After 53 days in outbreak status and two resident deaths, Virgil's Pleasant Manor is now free of COVID-19 cases, Radiant Care CEO Tim Siemens says.
With that news, there's a general feeling of relief in the facility that residents are safe, he said.
An outbreak of any type puts an extra “weight or burden” on staff, Siemens said, especially COVID-19.
“Typically when you're in outbreak, whatever kind it is, it takes a lot of focused effort on the staff. And this one, it lasts a long time, or it certainly did last a long time — 53 days — so being declared out of outbreak, it does lift morale, it does take a burden away in that sense from a psyche perspective.”
He said it's also a relief to have an “extra layer of protection” now that residents and staff have been vaccinated.
It's always the hope that once out of outbreak, you won't go through it again, he said.
“But as we as we know and understand more of this COVID virus and its variants, we just want to make sure that we're doing all that we can to remain vigilant and to protect our residents and our tenants and our staff with PPE and have measures in place that are based on the provincial guidelines and public health, to ensure that we're doing our part to keep anything out, COVID or any of its variants.”
He had high praise for Niagara Region's public health department.
“We couldn't have done it without public health,” he said.
When an outbreak is declared, public health comes in right away to do an enhanced inspection of the entire home and continues inspections throughout the outbreak.
“They come in unannounced and it gives an opportunity for them to see what's happening,” he said.
“It's like a report card. So you can see the areas that you're excelling in and the areas that you might need to work on. And then obviously the expectation is to fix those areas that need to be worked on.”
He said while there have always been outbreak protocols, the ones for COVID-19 are “a lot more rigorous.”
But outbreaks are about more than just numbers, he emphasized.
“We see it every day — numbers, numbers, numbers, right? It can be so easy to forget that behind each one of those numbers is an individual story and an individual life.”
“We can never forget that there's an incredible story and an individual story behind each of those numbers. That's one of the things I've learned from this,” he said.
“The impact of this particular virus on a person's psyche and a person's mind and, I don't know about yourself, but each of us seems to be on a spectrum of fear and anxiety — fear of the unknown, anxiety of where is this thing going — and it's a very emotional time,” he said.
“And then people start passing away in your home. With humility, it's such an honour to serve these people and to recognize and remember that there's an individual story behind each one of these people.”
“We care for residents. And we care for residents well. And that means getting to know these people, learning who they are, and you become family. And when, when they pass away, we grieve.”
He said during the pandemic, the home is operating with enhanced cleaning and infection control protocols at all times.
At the Niagara Long Term Care Residence on Wellington Street, a COVID outbreak that led to 11 deaths and more than 120 infections is now coming to an end too. As of Tuesday, the home had no resident cases and just one staff person still recovering.
Public health has lifted the outbreak status in all home areas with the exception of two parts of the home, the Shaw and Pinery wings on the facility's second floor.
“This has allowed many residents to leave their rooms, engage in small group programming and even small-setting communal dining — all very limited and controlled, but balancing the physical and emotional well-being of our residents with all infection prevention and control protocols,” said executive director Chris Poos.
He said the home remains in regular contact with public health officials and is continuing with infection prevention and control measures, including rapid testing and twice daily screening of residents and staff for any signs of the COVID-19 virus.
“We remain hopeful that if our test results continue to be negative, and there are no suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, that public health may consider lifting the outbreak status here at Niagara on Feb. 28.”
NOTL's third care home, Upper Canada Lodge, which is operated by the Region of Niagara, has not had any reported COVID cases.