It’s been an adjustment period at Northwood this week as the facility admitted over the weekend they were no longer able to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak themselves.
Despite concerns raised by the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) as nurses were moved to Northwood, CEO Janet Simm says they are now a united front and everyone is working together.
Dozens of staff members have tested positive at the Halifax facility and have been forced off work, leaving fewer people available to help residents as the number of COVID-19 cases continued to rise.
As of Friday, there are 228 cases of COVID-19 tied to Northwood. 178 residents and 58 staff members have tested positive for the virus. There have been 11 deaths related to the virus, and three individuals are now considered to be recovered and have moved out of the facility.
After asking the province for help to deal with the outbreak over the weekend, numerous health workers, including 40 NSGEU nurses from the Halifax Infirmary have moved to work at Northwood.
On Tuesday the union put out a release calling on the government to better protect front-line workers at Northwood. President of the union Jason Maclean said in the release union members were describing the facility as “walking into a war zone.”
Concerns were raised about the lack of PPEs and the lack of infection control measures in place. Nova Scotia’s chief public health officer dismissed the allegations saying an infection control practitioner at the facility said there was no validity to the complaint.
On Friday Janet Simm, said the news release was disheartening.
“It was a very, very sad day here at Northwood as a result of that because there are many folks working so hard, so diligent, in responding to the needs of our residents,” said Simm.
Simm admits that it was a challenge to integrate the dozens of health professionals at Northwood, as the facility is run differently than a hospital, but she says they have bee working together and learning from each other.
“So it is a team effort and we are united against this virus,” said Simm.
“We are united now and we’ve not made any changes as a result of the NSGEU press release.”
The facility has now nearly completed testing all residents and staff for the virus, and is working with the health authority to determine how often to re-swab individuals who have tested negative.
“We know we’re going to see some increases but we’re hoping it’s going to level off in the next few days,” said Ryan, who notes that there are currently seven floors that have been unaffected by the virus.
They are also preparing to move some other residents to the hotel once they are confirmed to be fully recovered, which opens some space to move residents around and further separate positive residents from those who are testing negative.
About 10 residents have also been removed from the facility as a result of requests from families. Ryan says anyone who was removed had to test negative and then self-isolate along with the family for 14 days.
Two residents have also been moved to the hospital to better deal with their symptoms, but Ryan says for the most part they are able to take care of residents at the facility. They have oxygen at the ready and can supply individuals with fluids by IV.
For most residents, they have already worked with their families to discuss their health-care plans and there is also a team in place from the NSHA at the facility helping anyone who wants to have further discussions around their advanced health care directives.
“In long-term care residents do have comfort care, so we do provide comfort at end of life, and that’s what our mandate is. We have hospice nurses who have done that for many years,” said Ryan.
Meanwhile, officials say they continue to receive full support from the government and says they had everything in place they needed in order to prepare.
“We were basically given the ability to bill back to the province for anything we needed,” said Ryan.
“They’ve supported us in an Infrared camera at the door to free up resources, they’ve supported us in ordering PPE that we needed and if we were running low or thought we’d run low they’ve been supplying that.”
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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