Ottawa

Vaccinated care home residents confined to rooms after workers test positive

A vaccinated resident at an Ottawa long-term care facility wants to know why he and everyone else living at the home have to remain in their rooms after staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

Residents fully vaccinated since December, but only two-thirds of staff immunized

Bob Nye eats dinner in his room at an Extendicare Medex home in Ottawa. As of March 10, 2021, residents were being told to isolate in their rooms — even though they'd been given two COVID-19 vaccine doses — after two staff members tested positive. (Submitted by Lisa Nye)

A vaccinated resident at an Ottawa long-term care facility wants to know why he and everyone else living at the home have to remain in their rooms after staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

Bob Nye currently lives at the Extendicare Medex home on Baseline Road, where all 141 residents have been fully vaccinated since December.

But after two staff members recently tested positive for the virus, the residents are now isolating in their rooms.

For Nye, that means no going outside, no walks around the building, no leaving his room — which he describes as small — for up to two weeks.

Nye has a laptop in his room that allows him to connect with loved ones, but said many residents don't, and that they're being "treated like prisoners." 

'These are basic human rights'

It's not the first time this has happened at the home. Nye said there have been several outbreaks since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and every time it's meant having to stay in his room for at least two weeks. 

"I treat it normally, but I'm upset," Nye told CBC on Wednesday.

Lisa Nye, left, poses with her father, Bob, at the Extendicare Medex home in Ottawa. Nye says he's lucky to have his daughter as a caregiver, which means she's able to visit him in his room during the outbreak, but others at the home aren't so lucky. (Submitted by Lisa Nye)

Nye's daughter, Lisa, who is able to visit her father as a caregiver, said she thought "all of this would get better" once all residents had been vaccinated.

"They're human beings and vulnerable communities and it's sad. It's frustrating, you know," she said. "There are great staff that work here, and I know everyone's trying to do their best, but these are basic human rights."

Vaccine 'has not changed' length of outbreak

According to Laura Gallant, a spokesperson with Extendicare, only 66 per cent of staff at the home have been vaccinated. 

In an email, Gallant said the home had implemented outbreak protocols "and safety measures at the direction of public health" since the two employees tested positive.

"Our team is connecting with each resident to offer modified programs and one-on-one support, including music therapy, and arranging regular virtual visits with loved ones," she wrote.

Gallant said the home is currently waiting for both residents' test results and further instruction from Ottawa Public Health. The two staff members are isolating at home, she said.

In its own statement, OPH said it's following the guidance of the province's Ministry of Health, noting that "the length of an outbreak has not changed as a result of the vaccination status of staff and residents."

Daughter questions ethics of confinement

The ministry wrote in a statement that "until more people have the opportunity to receive the vaccine, we must continue to be vigilant in following public health guidance."

"The ministry, the local public health units and all of our long-term care sector partners continue to work together to ensure that homes in outbreak have the support they need," the statement said.

But after a year of outbreaks at homes across the country, Lisa Nye questions how ethical it is to keep elderly people like her dad in their rooms once they've received both doses of the vaccine.

"One day, I think we're all going to look back at this and wonder how on earth we could have treated people with such low regard," she said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Williams

Video Journalist

Nicole Williams is a journalist with CBC Ottawa. She previously worked as a reporter with CBC P.E.I. and as an associate producer with CBC News in Toronto.

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