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Northwood tenants won’t get COVID-19 vaccine right away because they’re not long-term care residents

Click to play video 'Northwood tenants won’t get COVID-19 vaccine right away because they’re not long-term care residents' Northwood tenants won’t get COVID-19 vaccine right away because they’re not long-term care residents
COVID-19 vaccine rollout is well underway for long-term care residents and staff at Northwood Halifax. Tenants in the facility's residential apartments, however, will have wait until their age group is called to receive the shot. One grandchild tells reporter Elizabeth McSheffrey, the order is problematic since the two groups of seniors living in close proximity – Jan 14, 2021

Halifax resident Kat Cochrane is worried about their grandmother.

During the first wave of the pandemic, they saw both their parents contract — and survive — COVID-19, but the 77-year-old in palliative care would not likely have the same fortune.

“It would be a death sentence for her at this point,” said Cochrane, standing outside the residential apartment at Northwood Halifax where their grandmother lives.

“She is in advanced stages of adrenal cancer, we are basically just dealing with pain management at this point.”

Read more: Northwood Halifax residents, Sydney hospital staff get first dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Cochrane’s grandmother receives palliative and continuing care support, and lives in close proximity to Northwood Halifax’s long-term care residents.

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Unlike the long-term care residents, however, she won’t be vaccinated right away because she doesn’t fall within Nova Scotia’s most immediate priority group, which includes long-term care residents, staff and designated caregivers.

“They are in the same building, it’s the same ventilation, there’s always a possibility of some sort of contamination,” said Cochrane.

“Everybody should be vaccinated en masse in my opinion.”

Global News has agreed not to identify the grandmother, as her family is concerned it could jeopardize her chances of placement in long-term care.

Click to play video 'Northwood Halifax residents, Sydney hospital staff get first dose of COVID-19 vaccine' Northwood Halifax residents, Sydney hospital staff get first dose of COVID-19 vaccine
Northwood Halifax residents, Sydney hospital staff get first dose of COVID-19 vaccine – Jan 11, 2021

While “there’s not a lot of mingling” between long-term care residents and tenants, Cochrane explained, the nurses’ station is three doors away from the unit where their grandmother lives. Those health-care staff come and go in “used” personal protective equipment, they added, and dispose of it in the same garbage chute used by their grandmother.

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Read more: Union leaders, advocates urge N.S. government to require minimum care hours in nursing homes

Cochrane and other relatives of Northwood tenants received notice this week that while vaccine rollout is underway at the long-term care facility, tenants next door will be vaccinated when the province launches immunization for seniors 80 years of age or older, or between 75 and 79 years old.

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“We know that people are frustrated and frightened,” said Murray Stenton, spokesperson for Northwood, in an email.

“When the province announced that the COVID vaccines would be coming to Nova Scotia, many finally felt some relief.”

Kat Cochrane holds the notice they received from Northwood Halifax explaining that residential tenants will have to wait a while longer to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Kat Cochrane

As it stands, Stenton explained, Northwood is following Public Health instructions to first immunize its long-term care residents, staff and designated caregivers. He also said residential tenants and long-term care residents do not have “shared spaces.”

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“The only place they could possibly meet would be the entrance to the Manor and currently residents are not permitted to be in that area,” he wrote.

“The elevators are separated so there is no way they would be in contact with each other. That won’t change for a long time.”

Read more: When is it my turn? A coast-to-coast look at COVID-19 vaccine rollout

As of Wednesday, Northwood Halifax confirmed more than 225 of its 385 of its residents had received their first dose of vaccine. Immunization clinics will begin shortly for staff and designated caregivers, both at the Halifax and Bedford campuses.

Stenton confirmed resident vaccinations will be completed at Bedford by the end of next week. Northwood has identified a total of 591 staff and designated caregivers in need of immunization.

Click to play video 'N.S. Public Health sets up ‘transition unit’ for adults waiting for home care' N.S. Public Health sets up ‘transition unit’ for adults waiting for home care
N.S. Public Health sets up ‘transition unit’ for adults waiting for home care – Dec 3, 2020

“We don’t want to take a vaccine away from somebody who it could benefit, it’s just been overall the experience that has been had here at Northwood by a lot of the tenants and a lot of the family members of the tenants,” said Cochrane.

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While they applauded the staff at Northwood for their hard work and care, they said they feel its tenants were left behind by upper management and the provincial government during the first wave, and waiting for vaccines is another example of that.

Read more: N.S. social workers call for systemic overhaul of the mental health and addiction services system

In the first phase of vaccination, the province has said it expects to vaccinate 86,000 adults over the age of 75, and at least 7,000 staff involved in the COVID-19 response, as well as family physicians, paramedics and home-care workers.

The second phase, expected to begin in May, will include all remaining health-care workers and essential workers.

The third phase — broad public immunization — is slated to begin in the summer, with the goal of having 75 per cent of Nova Scotians vaccinated by the end of September.