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Grey County LTC homes remain COVID-free amid increased testing

Every resident and staff member in Grey County's LTC will be tested for COVID-19 by the end of this week.
2020_03_24 Grey Gables long term care home_JG
At the Grey Gable LTC home, staff report making environmental changes to ensure sufficient isolation by creating one dedicated isolation room on each wing. Contributed photo.

Universal testing for COVID-19 is well underway at the long-term care (LTC) homes across Grey County.

“Even though the testing numbers have universally increased, we continue to not have any COVID-19 outbreaks in any of our homes,” said Jennifer Cornell, executive director of LTC for Grey County during a virtual LTC committee of management meeting held earlier today.

In mid-April the Grey Bruce Public Health Unit (GBHU) received 500 additional COVID-19 testing swabs, which were distributed throughout the county’s three LTC homes.

The boost in testing units allowed Grey’s LTC to increase testing swabs from 10 to 28 per home.

On April 22, the province of Ontario announced the further requirement of mass testing in LTC homes. Cornell says, at that time, all LTC homes across the province were triaged into three categories - red, yellow and green.

Initially, GBHU was instructed to focus on testing in homes triaged as yellow and red. All three of Grey County’s LTC homes remain in the green category.

As of May 1, the province began to test all LTC facilities, regardless of their classification.

“The testing numbers regionally have increased and the homes are now being universally tested. Yesterday it was Lee Manor, tomorrow is Grey Gables and Rockwood Terrace,” Cornell said.

At the Grey Gable LTC home, staff report making environmental changes to ensure sufficient isolation by creating one dedicated isolation room on each wing.

“We have been using the isolation rooms for admissions into the home or if someone has been swabbed, they are moved into the isolation rooms until we hear the results,” said Shannon Cox, executive director of Grey Gables.

Renate Cowan, executive director of Lee Manor was the first to conduct testing of the entire LTC facility.

“All of our swabs to-date have been negative. Lee Manor swabbed all the residents and all of the staff, so we did over 330 swabs yesterday,” Cowan said.

Grey County’s LTC homes have also established daily check-in calls with the senior management and have been providing additional education to staff about COVID-19 through an eLearning platform.

The facilities have been regularly updating screening tools with new symptoms, temperatures and questions to reflect the COVID-case definition.

“When we notice any kind of symptom in a resident, we isolate the resident and conduct that test. The test will look for COVID-19, as well as other respiratory infections,” said Cornell.

The LTC department reports adequate PPE supplies in the past two months, with staff monitoring stock levels daily.

Grey County has also established a new temporary staff role – an emergency support worker – who will be trained to aid with tasks in every department.

Cornell also reports that management has begun to look into developing processes and procedures for a phased-approach to relaxing COVID-19 restrictions.

“The focus is balancing the risk of a COVID outbreak and the need for caregivers and families to be in the homes to support the overall wellbeing of our residents,” Cornell said.

In consultation with GBHU, Grey County LTC homes will begin window visits with an appointment system as a first step in reducing visitor restrictions. 

Cornell added that the department is also awaiting further information from the provincial government on previous announcements made regarding increased funding to LTC homes and wage increases for all LTC staff.

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Jennifer Golletz

About the Author: Jennifer Golletz

Jennifer Golletz covers civic matters under the Local Journalism Initative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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