Coronavirus: Ottawa hospitals lending staff to worst-hit long-term care homes

Laurier Manor is among the four Ottawa long-term care homes hardest hit by the novel coronavirus. Justin Tang / Canadian Press

Some of Ottawa’s long-term care homes that have been hit hardest by outbreaks of the novel coronavirus are getting extra staff support from the city’s hospitals, Dr. Vera Etches said Friday.

Ottawa’s medical officer of health told media on a conference call Friday afternoon that hospitals are helping long-term care homes to assess what resources they need to help get outbreaks under control and maintain care for their vulnerable residents.

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Local hospitals have been lending staff, both as extra personal support workers or as additional cleaning staff to help homes keep up with new sanitation demands, depending on what each residence needs.

Long-term care homes have been hotspots for the novel coronavirus in Ontario since the pandemic began, though Etches noted Friday that most of Ottawa’s residences remain infection-free.

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There are currently 15 ongoing outbreaks at long-term care homes across Ottawa, with the vast majority of cases clustered in four homes in particular: Carlingview Manor, Madonna Care Community, Laurier Manor and the Montfort Long-Term Care Centre.

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Those four long-term care homes account for more than a quarter of all lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in Ottawa.

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In Friday’s report, Ottawa Public Health identified 24 new cases of the coronavirus in the past day, bringing the city’s total number of lab-confirmed cases to 1,603.

Seven more people died in relation to the virus, however, raising Ottawa’s pandemic death toll to 148.

Among the recent fatalities related to the virus in Ottawa was a worker at Madonna Care Community, marking the first death of a health-care worker on the frontline of the pandemic.

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“It’s very difficult to lose a member of the health-care community and we are really feeling devastated by this, on top of the deaths of the residents,” Etches said Friday.

As health-care workers continue to battle the virus in hospitals and long-term care homes, Ottawa has been slowly reopening this past week, loosening restrictions on numerous outdoor activities.

On Wednesday came a long-awaited decision to restore access to green space in public parks for individuals and families to spend time outdoors while maintaining physical distancing and avoiding amenities such as play structures, which remain banned under Ontario government legislation.

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Mayor Jim Watson said Friday that beginning Monday, the city will start sending “park ambassadors” to popular outdoor areas in the city to help explain what is and isn’t permitted amid the changing rules around parks and associated amenities.

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Not to be deterred by some early morning snow flurries, Watson also kicked off gardening season Friday at the Knox United Church community garden.

The Ontario government deemed community gardens essential on April 25, and Ottawa Public Health has since been working with Just Food to establish a framework to open the city’s more than 100 public gardens while maintaining physical distancing efforts.

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