Health Minister Randy Delorey announced today, Sept. 21, that government is preparing for future cases of COVID-19 with recommendations from two reviews of outbreaks in long-term care facilities.
“We agree with the intention of all the recommendations and we are pursuing many of them immediately to ensure our long-term care facilities are even better prepared for a second wave of COVID-19,” said Mr. Delorey. “We will bring our partners together to determine a path forward on some of the longer-term recommendations.”
Infectious disease consultant Dr. Chris Lata of Nova Scotia and former British Columbia associate deputy minister of health Dr. Lynn Stevenson conducted a review of the COVID-19 outbreak at Northwood’s Halifax campus. Some of their key recommendations include:
- improving infection prevention and control within the existing architecture at Northwood
- reviewing and updating pandemic plans
- creating a mobile infection prevention and control resource to support facilities facing outbreaks
- addressing staffing challenges with more employees for housekeeping, resident care, screening and visits, and a human resources plan for the sector
- clarifying roles and responsibilities within the Department of Health and Wellness and the Nova Scotia Health Authority, restructuring their disaster response teams and improving communication
In collaboration with partners including the Nova Scotia Health Authority and sector representatives, the department 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 Department of Health and Wellness will work with its partners to take immediate action to make improvements, including:
- ensuring existing long-term care rooms have no more than two residents each. Since 2007, new facilities are 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 lock boxes 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
A longer-term action to develop a robust infection prevention and control program for the long-term care sector, including education and training, online learning platforms, resources, tools and best practices, monitoring and reporting, and guidance for outbreaks and surveillance.
Government is investing $26 million this fiscal year and $11 million over the next two years to support this work.
During the first wave of the pandemic, government:
- provided funding to hire more long-term care assistants
- created additional temporary long-term care beds to help address capacity issues
- established a deployment centre to ensure facilities had access to additional staffing during outbreaks
- developed and shared a long-term care toolkit which will help facilities improve pandemic plans and prepare for staffing challenges
- supplied PPE such as masks, gowns and gloves to long-term care facilities and home-care agencies
- there are 133 licensed long-term care facilities in Nova Scotia with a total of about 8,000 beds
- 58 per cent of rooms in the long-term care system are single rooms with private bathrooms
- the province will continue to supply the sector with PPE specifically for COVID-19. A three-month supply was recently delivered
The executive summary and recommendations from the Northwood report and the department’s report on internal review of infection prevention and control in long-term care are available at https://novascotia.ca/dhw/ccs/