P.E.I. nursing homes enhance COVID-19 protocols to protect residents, staff

As the province continues work to limit the spread of COVID-19 on the Island, long-term care facilities have increased their precautions and protocols to keep both residents and staff safe. 

Increased monitoring of staff, patients and cleaning procedures in place

The province stopped visitation to long-term care facilities earlier in the month of March. (CBC)

As the province continues work to limit the spread of COVID-19 on the Island, long-term care facilities have increased their precautions and protocols to keep both residents and staff safe. 

The province stopped visitation to long-term care facilities earlier in the month. But, that's only one of the steps that nursing homes are taking to make sure everyone stays safe. 

At P.E.I. Seniors Homes, a group of facilities including Ladyslipper Villa, Garden Home and Whisperwood Villa staff have taken increased measures to make sure that people inside are safe. One of those measures is introducing more rigorous enforcement of the uniform policies in the homes. 

"We've stepped that up to really enforce that. People are coming to work in clean uniforms, clean footwear, they're changing before they leave," said Jason Lee, CEO of P.E.I. Seniors Homes. 

Staff are also instructed to come straight to the home when reporting for work, and not stop anywhere on the way that could expose them to the virus, Lee said. 

Following the guidelines

P.E.I. Seniors Homes facilities are adhering to the chief public health officer's recommendation and making sure physical distancing occurs as much as possible. 

Jason Lee, CEO of P.E.I. Seniors Homes, says physical distancing occurs in all of their facilities where possible. (Ken Linton/CBC)

"We've had to move away from large group activities and not to have gatherings where we can't put two metres of space between residents," said Lee. 

"Staff are also asked to do the same. Even just walking down the hallways staff are actively putting space between each other." 

In the summer months, P.E.I. Seniors Homes has students from UPEI to come and help out, and with the school year disrupted because of COVID-19, those students are now helping out in their facilities.

"They were able to come to us sooner and it gets added to our complement of staff. So we are well-staffed right now and obviously preparing for scenarios where more staff may not be able to come to work," said Lee. 

Monitoring staff and residents

Andrews Senior Care, another private care operator on the Island, activated its pandemic response plan and, in a statement, said they were adhering to all the suggestions made by the chief public health officer. 

The facility has begun doing symptom screenings for its staff, including checking temperatures of employees at the beginning of their shifts.

Director of nursing Alana Desroche said the company is launching new training programs for staff about how they can protect themselves while not at work.

"This will give them an opportunity to each share innovative ideas with their colleagues on what they are doing to be safe while at home," she said.

Provincially run homes

In facilities run by the province, increased cleaning measures and monitoring of staff is ramping up.

"We've been doing really active monitoring of both residents and staff in terms of day to day checking on what their health status is," said Andrew MacDougall, provincial director of long-term care for Health P.E.I. 

That includes checking what people's temperatures are.

Andrew MacDougall, the director of long-term care for Health PEI, says they have increased health tracking to quickly respond to concerns in all facilities. (CBC)

The province has put care-in-place protocols into place, where non-urgent medical procedures are done in the homes, and has started enhanced screening of residents who may need to move between the home and hospital. 

"That also includes assessment of any of their contacts and looking at travel history and exposures as defined by the chief public health officer. That's an active part of our processes as well," he said. 

MacDougall said there's also been education on how and when to use personal protective equipment, like masks and gowns, to best protect employees and conserve the equipment. 

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 social 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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