‘Situation is extremely fluid; all of our homes have been very well prepared’
In an effort to keep residents and staff members safe in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, OMNI Health Care has been enacting Public Health Ontario protocols to reduce the chance of exposure to the virus in the organization’s 18 long-term care homes.
A month before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, OMNI began putting its pandemic plan into place.
At the time of this publication, there have been 142 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario and 247 confirmed cases in Canada, according to Ontario Ministry of Health reports as of March 15, 2020. These numbers are changing rapidly.
None of these cases are in OMNI homes.
“All of our homes were very prepared,” says OMNI’s clinical operations manager Susan Cymbaluk. “We enacted the pandemic plan immediately and rolled it out to all 18 homes and (we are) checking in with them daily.”
OMNI has now instituted restrictions to visiting, allowing only “essential visitors” with family members who are very ill or requiring end of life care, in accordance with recommendations of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.
Access to each home is restricted to a single entrance where active screening occurs. Non-essential programs, appointments, tours and visits from community agencies have been cancelled, along with out-of-home educational seminars and meetings for staff members. We are working to assure continued access to personal protective equipment for all homes.
Faced with visiting restrictions, families can opt to have “wellness calls” with staff members over the phone or to enquire about the availability of “facetime” or alternative video conferencing method to keep up to date of any developments. Families have been understanding and supportive of the visiting restrictions, Cymbaluk says.
Active screening is carried out at each home’s entrance by a staff member who screens staff and essential visitors and delivery personnel with questions regarding symptoms, contact with persons experiencing symptoms who have traveled or with confirmed/probable cases of COVID-19.
“We are following everything that (Public Health Ontario and other government sources) have instructed us to do,” Cymbaluk says. “Remaining calm is very helpful (as well as) following all the guidelines with hand-cleaning and respiratory outbreak management.”
Symptoms homes are monitoring for are acute respiratory illness, fever, new or worsening chronic cough, chest congestion and shortness of breath, extreme fatigue and extreme body aches.
Cymbaluk says families are encouraged to stay informed of any updates related to the situation and should feel free to contact homes if they need to.
“OMNI Health Care is committed to protecting the health, welfare and safety of our residents and employees, and we welcome wellness calls to check on your loved one”, she says.
Additional resources and information regarding COVID-19 can be obtained from the following sources: