Bonnie Berry was “very frightened” when she got a call that two essential visitors to Hyland Crest long-term care home in Minden had tested positive for COVID-19.

The daughter of resident, Bill Prentice, who turns 92 this week, is also head of the family council group at the facility.

“I follow what’s happening in Ontario. It’s scary.” However, she said she feels reassured by how Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS), and staff at Hyland Crest, have dealt with the pandemic since day one.

She said she has always been impressed with the protocols to prevent spread of the virus and the “dedicated” staff who have implemented and monitor them.

“We were notified right away. They already had very extensive protocols.” Since the outbreak was declared, she added measures have intensified further.

“It’s a lot of extra work for staff. I can’t say enough about how hard they are working,” Berry added.

In a press release issued Feb. 1, HHHS confirmed the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPR) had declared a COVID19 outbreak at the home Jan. 31. In a press release Feb. 4, HHHS confirmed that all of the COVID tests for residents came back negative.

HKPR medical officer of health, Dr. Ian Gemmill, during his weekly media briefing Feb. 3 said although the province defines Hyland Crest as an outbreak, he would describe it as a “situation” distinct from larger spreads in other long-term care homes affecting staff or residents. He said the two essential caregivers who tested positive have no symptoms and are not ill.

“We know in some places that people with no symptoms have been responsible for spreading the virus. So, we cannot take any chances,” Gemmill said.

Staff test results were still pending as of Feb. 4.

Looking forward to vaccines

Gemmill also provided a vaccination update. Extendicare Haliburton was the only County home in the district covered by the initial 700-doses received. Gemmill said they hope to receive another shipment by the weekend and if they do, they should meet the new provincial target date of Feb. 10 to vaccinate all long-term care residents.

Gemmill said he did not know why Extendicare specifically received doses first over other County long-term care homes, only that he directed his staff to prioritize based on where they felt vaccinations were most needed.

“We’ll get the others done as fast as we can,” Gemmill said.

HHHS CEO Carolyn Plummer stressed it was essential caregivers, not staff, who tested positive. These are usually family members.

She said as for resident and staff testing, “we will provide information about test results once we have all of them, and families have been notified.”

In a Feb. 1 press release, Plummer said, “I would like to commend our team for their swift and comprehensive action in response to the outbreak, and for all the work they have been doing and continue to do to keep our residents, patients, and clients safe.”

The release said HHHS has been vigorously working with Public Health authorities in managing the situation and identifying anyone who may have been exposed to prevent further spread.

They said they’ve followed stringent infection prevention and control measures in both HHHS Long-Term Care Homes [the other is Highland Wood in Haliburton] since the onset of the pandemic.

These include: ensuring staff work in only one LTC facility; actively screening all staff and essential visitors; conducting regular surveillance testing of all staff and residents; limiting visitors to only those deemed as essential caregivers who must undergo regular COVID-19 testing; and ensuring adequate supply and proper use of personal protective equipment at all times.

In addition, Plummer said outbreak protocols have been implemented to minimize potential spread at Hyland Crest. This means immediate testing all residents and potentially-exposed individuals; isolating any residents experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms; limiting admissions, readmissions, discharges or transfers at this time.

“We have been preparing for this possibility, knowing that even with the most rigorous infection prevention and control measures in place, COVID-19 is a very contagious virus,” Plummer said

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