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Henley Place has 10 COVID-19 cases including 2 deaths, so why didn't MLHU tell us about it?

Two residents of the Henley Place long-term care home in London, Ont., have died of COVID-19 in the past eight days, part of an outbreak of 10 cases, the details of which were not made public by the Middlesex London Health Unit.

Health unit's daily outbreak reports don't list the number of cases in each care home

A total of 10 Henley Place residents have contracted COVID-19 in an outbreak first reported on March 28. Two residents have died. (Google Maps)

Two residents of the Henley Place long-term care home in London, Ont., have died of COVID-19, part of an outbreak of 10 cases, the details of which were not made public by the Middlesex-London Health Unit. 

Jill Knowlton, chief operating officer of Primacare Living Solutions which operates the home, said all 10 cases happened in one cluster of living units — called a home area — on the first floor.

The 192-bed care home off Fanshawe Park Road first reported the outbreak to MLHU on March 28. A single positive case of a care home resident or staff member meets the definition of an outbreak. 

Since March 28, MLHU has listed Henley Place in its daily outbreak report. Henley is one of eight local care homes or seniors residences that have declared COVID-19 outbreaks. The facilities stay on the outbreak list until all cases are resolved. 

Outbreak reports have little information

And while MLHU's daily report lists the facilities with active outbreaks, it provides no further details beyond the name of the facility and the date the outbreak was reported. Other information, including the number of positive cases or deaths at each facility, is not included. 

The health unit issued a news release Friday about 14 positive COVID-19 cases at the Grand Wood Park Retirement Residence in south London. 

So why wasn't more information made public about the Henley Place outbreak?

Under provincial law, administrators of long-term care homes are required to report all outbreaks of communicable diseases such as COVID-19 to the local medical officer of health, while physicians and nurses must report any related deaths. 

Local public health units (PHUs) are then required to report all confirmed cases of the illness. However, there are no provincial requirements about the level of detail that must be made public.  

Dr. Chris Mackie, London's medical officer of health, said not all outbreaks pose a significant enough public health risk to require the release of more detailed information. 

"It's really about adequately communicating risk to the public, so the public can make informed decisions," said Mackie.  "A situation where there are six or seven cases that might have come on over a month or so, it's not as concerning as a situation where you diagnose 14 new cases in one day." 

Families want more information

Gwen McKenna has a parent who is a resident at Henley Place. Since learning of the outbreak, McKenna has signed up to receive updates from management which come in daily automated calls and in weekly video chat meetings. 

McKenna said she's happy with the care being provided by Henley Place and says staff should be praised for the work they're doing during a pandemic that has been devastating for seniors. However McKenna says she would like to see more information made public about coronavirus outbreaks in care homes, particularly ones that result in deaths. 

"People have the right to know what's happening," she said. "The only way we can change things is if we know things." 

Henley's last new positive case was on April 11 and Knowlton said staff are taking steps to ensure the outbreak is contained. 

'The only way we can change things is if we know things"- Gwen McKenna

Residents in the first-floor unit where the outbreak happened remain under strict isolation. Knowlton said throat swab tests performed on all other Henley Place residents since the outbreak have been negative. 

"We are hoping that we are continuing on the path to being clear in the home," said Knowlton.

The first resident death at Henley happened on April 10, the second came two days later. Both residents were not taken to hospital at the request of the residents and their families, Knowlton said. 

The resident whose positive test started the outbreak remains in hospital and is "doing quite well" said Knowlton. That patient must stay in hospital due to new safety protocols that prohibit hospital patients from transferring back into long-term care. 

Residents monitored for symptoms

At the time the March 28 outbreak was reported, Henley Place residents of the affected first-floor home area were already following precautions due to an earlier outbreak of a respiratory illness Knowlton says was not COVID-19.

"We just went into further strict isolation at that time," said Knowlton. 

Since then, the home has moved to staggered meal times in all living areas. Some meal tables have been set up in common rooms outside of the dining area to spread out residents and provide physical distancing. 

Knowlton also said all residents are being monitored for symptoms, including twice-daily temperature tests.

All symptomatic staff and residents at seniors' homes where an outbreak has been declared must now be screened, as well as any asymptomatic residents or staff who came in contact with someone with COVID-19. 

The Middlesex London Health Unit said Friday that there are:

  • 69 people infected at both long-term care homes and retirement residences in London.
  • 50 are residents living in the facilities.
  • 19 are staff.

About the Author

Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.

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