Images show how long-term care workers may have spread the coronavirus


As the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths increase in long-term care facilities across Canada, new images reviewed by Global News have revealed some risky staff practices that could contribute to exponential growth of the disease.

Images show that several support workers in an Ontario long-term care facility did not use protective equipment such as masks, gloves and gowns correctly when wearing them outside the building . This type of equipment is intended to be thrown into the rooms after each interaction with patients to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria.

Collected at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont. – where almost half of the 65 residents of the facility died within weeks of the onset of the COVID-19 epidemic – the images may reflect a broader pattern that affects hundreds of long-term care facilities in across the country.

Workers leave the Pinecrest nursing home in Bobcaygeon, Ontario, during a break on April 1, 2020.

Workers leave the Pinecrest nursing home in Bobcaygeon, Ontario, during a break on April 1, 2020.

World News

In Quebec, approximately 25% of the 2,200 long-term care homes in the province have already detected at least one case of the disease, and some homes now see more than half of their patients infected with COVID-19.

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And almost half of the 200 Quebecers who died in the last few weeks after contracting COVID-19 were residents of long-term care homes.

Ontario chief medical officer Dr. David Williams said at a news conference on Thursday that the administration of each facility is ultimately responsible for ensuring that staff are properly trained.

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“This is part of the challenge for every organization,” said Williams. “It may seem, on paper, easy. But when you start doing it, you have to train and do it. And so continuing education and training is essential at all levels and I would therefore also support continuing education and training for PSWs (personal support staff) so that they are fully informed and aware of what they could and should do in each situation. . ”

Pinecrest administrator Mary Carr declined to comment on images of workers wearing PPE outside, but sent a statement to Global News saying that staff “work hard every day to respond to physical and emotional needs of our residents. and safety continues to be our number one priority. “

She also said that Pinecrest “was working closely with public health authorities as new information regarding the epidemic became available” and that he was “determined to implement all current and new care guidelines “

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But similar stories about the spread of the virus in homes for the aged have been spread across the country. This indicates that some personal support workers were not told about safe hygiene practices, according to Anna Banerji, a doctor in Toronto and an expert on the spread of infectious diseases.

“This is how these infections spread,” she told Global News in an interview.

“Maybe we need an intervention in these senior residences to control infections, for people to come in and have strict measures and a strict education so people will know that – even if you have gloves – you can’t use those same gloves and go out, smoke, come back, touch something else. This is not how it works, because all you do is broadcast it. ”

A worker leaves the Pinecrest nursing home in Bobcaygeon, Ontario, during a break on April 1, 2020.

A worker leaves the Pinecrest nursing home in Bobcaygeon, Ontario, during a break on April 1, 2020.

Morganne Campbell / World News

Baner’s warnings are in line with a new survey of some 2,000 personal support workers in long-term care homes by the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

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The survey found that 95 percent of respondents said they did not have access to training on how to treat or interact with patients with COVID-19.

Long-term care homes are also particularly vulnerable to epidemics because they do not have enough private rooms to quarantine a sick person and often have shared rooms.

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In addition, Ontario public health officials had previously asked long-term care homes to accept the transfer of inpatients, without requiring that one of these patients be tested for COVID-19 before be moved – a practice that provincial officials reversed on Thursday.

Ontario has also allowed staff to alternate between facilities, rather than placing restrictions on their ability to travel.

Williams, the province’s chief medical officer, said he recommends that staff not work in more than one facility, but said more discussion is needed with other stakeholders, including provincial labor officials, to make it mandatory for workers to be limited to a single installation.

He said he had just spoken to his provincial and territorial counterparts who are also trying to figure out how to restrict traffic between the different facilities.

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“Each province and territory faces the same problem in a way that protects those at risk while respecting the rights of those working in these environments, as our democratic process allows,” said Williams. “So we are trying to understand this and to help us find a solution that is accessible to all and for the protection of the most vulnerable. “

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Many workers have also expressed concern over a shortage of personal protective equipment, which has led some to reuse equipment that may spread the virus.

“This is absolutely a perfect storm, heading straight for disaster,” said Candace Rennick, CUPE Ontario secretary-treasurer.

– with files from Jigar Patel

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