All 27 suspected COVID-19 cases at Heritage Green nursing home will be tested

The city will test every resident and staff member with symptoms of COVID-19 - at Heritage Green and elsewhere - after the province issued a directive Monday.

Public health officials originally said the testing would not be a good use of resources

Hamilton Public Health says all 17 residents and 10 workers displaying symptoms of COVID-19 will be tested at Heritage Green Nursing Home. (Submitted by Google Maps)

The city will test every Heritage Green resident and staff member with symptoms of COVID-19 after the province issued a directive Monday ordering that they be tested.

Public health officials initially said Tuesday 17 residents and 10 staff with symptoms of COVID-19 wouldn't be tested, since it was clear in light of four other confirmed cases what was causing their symptoms. Now the province says every symptomatic resident and worker at an Ontario long-term care home has to be isolated and tested.

"Under the new directive from the chief medical officer of health's office, all symptomatic staff will be tested and Public Health will do contact tracing for positive folks as appropriate," said city spokesperson Kelly Anderson in an email. 

Matthew Douglas, who represents some 187 Heritage Green workers through SEIU Healthcare, says the home "should immediately communicate" the plan for testing, since residents and staff are worried.

"Workers and families have a right to know if they're going to follow the ministry directive on this," he said.

Administrator Scott Kozachenko hasn't responded to requests for comment, although he told the Hamilton Spectator Tuesday that he questioned that all 27 cases were really COVID-19.

The Stoney Creek long-term care home has been a focal point since March 16, when an 80-year-old resident came to St. Joseph's hospital for routine treatment and displayed symptoms of COVID-19. She was isolated, and on March 21, a 55-year-old resident also tested positive for the virus. The 80-year-old woman died on March 24, and is still the city's only known COVID-19-related fatality.

Douglas sounded the alarm on several issues then, including the lack of available personal protective equipment. Signs were posted around the home, he said, telling staff not to wear masks and gloves unless the resident had been flagged for precautions or a manager told them to do so. 

Competition for testing kits

He also said one of the seven staff members who were in contact with the COVID-19 positive patients was told to self-quarantine for two weeks. Then the employee, apparently with public health clearance, returned to work after five days.

Hamilton's medical officer of health, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, said on Monday that 17 residents and 10 staff members are displaying symptoms now. That's not including the three residents and one staff member who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Testing more than four people, Richardson said then, is "not a good use of testing supplies."

Richardson said testing kits have been in short supply in some areas, and Hamilton is in competition with the rest of the world for them. But the city has enough to fulfil the provincial directive, she said.

She said Public Health plans to get the Heritage Green staff and residents tested as soon as possible.

What the directive says

The Ministry of Long Term Care directive dated March 30 says testing "must be conducted for COVID-19 on every symptomatic resident and staff" in a long-term care home.

This includes "residents who are linked to a COVID-19 outbreak, and including recently deceased residents who were part of the outbreak but who were not previously tested."

It also says long-term care homes screen residents at least twice daily to identify if any resident has fever, cough or other symptoms of COVID-19. Residents who do must be isolated and tested.

Heritage Green isn't the only local long-term care home with an outbreak. Anson Place in Hagersville has seven confirmed cases, including one death, and Seasons Retirement Community in Welland also has an outbreak.

As of noon Monday, Hamilton has 101 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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