Some P.E.I. long-term care facilities restrict employees to working in one home

Some long-term care facilities on the Island have made a big change to prevent the spread of COVID-19, even before being mandated to do so by Health PEI: they're telling staff they can only work in one such facility. 

Health PEI recommended but didn't mandate the change

Health PEI's chief of nursing Marion Dowling says government is carefully looking at the potential impact to staffing if it were to officially limit staff to one health care facility on the Island. (GagliardiPhotogra/Shutterstock)

Some long-term care facilities on the Island have made a big change to prevent the spread of COVID-19, even before being mandated to do so by Health PEI: they're telling staff they can only work in one such facility. 

On Wednesday Health PEI chief of nursing Marion Dowling recommended long-term care facilities on the Island limit the number of staff working in more than one facility. As of right now that's only a suggestion and not a rule.

However P.E.I. Seniors Homes, which owns three facilities: the Garden Home, Whisperwood Villa and Lady Slipper Villa, has now implemented a "one-home policy" which limits employees to only working in one facility anywhere in P.E.I.'s health-care system. 

"All of our staff have been asked that they need to identify if they're working in more than one health-care facility," said CEO Jason Lee. "We will not be having any staff working in multiple health-care facilities going forward." 

Lee said that about eight per cent of staff at his three facilities, or 28 staff members, worked at more than one health-care job.  

'The way homes should be run'

The change is in response to what Lee is seeing at other long-term care facilities in Canada, where coronavirus outbreaks have caused hundreds of deaths.

"We're just learning from other jurisdictions, other provinces," he said.

"This is clearly a best practice. This is the way homes should be run at a time like this and so we agree with Health PEI," he said. "They're looking at it, we looked at it, we're just fortunate enough to be able to move a little quicker." 

The risk in mandating that staff only work in one facility is a reduction of the number of staff available to work in those homes, Dowling said Wednesday. 

Our staff have their temperature taken, usually twice or three times a day.— Ramsay Duff, MacLeod Group

"We're really looking carefully at what the impact would be around staffing and how we can support all the facilities — both the public within Health P.E.I. or the private facilities across the province — to make sure they have the staff in place to maintain services and the high standard of service that they want to provide," she said. 

Lee said he did in fact lose some employees: part-time staff members who chose to work instead at another location. But said because earlier this year he hired nursing students from UPEI, his facilities remain fully staffed. 

It's something Ramsay Duff, CEO of MacLeod Group, agrees with. He operates two long-term care facilities on P.E.I.: South Shore Villa in Crapaud and Clinton View Lodge in Kensington.

"The not sharing staff recommendation certainly makes a lot of sense based on what other jurisdictions have been experiencing," said Duff.

Jason Lee, CEO of P.E.I. Seniors Homes, says from now on his employees will only work in one facility. (Laura Meader)

"The concern or the caveat is a lot of the sector has been experiencing shortages in staffing. And so we need to be careful to not be obviously bringing a virus into the home. But at the same time we have to balance that to ensure that we keep providing the care that's needed for our residents."

Duff said his two facilities have only two shared employees — a registered nurse and a resident care worker.

"With only a few very limited exceptions we have not been sharing staff between our facilities or any other facilities," he said. 

Increased measures

P.E.I. Seniors Homes have also increased staff screening, checking employees' temperatures before their shifts, plus a series of health questions they have to answer and sign every shift. 

Ramsay Duff, CEO of MacLeod Group, says staff at the facility shown here in Kensington as well as one in Crapaud have their temperature taken several times a day. (Submitted by Ramsay Duff )

At MacLeod homes on the Island, similar precautions are being taken including staff wearing proper protective equipment and not allowing visitors in the homes. 

"Our staff have their temperature taken, usually twice or three times a day," Duff said.

Staff are also taking steps to ensure that residents and staff are adhering to physical distancing as much as possible, with modified dining procedures and modified activity periods, he said. 

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.

  • Cough.

  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.

  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.


Travis Kingdon is a journalist with CBC P.E.I. He moved to the Island from Toronto in the spring of 2019.


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