The pandemic has been particularly difficult for residents living in long-term care. The communal living environment and the vulnerability of the residents have made preventing and managing outbreaks in the homes very challenging.
In Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) staff have created a team to address this pressing challenge – the Continuing Care Resource Team.
“We created this team in the spring,” said Dalene Newton, Executive Director of Continuing Care – Saskatoon Urban. “We pulled together expertise from Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), Public Health (PH) and Continuing Care (CC). They built simulations of outbreaks, put together educational documents and, with the direct care teams, confirmed the processes to follow during an outbreak.”
This meant the team was ready to respond when needed.
“Previously, we had many of the components but they weren’t necessarily connected, and that’s what the Resource Team has been able to do,” Newton said.
One key learning was the creation of Safety Walks. Representatives from IPC, OHS and CC visit a home with set checklists, and walk through with the on-site manager or administrator. Together, they identify areas for improvement. These could include anything from cluttered spaces and cleaning products to personal protective equipment and proper donning and doffing. The SHA team supports improvements being made, and follows up with a subsequent visit to see if additional support is required.
If an outbreak is declared, the process to support the home includes daily contact from SHA. Contact tracing immediately begins, and the following measures are put in place: monitoring residents frequently for signs of illness, onsite testing of residents and staff, and outbreak control measures, including limiting movement of residents from room to room, limiting visitors, cancelling group activities and restricting individuals moving into the home.
“For example, when a recent outbreak was declared in one of the homes, we reacted quickly and worked with the team there to support the outbreak measures,” said Newton. “With no additional resources, we reconfigured a team that already existed. We worked together before, but now we’ve really come together to support these homes.”
She points to Human Resources as another key piece of the SHA team working with homes through these challenges.
“They have been amazing in helping the homes we support fill their staff lines, and to be creative as to how we do that,” said Newton. “It really is the collective effort of a number of SHA departments, as well as our partners in the homes, to ensure the care of the residents remains a top priority.”
Dennis Ullagaddi, Supportive Care Projects Coordinator, Arlene Shillington, Director of Care and Camille Bregenser, Infection Control Practitioner, perform a Safety Walk at Warman Mennonite Special Care Home.