COVID-19: How OMNI is responding to the pandemic

In Part 1 of a two-part story, we look at how OMNI has stayed ahead of the curve during this crisis as well as pay tribute to the people who have been ‘the true heroes of the pandemic’ – the staff members

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has tested OMNI Health Care and everyone connected to its 18 long-term care homes, but thanks to a dedicated team of staff members, diligent planning and steady, strong support from families, the organization is meeting the challenges faced by this crisis.

When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 crisis a pandemic on March 11, OMNI had already spent a month and a half putting protocols in place to ensure the safety of residents and staff, says Patrick McCarthy, OMNI’s president and CEO.

Screening processes were in effect at OMNI homes starting in late January, as the spread of the virus worldwide dominated headlines every day. As the crisis evolved, WHO-recommended measures were continuously ramped up to keep residents and staff members safe.

“There was already screening going on in early March when the advisory came out about active screening and limiting visitors for safety sake,” McCarthy says. “It really made a difference in the lives of the residents.”

When the pandemic was declared, homes immediately limited entry to all but essential visitors, and all non-essential programs, appointments, tours and visits from community agencies were cancelled, along with out-of-home educational seminars and meetings for staff members.

Active screening has since been in place at each home’s entrance by a staff member who screens staff, essential visitors and delivery personnel with questions regarding symptoms and contact with persons experiencing symptoms who have travelled or who have confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19.  Screening is now expanding to include temperature checks, including pre- and post-shift for staff.

Communication is crucial at this time, so OMNI’s head office is sharing information and policies, and having regular teleconferences with the 18 homes to keep them informed and to share information, McCarthy says.

McCarthy underscores that OMNI understands the stress placed on residents and their families while there is restricted visitation. He adds that the residents and families have been supportive of measures OMNI has taken to keep everyone safe.

“Our hearts really do go out to the residents who have been isolated from their families and for the families who not been able to see their loved ones,” he says.

“As difficult as it is to isolate residents from their loved ones, it is necessary to do so in order to protect residents, who are often elderly, frail and vulnerable.”

Because residents and their loved ones cannot have in-home visits at this time, other measures have been put into place to keep residents connected. Telephone calls and video-chat platforms, such as Skype and FaceTime, are being used to keep residents and families in contact.

Residents and their loved ones have also been having “window meetings”, where family members arrange to stand outside closed windows to wave at their loved ones or hold up signs with personal messages and greetings for them to see.

McCarthy characterizes staff members in each of the homes as “the true heroes of the pandemic.”

“I’m really so proud of the way our people are responding,” he says. “They really care about our residents, their families and each other, so it’s really compelling.”