Staff have replaced shared blood pressure cuffs and other medical equipment at long-term care facilities in Vancouver Coastal Health after research found the gear could be at risk of COVID-19 contamination.
Staff collected samples at three long-term care homes experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, the health authority said Friday, swabbing 89 surfaces, including entrances, kitchens, staff communal areas, nursing stations, and care areas.
Six of the samples tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Person-to-person transmission is believed to be the primary driver of outbreaks in long-term care facilities, said VCH, but their research found that medical equipment is a potential route for transmission.
The virus was detected on four of the nine standard reusable blood pressure cuffs that were tested, as well as on the handle of a mobile linen cart and on the touch display of an electronic tablet used for medication records.
The preliminary findings, which were published in the American Journal of Infection Control, have led to changes at its long-term care facilities, the health authority said.
Shared blood pressure cuffs and other medical equipment were replaced with either disposable cuffs or dedicated equipment that is not shared between patients.
“The findings of the study have informed our response to long-term care outbreaks and highlight the need to be vigilant against COVID-19,” Dr. Michael Schwandt, medical health officer and article co-author said in a statement.
“Doing this type of research doesn’t just help us manage outbreaks now, it adds to the science on COVID-19 transmission so VCH and other health authorities have a better understanding of this new virus and so we can respond more effectively in the future.”
Nineteen people have died of COVID-19 at the Holy Family Hospital facility, the site of the sole ongoing outbreak in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. Fifty-three residents and 35 staff members have been diagnosed with the disease.