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Report finds communication, coordination issues in B.C.’s long-term care COVID-19 response

Click to play video: 'New report outlines problems with B.C. long-term care response to COVID-19 pandemic' New report outlines problems with B.C. long-term care response to COVID-19 pandemic
WATCH: A new report into the early response in long-term care homes to the COVID-19 pandemic last spring says there were a number of problems. And as Richard Zussman reports, the government is also being criticized for the delayed release of the report. – Jan 25, 2021

A report the B.C. government commissioned in April to examine COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care (LTC) homes identified various gaps in the system, but ultimately concluded the province managed the first wave well.

The report, done by EY, was commissioned in late spring and handed over to government in October just before the provincial election.

“Although this report identifies ongoing challenges and areas for improvement, BC’s response to COVID-19 as outlined above was widely seen as the key contributor to BC’s lower outbreak and mortality rates,” the report reads.

“Given the nature of an after-the-fact the review, there is a tendency to focus on what did not work during the initial stages of responding to COVID-19. It is important to acknowledge the tremendous effort of individuals and organizations across the health system that came together to respond to this unprecedented global pandemic.”

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“We want to avoid another outbreak like this if possible” Review into Interior Health’s deadliest long term care outbreak to take place – Jan 25, 2021

The province has been criticized publicly for not releasing the report until pressured by the media. The introduction in the report acknowledges that although ‘LTC facilities’ across Canada have been hit hard by COVID-19 outbreaks, British Columbia has seen lower infection and mortality rates than other large provinces in Canada.

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“It was available at the end of October and it was only brought to my attention 10 days ago, and I would say put this in context. It should have been released earlier. I take responsibility for that. I’m the Minister of Health,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said.

The report does detail specific policy orders from the provincial health officer were interpreted differently by health authorities and there were gaps in communication. The province also struggled early on with consistency around the single site worker policy and ensuring there was enough personal protection equipment.

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Click to play video: 'B.C. government to release a report on pandemic impact at long term care homes' B.C. government to release a report on pandemic impact at long term care homes
B.C. government to release a report on pandemic impact at long term care homes – Jan 23, 2021

“There was general acceptance that there were gaps in Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) and emergency preparedness, including inconsistent application of clinical standards and use of PPE, as well as the availability of PPE supplies,” the report reads.

The report does not address recent concerns around the spread of the virus in long-term care. Seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie has noted the virus has spread more easily in care homes in the second wave than in the first. This report focused on issues raised in the first wave.

“As we have had more transmission in our communities, that is reflected in outbreaks in long-term care. That’s the single most important factor, and we have seen that around the world,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

“There were some of the issues that were identified that are not things that are going to be solved within the matter of months and weeks. They are longer-term issues that we’re still dealing with and still struggling with.”

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Read more: Federal panel recommends rapid COVID tests in long-term care; B.C. still reluctant

EY conducted one-on-one or small-group interviews with more than 40 stakeholders, including the Ministry of Health, health authorities, the BC Centre for Disease Control, seniors’ associations, care home operators, providers, front-line staff and the Hospital Employees’ Union for the report.

BC Care Providers CEO Terry Lake says there has consistently been a lack of communication between those in the sector and the provincial government.

“If you look for a theme through this, it has been a lack of communication and lack of coordination and that has been a theme throughout,” Lake said.

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