(With files by Brendan Pawliw-MyPGNow)
“It’s not the visitors bringing the virus into care homes.”
That’s from BC Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie who is a little frustrated long-term care homes and assisted living facilities were not included in the initial easing of restrictions, which are now in effect as of today (Thursday).
Mackenzie told Vista Radio the decision to wait until March or April to lift restrictions in long-term care is a bit of a head-scratcher since nightclubs and other indoor venues are allowed to be at full capacity with masks and the BC Vaccine Card still in play.
“Why are we still under these very, very heavy, restrictions in long-term care. So, everybody is getting a visitor now, that is correct – however, they are only getting one visitor and it’s the same visitor.”
“We are continuing to see cases and outbreaks but the majority of the deaths occurring right now are not in long-term care they are taking place in the community amongst seniors but that is where we are seeing the transmission.”
She added the temporary measures announced during the holiday season have placed an unnecessary strain on families.
“That means we have gone two, three months where if someone has two daughters only one of them has been able to see their mom for the past two months. Yes, I still think we are missing the point here a bit on how we are viewing long-term care.”
Earlier this month, residents at long-term care homes could designate their own visitor and can have a backup in case someone is sick or can’t come in.
In BC, there are currently 36 facilities with ongoing outbreaks. With that in mind, Mackenzie remains puzzled as to why staff members aren’t being tested as rigorously.
“It isn’t the visitors bringing the virus into the care homes because they are being tested each time they arrive and they are testing negative. But, we aren’t testing the staff every day. I continue to be a bit frustrated about how we are managing this in long-term care.”
“However, with that being said, I think we are managing it very well in other areas.”
During the surge of the Delta variant, well over 100 ICU patients were transferred from the north to other health authorities to receive treatment.
Mackenzie noted each of the health regions of BC has at one point or another been the leader in the rate of infections.
The Seniors Advocate noted the biggest challenge for our region has been health service capacity.
“So, I think that has been an added challenge in Northern Health. I think there has been more of a challenge around the vaccination rates in Northern Health, predominantly the concern has been the lack of limitation on health services.”
When asked how Mackenzie foresees how long-term care and assisted living facilities living with the virus, she was quick to mention outbreaks didn’t get near the amount of attention they are now, especially during 2016 when more outbreaks were reported than compared to the last two years.
However, since vaccines have been administered, the mortality rate from the virus has dropped drastically.
“Before the vaccine, COVID-19 was more serious than influenza for sure. But, in a post-vaccine world, our case fatality rate has dropped from 30% before the vaccines to 4.8%.”
Mackenzie is of the opinion COVID-19 has put more focus on operational practices.
“We have learned from the review that it is important to have a robust staff of registered nurses, that if you have fewer nurses you are more likely to have large outbreaks. I certainly think we have learned that it is important to support staff who aren’t feeling well to stay home.”
“The way we dealt with outbreaks before there was never this provincial approach that covers an order for all care homes in the province regardless of whether they experienced an outbreak or not such as what we are seeing now with our visitor restrictions.”