Ontario long-term care home logs zero cases of COVID-19 in first and second wave of pandemic

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TORONTO -- One Ontario long-term care home continues to weather the pandemic without a single COVID-19 case.

As long-term care homes continue to grapple with the second wave of COVID-19, the Mariann Home in Richmond Hill, Ont. has so far weathered the pandemic without a single case of COVID-19, which families and staff attribute to a number of safety measures taken earlier this year.

“I attest that to communication and due diligence by our staff,” said Mariann Home CEO and Administrator Bernanrd Boreland. “Policies and procedures that the government rolls out I’ve looked at and in all honesty I wasn’t satisfied and I made enhancements to it.”

Since Ontario allowed essential visitors back inside long-term care homes, Boreland initiated stricter measures, requiring all visitors to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within seven days of their visit.

“The way it’s set up in the government, families just have to attest – we know that people don’t always tell the truth and my job is to protect our seniors, so I put that policy in place that they must show us evidence of a COVID test.”

The home has taken it a step further, giving families the option of a drive-in test outside the nursing home, which is performed by Director of Care.

“Because I put certain procedures in place I wanted to make things easier for the families, so that’s why I offered a drive-in testing centre, which is available to all families who come on to our COVID testing program,” he said. “By requesting those tests puts our families and residents minds at ease.”

Visits must be booked in advanced and are only limited to an hour. When inside, families are educated on safety protocols, are not allowed to roam the facility and must wear personal protective equipment at all times.

Boreland has spent tens of thousands of dollars on personal protective equipment (PPE), which he began stock piling in mid-January before Ontario recorded its first positive case. Extra funds were used to purchase the PPE, which the home now has enough to supply staff until Februrary.

Early on in the pandemic employees had to commit to only working at the 64 bed nursing home and they were being screened symptoms every two weeks. The screening is now done weekly.

Staff are also divided into cohorts, so they are caring for the same residents in the same unit at all times.

Residents are checked for symptoms three times a day at the start of every shift. This includes a temperature check, which Boreland says is more than ministry standards.

“If there is one or two symptoms from the resident they right away get swabbed and we put them into isolation until there is a negative result,” said Erly Valera, the home’s Director of Care.

Boreland has regular teleconferences with family members to keep them updated on policies and enhanced safety measures.

“All of our staff and families are grateful,” he said.

Michael Gregory’s mother-in-law has been a resident at the home for four years and praises the staff for how they’ve handled the pandemic thus far.

“At her age she is the most vulnerable,” Gregory said. “We have all the confidence she is in good hands and we longer worry.”

Worried about potential exposure to employees outside the home, additional PPE is provided to staff who is transit and a grocery order program continues to be offered to prevent staff from having to travel to busy public places.