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Q&A For Long-Term Care Staff

Please note that as things change rapidly, Q&As and guidelines will be updated. Review this website often to ensure you have the most up to date information or consult your leader if you have concerns or identify discrepancies. 

Update on Providence long-term care sites: March 21, 2020
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Providence Health Care is working closely with the Ministry of Health and BC’s other health authorities to protect the health of all British Columbians, particularly the most vulnerable, in our Long T erm Care and Acute Care settings.

An order was issued on March 20 by Vancouver Coastal Health’s Medical Health Officer which changes the visiting policy in Long Term Care effective immediately.

The order directs us to deny access to any and all visitors to LTC, with the limited exception of the immediate family members of a resident who is clinically assessed to be at end of life and the spiritual advisor to this resident, in which case such individuals will be subject to enhanced screening for COVID-19.

Additional protections announced for long-term care care residents

To protect this population and address anticipated pressures on the acute care system, Providence is adopting the advice of Ministry of Health for health authorities to:

  • Temporarily suspend inter-facility transfers, except in circumstances of intolerable risk, until further notice and ensure clients' place on the wait list for transfer is maintained during the suspension of transfers;
  • Prioritize admissions to long-term care from acute care over those from community where possible;
  • Temporarily suspend all health authority operated/funded home & community Care (HCC) adult day programs and;
  • Temporarily suspend the provision of in-facility respite, except in circumstances of intolerable risk.

The Public Health Order issued by Vancouver Coastal Health today comes into force within three days and remains in effect until further notice. The Order:

  • Immediately requires facilities to deny access to all visitors to the facility, with the limited exception of the immediate family members and spiritual advisor of residents who are clinically assessed to be at the end of their lives;
  • Immediately prohibits resident transfers between health care facilities unless approved by a Medical Health Officer;
  • Immediately requires facilities to carry out enhanced cleaning of facilities and enhanced screening of staff, contractors and visitors, and to adhere to higher standards for notification of cold and flu-like illnesses;
  • Immediately cancels or postpones indefinitely all group social activities;
  • Will prohibit long-term care staff and volunteers (with the exception of physicians, paramedics and laboratory technicians) from working at more than one health care facility.

Providence is taking every precaution necessary to protect the health and safety of its most vulnerable, which includes residents and staff at long-term care homes. We ask the public to also do their part, which includes staying home when you are sick and social distancing – such as staying home and at least two metres away from others – to help reduce virus transmission.

What measures are being taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection in care homes?

The COVID-19 disease is particularly serious in vulnerable seniors and can lead to pneumonia, respiratory failure, and in some cases death. Those who live in long-term care and assisted living homes or have other medical conditions are at highest risk of infection and severe illness.

Providence Health Care, like all health authorities across the province, has undertaken extensive preparations to protect and care for residents living in all long-term care homes. These measures include:

  • Enhanced cleaning: We have increased cleaning frequency to high touch areas such as the side rails, tables and elevator buttons. This should reduce the risk of transmission of virus from objects
  • Symptom Monitoring & Testing: To prevent transmission we need to identify who might be sick. This means carefully monitoring staff and residents for symptoms and providing testing where appropriate.
  • Isolation of Cases: To prevent the spread of COVID-19 we take all possible steps to keep residents who have COVID-19 in their rooms while they are recovering.
  • Physical Distancing: During an outbreak we reduce group and social activities to decrease the risk of transmission. This may mean that enjoyable activities are put on hold.
  • Personal Protective Equipment: For staff and patient safety, staff will be using personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, and gowns.
  • Limiting to work at one location: Staff are working at only one location. They are not moving between facilities.
  • No Visitor Policy: No visitors are allowed at long-term care homes, with the only exception being one family member at a time during end-of-life.
Is it safe to come to work?

Yes. We are working closely with our health care partners, the Ministry of Health and the Provincial Health Officer, and the Public Health Agency of Canada to respond to the evolving COVID-19 situation.

The critical steps to ensure the safety of our employees include: early identification of cases, prompt isolation, testing and monitoring, and executing proper infection, prevention and control practices within facilities. 

In addition to keeping you informed via this Q&A, we have organizational structures, plans and processes in place to address and monitor emerging issues like this one.​

Will staff be informed if a resident tests positive? 
We will inform all staff who have dealt with a positive resident and ensure that the proper precautions and protocols were followed. If there was a break in precautions, we will treat staff as a potential contact and will monitor for signs and symptoms for 14 days.
What should I do if one of my residents has tested positive? 

If caring for a resident with symptoms, follow​ established droplet and contact precautions and infection, prevention and control protocols.​ 

For assessment and management of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases, use droplet and contact precautions, which includes surgical masks.

Do staff returning from travel need to self-isolate or can they return to work? 
The BC Government is recommending against all non-essential travel outside of Canada, including to the United States. Anyone who chooses to travel outside of Canada is being asked to stay away from work or school for 14 days upon their return. Health care workers who provide direct patient care who have travelled outside of Canada may return to work immediately, but are being asked to self-monitor for symptoms and self-isolate at home following their shift.
Will wearing a mask protect me and or/residents? 
Masks should be used by sick people to prevent transmission to other people. A mask will help keep a person's droplets in.

It may be less effective to wear a mask in the community when a person is not sick themselves. Masks may give a person a false sense of security and are likely to increase the number of times a person will touch their own face (e.g., to adjust the mask).

Health-care workers will wear surgical masks, eye protection and gowns in order to protect themselves and other patients. During health-care procedures in which aerosol sprays may be generated (for example, when giving certain inhaled medications), health-care workers should wear specialized masks. 

For more information and guidelines pertaining to Long Term Care, please click here
Are there any restrictions on visitors to long-term care homes? 
A Public Health Order restricts visitors to immediate family members and spiritual advisor of residents who are clinically assessed to be at end-of-life. For more information, please refer to the Visitors section (Page 6 of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control Guidance for Long-Term Care and Seniors Assisted Living). A very limited number of exemptions will be granted in exceptional cases.
What happens if a staff member gets sick? 

All care staff showing any signs of illness have been asked not to come to work. If they are being tested for COVID-19, they are directed to get tested and to self-isolate until they have their results. If they test positive, they are asked to continue self-isolation as per Public Health’s direction.

A key prevention tactic has been Public Health Officials working with the Canadian Border Agency to screen people, including Canadian health care staff, re-entering BC.  Anyone who chooses to travel outside of Canada is being asked to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return. Health care workers who provide direct patient care who have travelled outside of Canada may return to work immediately, but are being asked to self-monitor for symptoms and self-isolate at home following their shift.  

What happens if a staff member gets sick? 

All care staff showing any signs of illness have been asked not to come to work. If they are being tested for COVID-19, they are directed to get tested and to self-isolate until they have their results. If they test positive, they are asked to continue self-isolation as per Public Health’s direction.

A key prevention tactic has been Public Health Officials working with the Canadian Border Agency to screen people, including Canadian health care staff, re-entering BC.  Anyone who chooses to travel outside of Canada is being asked to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return. Health care workers who provide direct patient care who have travelled outside of Canada may return to work immediately, but are being asked to self-monitor for symptoms and self-isolate at home following their shift.

Are long-term care residents more likely to develop severe illness from COVID-19? 

We are still learning about COVID-19. For people infected with COVID-19, there is a wide range in infection severity from no symptoms to severe pneumonia. Current information suggests that older people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and lung disease are at higher risk of developing more severe illness or complications from COVID-19. Although most people with COVID-19 recover, people with chronic diseases are also at higher risk of death if they become ill.

People at higher risk for COVID-19 complications should follow general preventative strategies against infection, and should they become ill, seek medical help early.

Is it safe to continue with gatherings at long-term care facilities or in the community? 

The Provincial Health Officer has asked all community activities in long-term care facilities to be temporarily suspended.

This page last updated May 27, 2020 7:07pm PDT