Public health recommends voluntary visitor restrictions at Hamilton LTCs

Will Erskine / Global News

Hamilton’s associate medical officer of health says the city is recommending limits on visitors as part of “additional measures” to curb COVID-19 cases recently popping up in the city’s long-term care (LTC) homes.

In a pandemic update on Monday, Dr. Ninh Tran said several homes have been asked to further restrict visitors beyond the two non-essential visitors per resident the province allows under its current guidelines.

“We have asked different long-term care homes as well as retirement homes to take further additional measures voluntarily regarding restricting visitors more than what the province is recommending,” Tran said.

Read more: Ontario promises new care standard in long-term care, to be implemented by 2024-2025

Tran went on to say that the city will adjust its recommendations as public health monitors an outbreak at Chartwell Willowgrove on Old Mohawk Road, which grew over the weekend by 18 cases.

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The outbreak involves 40 people, including 22 residents and 18 staff members.

“We’ll look as this outbreak unfolds and as we gain any further information from this one as well, from my provincial counterparts, where there is any additional learnings that we want to apply to it.”

Hamilton has 11 active outbreaks involving 59 people as of Monday, which includes four long-term care homes: Chartwell Willowgrove, Hamilton Continuing Care, Shalom Village and Baywood Place.

The director of Hamilton’s emergency operations centre says he supports Ontario’s move to provide nursing home residents with an average of four hours of direct care every day but warns it’s not something that will turn around quickly.

Johnson said he was “pleased” to see the province admit that the initiative to achieve a care standard will take four to five years to become reality.

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“The reality is you increase direct client care with the number of staff in a home. And that is going to take some time. The hiring of more nurses, of PSWs (personal support workers), of the staff within homes, cannot just turn around on a dime,” Johnson said.

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On Monday, Ontario revealed a plan to hire “tens of thousands” more personal support workers, registered practical nurses and registered nurses as part of a long-term care modernization.

After Premier Doug Ford laid out the basics of the initiative, he admitted a standard likely would not be achieved until 2024-25.

Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton told Global News the Ford government will implement “hard targets” over the next few years to build up the staffing.

“It is an ambitious plan, there’s no doubt about that. But we’ve been taking measures to shore up our homes on an emergency basis with COVID-19. But this is a longer-term plan,” Fullerton said.

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In the meantime, Johnson suggested Hamilton will have to make do with its current resources, believing the province’s hirings will take time considering how many long-term care facilities exist across the entire province.

Read more: Coronavirus — Hamilton reports 43 new COVID-19 cases, 7 outbreaks over the weekend

“The reality is, with the number of staff that we have and are able to afford to hire at the City of Hamilton, we just wouldn’t be able to get there without more people working,” Johnson said.

Hamilton has 198 active coronavirus cases with four people in hospital with COVID-19. Forty-one per cent (97) of new cases in the last 10 days were acquired through a close contact.

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