.1.7 variant. Mabuhay Lodge has a B.1.1.7 outbreak with two resident cases since April 19. Harbour Home has two staff cases which have screened positive for a variant, but it’s not yet known which variant it is.

Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator