Vaccinations to begin Sunday at Scarborough long-term care home battling COVID-19 outbreak

A Toronto hospital says vaccinations are set to begin on Sunday at a Scarborough long-term care home battling a COVID-19 outbreak that has left 73 people dead.

Total of 73 residents have died of COVID-19 but no new deaths reported in last 2 days

Vaccinations are slated to begin on Sunday at Tendercare Living Centre, which has lost 73 residents to COVID-19. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

A Toronto hospital says vaccinations are set to begin on Sunday at a Scarborough long-term care home battling a COVID-19 outbreak that has left 73 people dead.

Residents, staff members and essential caregivers at Tendercare Living Centre who wish to get the Moderna vaccine will be able to get a dose starting at 9 a.m., according to Janine Hopkins, spokesperson for North York General Hospital (NYGH).

Hopkins said on Saturday that staff members from the Scarborough Health Network will administer the vaccine because the home is in its catchment area. The province asked NYGH on Dec. 25 to manage the 254-bed home for 90 days.

Progress is being made in bringing the outbreak under control, Hopkins said. There are no new resident COVID-19 cases and no new staff cases as of Saturday. The hospital reported on Thursday that 73 residents had died of COVID-19.

"The bottom line is there have been no new deaths in the past two days," she told CBC Toronto.

Currently, there are 19 active cases among residents at the home. The number of cases marked as resolved among residents is 91 and among staff is 80.

A total of 42 staff members have returned to work at the home. More staff members are expected to return in the coming days.

Hospital making improvements at home

Hopkins said in a statement on Friday that there have been many improvements at the home since NYGH signed a voluntary management agreement to manage the home and its outbreak temporarily. 

"The outbreak management at Tendercare Living Centre continues to move in the right direction with continued improvements in all areas, including maintaining staffing levels, ensuring infection prevention and control practices and standards are met, and a high level of clinical care and support for residents," Hopkins said.

Nurses are seen leaving Tendercare Living Centre in December. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The Ontario long-term care ministry has said that the Canadian military will not be asked to provide help at Tendercare because the hospital is bringing the outbreak under control.

"The North York General Hospital indicates that staff levels are above normal levels, there have been no additional positive residents, and resident communications are in place," Krystle Caputo, spokesperson for the ministry, said in an email earlier this week.

"We are confident in the ability of NYGH to continue to manage and stabilize the home, and have it return to normal operations."

Families of residents are being kept informed of developments through a newsletter, weekly town halls and a toll-free support line.

The home and its outbreak were the focus of a protest last Saturday, with demonstrators calling for more government intervention, and a town hall meeting organized by a local politician on Sunday.

At that meeting, Scarborough NDP MPP Doly Begum accused the Ontario government of neglect, saying the deaths at Tendercare could have been prevented.

A protester holds up a sign at a demonstration outside Tendercare Living Centre last weekend in which scores of people demanded more government intervention in the home. (Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC)

On Saturday, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province has administered more than 100,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to "our most vulnerable" and people who care for them.

"As we continue to vaccinate thousands of Ontarians every day, we urge everyone to follow public health advice to protect yourself and your community," Elliott said in a tweet.

According to the Ontario government, a total of 228 long-term care homes in the province are in the midst of an active outbreak, as of Saturday at 10:30 a.m. The number is in an increase of four since Friday.

A total of 2,952 long-term care home residents have died of COVID-19-related reasons in Ontario since the pandemic began.

The outbreak at Tendercare, which is managed by Extendicare (Canada) Inc., was declared on Dec. 9.

With files from Chris Glover