Vancouver News | Local Breaking | CTV News Vancouver
Ontario halted hospital transfers to long-term care homes due to COVID-19. Should B.C. follow suit?
VANCOUVER -- Mairi Campbell said she was talking to her mother, a Victoria care home resident, on the phone in late March when the 88-year-old suddenly began speaking to someone else.
Her mother was telling someone "Don't come into my room, don't come into my room," Campbell recalled.
When the worried daughter later asked the care home's director what happened, she learned some patients had recently been transferred in from hospital, including one with a cognitive disorder that can lead to wandering.
Right now, it’s recommended new hospital transfers are to be isolated for 14 days due to the pandemic.
“It wasn’t the fault of the care home, that’s not what they’re set up to be. It’s not a hospital, it’s a home,” Campbell said, and added at the time, workers did not have adequate personal protective equipment. “It’s not what the care aides are trained to do.”
Campbell wants to see the province take another look at its hospital transfer policy, and even follow the lead of Ontario, which put a temporary hold on such transfers last month as a protective measure.
“I think for now we need to go to that step because we don’t know,” Campbell said. “I’d like to see them review that policy in light of what we know about asymptomatic transmission and what we know about the vulnerability of seniors in long term care homes, and in regard to the capacity of the care homes themselves to be able to actually effectively implement appropriate safety measures.”
Campbell has contacted the office of the senior’s advocate of B.C. with her concerns.
Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie said the province has had a very different experience compared to Ontario and Quebec when it comes to long-term care, in terms of the percentage of care homes that have outbreaks, and the percentage of residents who have fallen ill and died.
“Those all look very different in British Columbia than they do in Ontario and Quebec,” Mackenzie said. “So I think there is a sense that if a care home is not in outbreak, it is no more dangerous an environment than being in the hospital. Not particularly safer, but not more dangerous.”
Mackenzie said while the management of hospital transfers will have to be given some thought as part of the new normal, they have been happening successfully.
“There is no evidence that any of the outbreaks are linked to a resident who has come into the home under a hospital transfer. There is no evidence of that to date. That could change,” Mackenzie said. She added hospitals are not set up to provide some of the specific types of care administered in long-term care homes, and noted there are also some active outbreaks in acute care settings in hospitals.
“The new normal is possibly an 18-month experience, so it’s not going to be possible to have no admissions to care homes for 18 months,” Mackenzie said.
If people have concerns about transfers at their relative’s care home, Mackenzie said they can contact their local medical health officer or the health authority.
In an email to CTV News, the health ministry said the 14-day isolation recommendation, while supported by the provincial health officer, is not official policy, and is “something we are continually reassessing."
The ministry added while it is standard in the Vancouver Coastal and Island Health regions, in the Fraser Health and Interior health regions when a patient is not symptomatic and has had no known contact with any COVID-19 cases, they have not been isolated in some cases.
“A patient is only discharged into long term care when it is safe to do so,” the ministry said.
Campbell said she’d also like to see the province consult with families and long term care residents about how best to move forward, to keep everyone safe.
“We depend on our care home staff. They have been real heroes,” Campbell said, and added she is very grateful to the workers at her mother’s care home for providing such good care.
She is also grateful her mother is able to communicate with her, especially considering in-person visits still aren’t allowed.
“She’s very bright, and alert, and knows everything that goes on. And I wouldn’t have known anything about this, had she not been able to tell me,” Campbell said, and added she knows for other families, communication isn’t always possible.
She said her care home has helped connect residents and their families through Skype as well, and her mother is getting the hang of it.
“We watch 'Call the Midwife' every Sunday night,” Campbell said. “I’m hoping that soon I’ll be able to see her and that you know, even if it’s not all the way back to normal at least we can have some contact.”