Outbreak of COVID-19 at West End Villa home worsens

Forty-seven residents have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the home's operator, Extendicare. Eight have died.

66 cases, 8 deaths at long-term care home, operator says

The West End Villa long-term care facility in Ottawa has confirmed 31 of its staff and residents have tested positive for COVID-19 since the end of August. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

The most severe COVID-19 outbreak at a long-term care home the city has seen in months is getting worse.

Forty-seven residents at the West End Villa have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the home's operator, Extendicare. Thirty-two are considered active cases, four have recovered while three are in hospital.

Eight residents have died.

Another 19 staff members have tested positive, 15 of whom are active cases and currently in self-isolation at home.

One Ottawa resident with a loved one in the home says she now fears a repeat of what happened in some long-term care homes this past spring. 

Resident with traumatic brain injury tests positive

Shawn Hill, 45, suffered a traumatic brain injury in the summer of 2018, and is now a resident at West End Villa.

Hill's long-time partner, Melissa Acheson, said in an interview with CBC she found out on Monday he tested positive for COVID-19.

Shawn Hill, Melissa Acheson and their son, Levi, sit in the lobby of the Extendicare West End Villa in this photo from November 2019. Hill has lived in the long-term care home while waiting for a spot in a specialized facility for people with traumatic brain injuries. He has contracted COVID-19 at the facility. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

"It was a big shock at first," said Acheson. "It kind of got to this point where I felt like the virus is on its way out, things are reopening, kids are going back to school, everything is going to be OK.

"But as soon as we let our guards down ... it's just back with a vengeance. So yeah, I would say it's pretty scary to think about."

Acheson said she's grateful for the care Hill is receiving, but is frustrated with the lack of communication from the facility.

She said the home, which is operated by Extendicare, told family members during a recent Zoom call they would get daily updates on loved ones who had tested positive.

Acheson said, so far, that hasn't happened.

"I haven't had one at all, really. I really appreciate it's a stressful time, and I get it," she said. "I just wish there was better organization in terms of communication." 

Acheson said she doesn't know how Hill contracted COVID-19, since he hasn't had an in-person visit with a family member since restrictions went into place in March.

Hill normally shares a room with one other resident, and shares a washroom with two other residents from an adjoining room. Acheson said she does not know if any of those residents have tested positive.

Melissa Acheson, shown here in this 2018 photo, says she doesn't know how her partner Shawn Hill contracted COVID-19 at long-term care home West End Villa, as he has not had any visitors since March. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Home working to 'cohort' residents based on COVID-19 status

Extendicare, which operates the home, declined a CBC request for an interview, but in an emailed statement attributed to the facility's administrator, Kelly Keeler, said that the home's "ability to protect the people in our care is the most important part of what we do, and we take our responsibility to them extremely seriously. Our outbreak procedures strictly follow the guidelines from our partners at Public Health, including our infection prevention and control practices."

According to the statement, once an outbreak is declared, staff work under the assumption every resident is COVID-19 positive, until test results come back.

Staff then work to cohort residents, based on their COVID-19 status.

"We have conducted multiple rounds of surveillance testing among residents and staff to ensure we know where the virus is in the home and to inform our response to it," the statement said.

All residents are isolating in their rooms, including for meal, and facility has "enhanced cleaning protocols" and personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements for staff. Non-essential visits are also restricted "to help prevent the virus from entering the home from the community while we are working to remove it."

In an emailed statement to CBC, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Long-Term Care said officials from the Ottawa Public Health are conducting daily on-site visits and advising protect residents waiting for test results or who have been identified as high-risk contacts.

The statement also said the home has reported no critical PPE shortages and is addressing staffing challenges by using nurse practitioners, paramedic services and temporary staff.

"The health and well-being of Ontarians — especially long-term care residents who are more vulnerable — is the government's number one priority," the statement said.