Inside the decision to declare an outbreak at Sudbury long-term care home
SUDBURY -- After one staff member tested positive for COVID-19, Sudbury long-term care home St. Joseph's Villa was forced to declare an official outbreak.
"Right away, once we found out that news, we kicked into gear," said Jo-Anne Palkovits, the president and CEO of the entire St. Joseph's Health Centre, which includes the villa where the outbreak was declared. "We already have, because of the COVID-19 situation, we already have been undertaking our pandemic plan, so it was a matter of continuing to follow along with the policies and procedures that we have in place based on best practice and guidance from the public health unit and of course the Ministry of Long-Term Care."
While the word, outbreak, elicits obvious concern, the term refers to official guidelines in place by the Ministry of Long-Term Care.
An outbreak must be declared when one case, in either a staff member or a resident, is identified.
"In our current circumstances of heightened vigilance and making sure we’re protecting our long-term care home, even one case in a staff member constitutes an outbreak and needs to put in outbreak control measures," said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, the chief medical officer of health for Public Health Sudbury & Districts.
Palkovits, who also has the title of administrator for the villa, said she was first informed of the case of COVID-19 early Sunday morning.
Immediately, she and her team, completed line-listing, checking any staff who would have been in direct contact with the employee in question.
The immediate investigation quickly revealed that none of those staff members was at work Sunday.
Palkovits said while she shares the concern of family members, outbreaks at long-term care homes are actually relatively common.
"I think it's important to remember that we deal with a very vulnerable population, our seniors, and we have outbreaks, influenza-A, that do happen throughout the year. So, for us, it's really no different in terms of the protocols that we have in place," said Palkovits.
Due to the extra state of vigilance due to this pandemic, some extra measures are in effect during this COVID-19 outbreak: all staff are wearing personal protective equipment, including masks and goggles, and all residents have been isolated to their rooms.
Palkovits also took the extra step of immediately arranging tests for all 128 residents in the villa.
She wants to ensure all family members that while concern is natural, she has full confidence in her staff.
"I know that our family members are not able to come in. They're really concerned about their loved ones and I really want to reassure everyone that our staff, they're superstars, they're rock stars, they're doing an amazing job in caring for our residents," said the health care centre CEO.
That credit and appreciation are also shared by Dr. Sutcliffe.
"Really, this was an example of coming together to make sure that we did our very best in protecting, putting measures in place to protect residents and certainly staff of a long-term care home," said Dr. Sutcliffe.
Some positive news came out of the facility in recent days as well.
As of Monday afternoon, one test for a staff member in close contact with the confirmed case came back negative.
Palkovits also said while many facilities face crippling inventory of PPE, that does not appear to be an issue at St. Joseph's Health Centre for now.