Nova Scotia

Special COVID-19 unit for nursing home residents not ready in Halifax region

Nova Scotia's plan to keep COVID-19 infections from spreading throughout nursing homes has been activated, but not all six so-called regional care units are ready to accept residents.

Delay means 15 nursing homes will have to deal with infections

Only one of the six regional care units is located in the Halifax Regional Municipality: Ocean View Continuing Care Centre in Eastern Passage, N.S. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Nova Scotia's plan to keep COVID-19 infections from spreading throughout nursing homes has been activated.

The province has designated six hospitals or nursing homes as so-called regional care units, places where individuals at other long-term care homes who test positive for COVID-19 can be treated and receive specialized care.

But one of the units — Ocean View Continuing Care Centre in Eastern Passage — isn't ready to accept residents. The vast majority of COVID-19 cases in the province are in the Halifax region.

In a memo to nursing home administrators Monday, Bethany McCormack, senior director of COVID planning and implementation at the Nova Scotia Health authority, wrote the department will support caring in place for residents who have contracted COVID-19.

McCormack's memo does not provide a reason for the delay.

Health authority cites staffing for delay

In an emailed response from the Nova Scotia Health authority, spokesperson Carla Adams said the problem is staffing.

"Ocean View is working hard to recruit and onboard staff for the RCU and hope to have it up and running soon," she said.

Laura Karahka, the nursing home's communications manager, offered a similar message.

"We have a recruitment plan, with the support of the Department of Health & Wellness and Nova Scotia Health, which is well underway," she wrote.

But in a message posted on Ocean View's website on Nov. 17, president and CEO Dion Mouland made a direct pitch for extra staff during a video announcing the deal reached between the province and Ocean View to open the unit.

Dion Mouland, the president and CEO of Ocean View Continuing Care Centre, said the nursing home is ramping up recruitment efforts to staff the regional care units. (Submitted by Ocean View/The Birches)

"Our goal is to … get the unit up and running really quickly and have people available when we need them," he said.

"More on the recruitment efforts will be coming out over the course of the coming days. You'll see lots of postings, job postings and opportunities to join our team."

Although he said Ocean View would be opening a 25-bed unit to serve eight other long-term care homes, Health Department documents obtained by CBC News say Ocean View would be accepting residents from 15 other homes.  

Those homes include:

  • Dykeland Lodge.
  • Haliburton.
  • Harbourview Lodge.
  • Ivy Meadows.
  • Melville Gardens.
  • Melville Lodge.
  • Musquodoboit Valley Home.
  • Oakwood Terrace.
  • Sagewood Continuing Care.
  • Saint Vincent's.
  • The Admiral.
  • The Birches.
  • The Magnolia.
  • White Hills.
  • Windsor Elms Village.

What else the memo says

The health authority memo also details procedures for the admission, transfer and discharge of residents who test positive for COVID-19.

Most residents transferred to the units are expected to be there for about 10 days, but up to 20 days for "severe to critical cases."

According to the document, care includes "swabbing, increased frequency monitoring vitals, O2 therapy as indicated and fluid/medication administration."

It also talks about an "enhanced model" of care that includes "augmented hours for RN/LPN/CCAs, and social work and housekeeping support." Additional costs will be paid for by the Department of Health and Wellness.

Facilities sending residents to a regional care unit are being told they "must hold the bed of the resident ... to ensure timely discharge back home can occur."

Nursing homes assigned to a unit are also being told they must transfer all patients who test positive for COVID-19 with one exception — "residents who are expected to die within 48 hours." Those people can continue to be cared for in their home facilities.

Caring for residents with COVID-19 in-house

Although it doesn't specify it, some of the province's biggest long-term care facilities have also been given permission to care for their residents who have COVID-19 in-house.

For example, Shannex has set up units at four of its facilities to look after residents of its Nova Scotia nursing homes who have COVID-19.

Northwood, which was hardest hit during the first wave of the pandemic, is also designated to look after its own residents who test positive.

Nine facilities, housing a total of 1,263 residents, have been authorized to opt out of the regional care unit model. 

Care-in-place locations include:

  • Grand View Manor, Berwick (142 beds).
  • Shoreham Village, Chester (89 beds).
  • Glen Haven Manor, New Glasgow (202 beds).
  • Pere Fiset, Chéticamp  (70 beds).
  • Highland Manor, Neils Harbour (19 beds).
  • Inverary Manor, Inverness (71 beds).
  • St. Anne Community and Nursing Care Centre, Arichat (29 beds).
  • Northwood, Bedford (156 beds).
  • Northwood, Halifax (485 beds).

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About the Author

Jean Laroche

Reporter

Jean Laroche has been a CBC reporter for 32 years. He's been covering Nova Scotia politics since 1995 and has been at Province House longer than any sitting member.

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