Nova Scotia

Tracking device reassures son his father will be safe in assisted-living facility

Dan Flinn is hoping this fall is less stressful than last spring. Just weeks before COVID-19 was first detected in the Nova Scotia, his family moved his 86-year-old father into an assisted-living facility in Halifax. He thinks tracking technology at the home will ease some of his family's concerns.

Halifax-based company trying to sell N.S. government on its technology

Dan Flinn, right, and his father, Paul, are shown in September 2019. Paul entered an assisted-living facility in Halifax this March. (Jackie Van Amber)

Dan Flinn describes last spring as "nerve-racking."

His family moved his 86-year-old father, Paul, into an assisted-living facility in March. It was just weeks before the first COVID-19 infections were detected in Nova Scotia.

He was aware of the growing number of cases and deaths at long-term care facilities across Canada and in the U.S. There would be dozens of deaths at Northwood in Halifax.

"But Parkland was fantastic for us," Flinn said of the campus in Clayton Park. "I was apprehensive at the beginning but as time went by we felt better and better."

Halifax-based Tenera Care developed the technology that tracks residents with bracelets or devices that can be pinned to clothing. (Tenera Care)

Part of that reassurance, according to Flinn, is the fact his father wears a bracelet that tracks his every move.

"Basically what it does for us is it gives us a little peace of mind."

Halifax-based Tenera Care developed the technology that Shannex is testing in three of its Nova Scotia facilities.

In all, about 200 residents are being tracked, as are another roughly 200 staff members. They wear tracking devices on lanyards or pinned to their clothing. 

Since August, visitors to Shannex's Cedarstone facility in Truro have been required to wear a device, too.

Stewart Hardie is the CEO of Tenera Care, a Halifax-based company that developed technology to track residents in care homes. (Tenera Care)

The technology was first developed as a way to monitor the daily activity of residents in care homes.

Stewart Hardie, Tenera Care CEO, said the technology is well suited to contact tracing in the event someone with the virus enters a home.

"They know exactly where somebody with COVID was, and they know exactly who they came in contact with and how much time they spent with that person, and where they spent the time with [them]," said Hardie.

"So, with our system now, we can do instantaneous contact tracing, super accurate within about six inches with a push of a button and over whatever time period you want to."

Hardie met by video conference Wednesday with Leo Glavine, Nova Scotia's health minister, to try to sell him on the idea that every care home in the province should be using his company's technology as part of its pandemic protection plan.

Hardie said his company first presented its proposal to the province in June but got no response.

Dan Flinn, right, with his father, Paul, left, and his mom, Jill. (Jackie Van Amber)

"It does baffle me a little bit," he said. "But … I also understand [there are] a zillion other things going on. Sometimes if you don't have a fire in front of you, you're not worried about where the fire extinguisher is right away.

"Because if it does happen here again, like Northwood for example, we could have saved a lot of lives there if they had our system in place."

He describes the technology as cost-effective. It costs roughly $15 a month per resident, plus hardware and installation.

At Shannex, the technology is still being evaluated, although work has begun to extend it to a fourth facility — Harbourstone in Sydney River.

Over the next two weeks, the company will test its ability to do contract tracing, according to company president Jason Shannon.

"We're doing some mock exercises," he said. "We'll trial the contact tracing for our visitors and staff where we'll pretend someone has COVID.

Hardie says the technology costs roughly $15 a month per resident, plus hardware and installation. (Tenera Care)

"We're just in the very early stages of figuring out all the ways that this can help with the spread of COVID."

Last March, Shannex had to deal with two separate COVID-19 outbreaks, one at Harbourstone and the other in Halifax at Maplestone. In the end, four residents and six staff tested positive.

"We were very fortunate and our team did a great job in managing the spread," said Shannon.

Flinn and his family hope the bracelet and the technology behind it help keep Flinn's father safe this fall and beyond.

"If anybody came into contact with him who did have COVID, we would know and then we could [take] the proper steps right away," said Flinn.

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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