Rise in COVID-19 cases at Regina’s long-term care homes result of invalid tests: province

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WATCH: The Saskatchewan government says a testing issue resulted in a large number of false-positive COVID-19 tests at several long-term care homes in Regina – Aug 24, 2021

The Ministry of Health and the Saskatchewan Health Authority found that a large number of invalid tests done at the Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory has impacted the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Regina’s long-term care homes.

According to the province, there were up to 255 invalid COVID-19 test results from Aug. 18 – 22. The samples have been retested and 206 are inconsistent with the initial result.

Read more: Regina’s Extendicare Parkside among long-term care homes dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks

“Fifty-four residents at long-term care homes in Regina previously testing positive have been re-tested and confirmed to be negative for COVID-19,” the province said in a release Tuesday.

“Further investigation is underway to determine if some of the current long-term care outbreaks can be declared over and family presence be resumed at these facilities.”

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A full reconciliation of the data is taking place which should be completed by Wednesday, the province said.

On Monday, SHA listed a number of long-term care homes in Regina dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks including Extendicare Parkside who lost 39 patients to the virus in a previous outbreak.

Read more: Advocate calls for revised long-term care model to meet the needs of all Saskatchewan seniors

“Family notification is commencing immediately for LTC residents identified as false-positive that have since tested negative and for residents living in impacted facilities,” the province said.

SHA officials say they’re not entirely sure what caused the error, but are looking into it and will be able to speak to next steps once they know more. The error was detected through a quality assurance process.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority moved all long-term care homes to Level 3 family presence on Monday.

Following Tuesday’s announcement regarding invalid testing, several of Regina’s long-term care homes were moved back to Recovery Phase family presence/visitation and are no longer considered to have a COVID-19 outbreak.

They include Regina Lutheran Home, Santa Maria, Extendicare Parkside, Extendicare Sunset, Regina Pioneer Village – Transitional Care Unit, and Wascana Rehabilitation Centre Unit 2-6.

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Level 3 means family presence is now limited to end-of-life care, stated on the SHA website.

NDP responds

“We are closely monitoring the situation and await an explanation from the minister and the SHA as to the status of residents and staff regarding these invalid tests,” the NDP said in a statement to Global News.

“This does not change the fact that this government has left our seniors and care staff with limited resources during the COVID pandemic, as confirmed by the Provincial Ombudsman, and our calls to require full vaccination, mass testing in LTC, and the development of a third dose vaccination plan still stand.”

The NDP also say the government has been in hiding for weeks and that “it’s time to provide the people of Saskatchewan with some answers.

Despite this latest development from SHA, the NDP adds it’s not changing calls for action it announced Tuesday morning during a press conference in Regina.

One of those calls involves developing a third dose plan for seniors in LTC homes and priority health-care workers.

“I’ve had calls from health-care workers, from families in LTC homes who know that immunity starts to wane after a certain period, especially with the elderly where their immune system isn’t that strong,” said Meili on Tuesday.

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“We need to be having a very clear plan as to who gets a third dose and when,” he added.

Meili also says the NDP will be pushing Premier Scott Moe’s government to require full vaccination of all staff in LTC facilities and the health-care system.

“We do believe that the vast majority of healthcare workers are stepping up, but there’s some who haven’t gotten there yet and we need to make sure that anyone who’s got patient contact, resident contact, is doubly vaccinated,” he stated.

“This government has done nothing to get us to that final mile,” Meili said.

The third final call is to see mass testing in all LTC facilities in the province.

Saskatchewan Health Ministry responds to NDP’s calls

In a statement, the Saskatchewan Health Ministry responded to the NDP’s calls to action on the government’s ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response.

“There is no public health order in Saskatchewan and masking is no longer required, however, masking continues to be an option for all residents who wish to do so.

“Individuals may want to consider masking in areas of high transmission, in indoor public places or for personal health reasons,” the statement goes on to read.

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“It is important that we create an environment that respects the choices of others.”

The ministry also says local medical health officers can make additional recommendations on masking based on local case and outbreak situations, along with vaccination rates.

“Vaccination has been demonstrated to be the best protection against COVID-19 transmission and illness,” the statement reads.

“While vaccination is not currently mandatory, we strongly recommend that everyone who is eligible gets vaccinated.”

The health ministry is encouraging anyone who is in regular contact with the elderly or younger children to get vaccinated.

It adds Saskatchewan’s clinical expert advisory committee is looking at information from other jurisdictions and will consider further guidance from NACI on additional doses of vaccine.

“As Minister (Everett) Hindley has indicated, the Ministry of Health and the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) have accepted the recommendations made by the ombudsman in the report on the COVID-19 outbreak at Extendicare Parkside and we are taking immediate action in response,” the statement says.

“For example, the practice of three and four bedrooms was discontinued throughout the province as of March 31.”

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