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News Item 16 of 1498
Miscellaneous: 26 Jun 2020
KITCHENER — The province has appointed St. Mary’s General Hospital to temporarily manage the significant COVID-19 outbreak at Forest Heights long-term care home in Kitchener.
St. Mary’s hospital asked by province to manage Forest Heights outbreak
“Despite receiving hospital support for weeks, Forest Heights has been unable to contain the spread of COVID-19,” an Ontario government news release said Tuesday. “By taking these steps, the Ministry of Long-Term Care is putting in place a rigorous management structure to help contain the spread of the disease and assist in returning the home to normal operations.”
The outbreak at Forest Heights, a privately run home owned by Revera, is the most significant and long-lasting in Waterloo Region. A total of 175 residents and 69 staff have tested positive, and 51 people have died since the outbreak was declared April 1.
The province last week classified Forest Heights as a “red” long-term care home, reserved for homes with the highest risk of COVID-19 infections. Only 19 of the province’s 626 long-term care homes got the “red” classification.
“The impact of COVID-19 has been incredibly challenging and heartbreaking for residents, families and staff of Forest Heights,” said Lee Fairclough, president and chief executive officer of St. Mary’s. “We are committed to working closely with them to support and effectively manage the response to an outbreak that has proven very complex and difficult to control.”
St. Mary’s will work with partners across the health system to lead the management response of the outbreak and prevent further transmission of the virus to residents and staff. It will immediately develop and implement a plan and provide regular communication to residents and their families, as well as the public on its website.
Revera said in a statement it welcomed the mandatory management order, “which will provide some much-needed support for exhausted leaders at the site who have worked tirelessly under extremely stressful circumstances to try to stop the spread of this devastating virus.”
The home has been battling and “extremely challenging” outbreak with the guidance of Region of Waterloo Public Health and support of area hospitals.
“The outbreak has shown signs of slowing and stabilizing, however we have had additional positive tests over the week.”
The company said the outbreak has been complex and challenging to manage in an old home with ward-style rooms and shared bathrooms. It thanked all the staff who have been working “fearlessly and tirelessly” to care for residents.
“Now as always, our first priority is the health and well-being of our residents and employees,” the statement said.
Forest Heights has already received help to deal with the outbreak, including personal support workers being reassigned from home and community care and extra staff hired to fill a variety of roles. Also, 54 residents were temporarily moved to local hospitals to make it easier to isolate infected residents at the home and lighten the workload for staff.
St. Mary’s will oversee the home for 90 days under the mandatory management order — or longer if necessary.
“The safety and well-being of residents and staff in long-term care have always been and will continue to be our number one priority,” Minister of Long-Term Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton said in the release. “I am confident that the talented staff at St. Mary’s General Hospital and Forest Heights will work together to contain COVID-19 and stabilize the home.”
Kitchener Centre MPP Laura Mae Lindo had been calling for the province to take over running the home “where management has failed to protect their residents.”
“While I am relieved to see the government is finally intervening this has taken far too long and too many residents, and their families, have suffered while this home has been neglected,” the New Democrat said in a news release.
Lindo said she has been working closely with families and front-line staff since the outbreak began, and she has been appalled by the stories she’s heard about inadequate care at the facility.
“The lack of transparency and communication to families has only added to their pain. The frontline staff have been stretched to breaking point as they do their best without the support and the (personal protective equipment) they need to protect themselves and their residents,” she said.
Johanna WeidnerRecord Reporter/Twitter/AA
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