Medical director of Port Hope long-term care facility frustrated over vaccine rollout

A COVID-19 outbreak continues at Hope Street Terrace Long-Term Care in Port Hope. File

Hope Street Terrace Long Term Care in Port Hope is experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19.

The first case was reported on Jan. 1 and now one unit, which houses 20 residents, has widespread cases.

As of Monday, 16 residents were positive and the medical director there says two are “very ill” and two have died, while the other two have not tested positive.

Read more: Coronavirus — HKPR Health Unit expects first phase of vaccines to arrive in early February

Dr. Michelle Albert, who is also the medical director at two homes in Durham Region, is frustrated that long-term care residents at Hope Street Terrace, which is about 20 minutes east of Durham Region, can’t get vaccinated right now, while those in Durham can, because it’s a red zone.

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“It seems like someone has drawn a line in between Newcastle, Ont., and Port Hope, Ont., and suggested the people on the east side of that line somehow don’t matter as much as the people on this side, because they’re not being offered anything,” she said.

“My patients are being neglected.”

Albert says Hope Street Terrace has about 60 other “high-risk residents” that have not contracted COVID-19, but the vaccine would go a long way in protecting them.

“They’re living in a building where they share everything.  It’s a long-term care facility, it’s very high risk.  Those 60 people and the staff who work with them are sitting ducks to get infected because there is an outbreak in the home and they have not been offered a vaccine,”  Albert said.

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“It’s frustrating because we have no date to look forward to other than the fact Doug Ford has said Feb. 15, which is a long way away,” she added.  “It’s frustrating because I live in Durham Region, where we’re doing this interview, and there’s a nursing home across the street from me and nobody there has had a case but they were all vaccinated last week.”

Albert also noted another nursing home in Oshawa, where she also works, where “almost every one” of her patients has had COVID-19 and will be vaccinated within the next two weeks.

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“Meanwhile, I have these 60 residents (at Hope Street Terrace), who have not yet had an infection, who are extremely high risk of dying from an infection and are in a long-term congregate facility and who should be top priority,” she said.

“I was told last week that homes in outbreak would be given priority, but so far it’s been a week and I’ve spoken to administration and we have no date available.”

Albert said she realizes the province needs to prioritize vaccines but questions how the Port Hope facility doesn’t fall under that priority while homes a few kilometres away do.

“They shouldn’t be penalized just because they live 20 minutes down the road.”

Read more: Coronavirus: 3 new cases in Kawarthas and Northumberland; 9 active outbreaks in regions

She also noted the staff have done “an amazing job” in keeping the outbreak to one unit.

Many staff members in that unit have also contracted COVID-19 and are isolating at home.

Albert notes that replacement staff have been brought in from other areas to deal with the outbreak.

Port Hope is within the jurisdiction of the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPRDHU).

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The acting medical officer of health there told reporters on the weekly media briefing last Wednesday that the health unit expects the vaccine to arrive in the area in “early February.”

Dr. Ian Gemmill said the first phase of vaccinations would be for those working and living in long-term care, health-care workers and those working in chronic home care.

At the provincial media briefing on Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford announced the completion of the first round of vaccinations for workers and residents in long-term care homes in Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex.

“Ontario will continue to drive forward to roll out the vaccine.  We’re making significant progress towards our goal in reaching all long-term care homes by Feb. 15,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario’s minister of long-term care.

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