Rapid testing a 'game changer' says Ontario care home CEO as B.C. starts small
VANCOUVER -- While B.C. waits to evaluate a handful of pilot projects using rapid testing for COVID-19 in long-term care, Ontario has taken a much more aggressive approach in seniors’ facilities.
About 80 care facilities in Ontario have been shipped rapid testing kits, and so far, they’ve uncovered 13 cases of the coronavirus.
Three of those were at Maxville Manor near Ottawa.
“The rapid test has absolutely provided the opportunity to identify COVID early and has saved lives,” says Amy Porteous, the CEO at Maxville Manor.
In fact, she calls the rapid testing program a “game changer.”
“The accuracy has proven really good for us,” she explained.
In Ontario, COVID-19 has killed more than 3,200 long-term care residents.
“There is no question that the rise in community spread during the second wave of COVID-19 is posing a serious threat to our most vulnerable residents as well as the staff that are working tirelessly to keep them safe,” the Ontario Ministry of Long Term Care wrote in an email to CTV News.
Donna Duncan heads up Ontario’s Long-Term Care Association. Like the BC Care Providers Association, she believes rapid testing has a place in seniors’ homes.
“It’s a surveillance tool, not a diagnostic tool, but we are finding it’s a very helpful tool in the toolbox, but not the only one we have,” she said.
“It involves setting up a mini-lab in your home, so it is labour intensive,” she explained. “It’s a lot of work and we have a lot of homes in outbreak right now and that’s created barriers from a staffing perspective of moving this forward.”
It’s the same concern echoed by B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. On Monday, she told reporters that rapid testing at long-term care homes is resource-intensive and requires at least three people to administer and monitor.
But not everyone agrees.
“In the long-term care facilities across B.C. where the pilot studies are being done, they’re using this very simple test. And I don’t think you need three health professionals to administer the test. In fact, I know you don’t need three,” said Dr. Don Sin, a respirologist at St. Paul’s Hospital and a professor of medicine at UBC.
The doctor is part of a pilot project using rapid testing to detect COVID-19 cases at YVR.
“If you have two (people) … you can really accelerate the pace of the testing, but one is sufficient to do the test and get the read,” he said.
He says that while he was skeptical about rapid testing when he started the YVR project, he now believes the test is easy to deploy and learn.
“I personally feel that long-term care facilities can adopt this relatively easily and administer not only to the residents of long-term care facilities but the workers who may carry the virus into the facilities,” he said.
The Ministry of Health in B.C. says it has distributed more than 230,000 rapid POC tests to B.C. health authorities for use.
In a statement, the ministry also said that B.C. has a mix of pilot projects underway in long-term care, provincial corrections and acute care.
“These pilot sites have identified some positive cases but evaluation of the pilots continues,” reads the statement.