Families frustrated with lack of answers in Northwood review recommendations

Click to play video 'Northwood recommendations leave many questions unanswered' Northwood recommendations leave many questions unanswered
WATCH: One of the hotspots in the COVID-19 outbreak in Nova Scotia was at the Northwood long term care home in Halifax. The province is now planning to invest over $37 million to improve long-term care and address recommendations from the Northwood review. Alicia Draus reports – Sep 22, 2020

A Nova Scotia woman says she is disappointed by the recommendations outlined in the Northwood review, saying big questions remain unanswered.

Erica Surette lost her mother to COVID-19 when she contracted the virus at Northwood. Her mother, 66-year-old Particia West, passed away on April 22.

Surette has been outspoken about what she calls negligence in the care of Northwood residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The April outbreak at Northwood affected 246 residents and 114 staff who tested positive for COVID-19. Of those, 53 residents died from the virus.

Surette is now among the many family members who have called for a public inquiry into what happened at the facility.

READ MORE: Staffing issues, shared rooms led to deadly outbreak at N.S. long-term home: review

The province decided to launch a review, saying the process would be quicker and would allow them to implement recommendations in time for the second wave.

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That review is now complete and the recommendations have been made public, but Surette says it did little to answer some lingering questions.

“I still don’t feel like I know exactly what ultimately caused my mom and the 52 other residents to meet their death.”

The review itself is not being made public, but the executive summary says the key factors that contributed to the outbreak include:

  • Staffing challenges, including shortages for direct care and housekeeping staff
  • Community transmission that may have increased staff exposure to the virus
  • Structural challenges including space constraints, shared rooms and bathrooms, and limited ability to control temperature, humidity, and air flow turnover
  • Barriers to enhanced room and floor cleaning and inconsistent cleaning techniques

The 17 recommendations proposed include reducing room occupancy. However, the review does not specifically recommend getting rid of all shared rooms. It recommends creating an infection and prevention control plan with the consideration of shared bedrooms and bathrooms.

Click to play video 'Nova Scotia Health Minister talks Northwood Review with Global News Morning' Nova Scotia Health Minister talks Northwood Review with Global News Morning
Nova Scotia Health Minister talks Northwood Review with Global News Morning – Sep 22, 2020

The province has said that it will work to eliminate rooms with three or more beds, but existing two-bed rooms will stay.

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“What we have had as a province since 2007, our standards for renovating and construction are building to single room standards,” said Health Minister Randy Delorey.

Erica Surette says this isn’t good enough. She says her mother was originally in a single room when she first moved into Northwood, but was switched to a shared room in the middle of the pandemic.

Now Surette wants to see all shared rooms gone.

“In all of this, the whole point is infection control and keeping the virus down and keeping people safe. But if you have even two people sharing a room, how are you really keeping anybody safe?”

Surette also says the province has not given any indication of a timeline for when the recommendations will be followed.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Nova Scotia minister says review of Northwood facility ‘will never take away the pain’' Coronavirus: Nova Scotia minister says review of Northwood facility ‘will never take away the pain’
Coronavirus: Nova Scotia minister says review of Northwood facility ‘will never take away the pain’ – Sep 21, 2020

Health Minister Randy Delorey said some recommendations, like addressing personal protective equipment needs, have already been implemented. He said many are being acted upon immediately, but others may take more time.

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“At this point I don’t have a final deadline,” Delorey said.

Surette says this is frustrating given the circumstances. “Everything was supposed to be ready and implemented in time for a second wave and I feel like we don’t even know if that’s going to happen, that was the whole point of this,” she said.

Surette says she would still like to see a full public inquiry into the Northwood outbreak, but at the very least, she’d like more details on how and when the recommendations will be implemtned.

“Is there an audit process? Is there somebody who’s going to do regular check ins along the way? If there isn’t then again, what was the point?,” she said.