Health Minister Randy Delorey announced Monday at a press briefing that the government is preparing for future cases of COVID-19 with recommendations from two reviews of outbreaks in long-term care facilities.
During the outbreak, 345 people at Northwood Manor got sick with the disease — 246 residents and 99 staff members — and 53 people died at the facility.
The review was completed under the Quality-improvement Information Protection Act and was led by Dr. Chris Lata, an infectious disease consultant, and Lynn Stevenson, former associate deputy minister of health in British Columbia.
According to the government, some of Lata and Stevenson’s key recommendations include improving infection prevention and control within the existing architecture at Northwood, reviewing and updating pandemic plans, and creating a mobile infection prevention and control resource to support facilities facing outbreaks.
Other recommendations include addressing staffing challenges with more employees for housekeeping, resident care, screening and visits, and a human resources plan for the sector.
The government is also being recommended to clarify roles and responsibilities within the Department of Health and Wellness and the Nova Scotia Health Authority, restructuring their disaster response teams and improving communication.
The recommendations in the report will not be binding.
In collaboration with partners including the Nova Scotia Health Authority and sector representatives, the province said that the Department of Health and Wellness has also led a review of broader infection prevention and control within the long-term care sector.
“It considered overall infection prevention and control practices in long-term care facilities and actions taken during the first wave of COVID-19. The findings were consistent with those of Dr. Lata and Dr. Stevenson,” the province said in a press release.
The province said the Department of Health and Wellness is set to make improvements in light of the presented recommendations, including:
- Ensuring existing long-term care rooms have no more than two residents each. Since 2007, new facilities have been built with single rooms and private bathrooms.
- Establishing one mobile infection prevention and control response team in every zone to support facilities facing outbreaks, as well as an infection prevention and control resource person per zone dedicated to long-term care.
- Ensuring there are processes in place for long-term care staff to get tested and return to work as quickly as possible.
- Funding for all facilities to increase cleaning (staff and supplies).
- Funding for small capital projects and equipment purchases to support infection and prevention control in long-term care facilities, such as lockboxes and carts for medications, hand-sanitizing stations, personal protective equipment (PPE) carts and room dividers.
- Funding for staff who can be deployed as needed to manage outbreaks.
According to the province, an infection prevention and control program is being developed for the long-term care sector, which includes education and training, online learning platforms, resources, tools and best practices, monitoring and reporting, and guidance for outbreaks and surveillance.
Nova Scotia is investing $26 million this fiscal year and $11 million over the next two years to support this work, the province said.
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