Day 6

What Canadian nursing homes are learning from the COVID-19 outbreak in Washington state

Multiple fatalities and infections have been linked to a single nursing home in Washington state. Faria Ali, director of Three Links Care Society in Vancouver, says there are lessons for care facilities in Canada.

'One of the key things ... is that you need to communicate,' says care director Faria Ali

An employee walks outside Life Care Center of Kirkland, a long-term care facility linked to several confirmed coronavirus cases, in Kirkland, Washington on March 1, 2020. (David Ryder/Reuters)

The director of care at a nursing home in Vancouver says her staff has been working hard to stave off any risks of a COVID-19 outbreak like the one that has struck a similar centre in Washington state.

"The biggest lesson ... I learned was the importance of actually making sure that when residents are sick, to make sure that we isolate them right away. I think that's a key factor," Faria Ali at the Three Links Care Society told Day 6 host Brent Bambury.

As of Friday, the American coronavirus death toll reached 11, with 10 of those in Washington. Most of those who died were residents of Life Care Center, a nursing home in Kirkland, a suburb east of Seattle.

According to the Associated Press, the state fined Life Care $67,000 US last April over infection-control deficiencies following two flu outbreaks that affected 17 patients and staff.

Nursing homes are some of the toughest places to contain an outbreak, as the people who live there often already have compromised immune systems. They also live and socialize in close quarters.

Ali says the close quarters are less of an issue at Three Links Care Society, where all residents have a room of their own.

She and her staff have ramped up efforts to clean commonly-touched areas several times a day. Staff are told to wear masks, wash their hands frequently and stay home if they present mild cold symptoms.

An ambulance transports a patient from the Life Care Center of Kirkland on March 1, 2020. (David Ryder/REUTERS)

Ali also stressed the importance of informing residents and their families of everything they're doing to stay ahead of potential exposure to the novel coronavirus, after seeing the opposite approach cause serious distress for the families of the residents at Life Care.

"They know that a lot of people are sick, but they're not getting any information of who it is, and what's going on," she said.

"I can sympathize with the family members, because I think if that was my family member too, I would be probably very upset myself."

Written by Jonathan Ore with files from The Associated Press. Interview produced by Yamri Taddese.

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