Hotel-Dieu Grace hospital taking control at Windsor LTC home in major COVID-19 outbreak

Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare hospital is taking over essential operations at The Village at St. Clair long-term care home in Windsor, which is experiencing the region’s largest COVID-19 outbreak. 

In a news release Thursday, the hospital said it would be stepping in and “assisting the Village with their needs.” As of Thursday, the health unit is reporting 164 cases — 97 residents and 67 staff members, with 12 residents having died from the disease. 

The hospital will take over “on-site leadership,” as well as infection prevention, control and education, along with management of several other key areas.

Hotel-Dieu Grace hospital CEO Janice Kaffer told CBC News Thursday that it was important to step in now because they feared if they waited any longer they wouldn’t “have success in containing the virus.” 

“Every day we did not do that would be a day lost to the virus,” she said. 

The home was declared in outbreak by the local health unit on Dec. 8 and cases quickly escalated quickly. Last week, family of residents in the home and the workers’ union were demanding more support. 

As of Thursday, Kaffer will be on-site along with other members of the hospital’s management team and staff. The team will be working closely with Joanne Potts, Schlegel Village’s VP of operations.

Kaffer said the arrangement is a collaboration and that Schlegel Villages, which owns the home, still has operational control and will focus on staffing and resident care. 

Meanwhile, in addition to leadership and infection control education, the hospital will be taking responsibility for:

  • Enhanced oversight related to communications. 
  • Resident and family relations. 
  • Reporting. 
  • Physician oversight. 

Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital was partnered with the home at the start of the pandemic to provide support when needed and since the outbreak began it supplied eight team members to help out. 

Now, 10 team members are on site, with some planned to be there for the next two weeks, Kaffer said. 

This includes eight staff in the units and two infection prevention and control practitioners. 

Janice Kaffer, CEO of Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare, says staff at the home are working ‘tirelessly’ and 10 members of her team are on site as of Thursday. (Jason Viau/CBC)

The hospital said it has identified “several priorities” in the home and will start addressing them immediately, noting that this is a “rapidly evolving situation.” 

The biggest challenge is that more and more staff continue to get sick, she said. 

Kaffer said they noticed that not all shifts had the required number of PSWs staffed and that they are bringing on agency staff to help ensure residents are being cared for, some of whom need IVs to be hydrated and to give meals at a regular time. 

In an email to CBC News Tuesday, the home acknowledged that it was short staffed and noted a number of measures it was taking to keep up its operations and care for residents. 

This included hiring more staff and bringing in volunteers to help, as well as having the Red Cross on site for a needs assessment. 

The home said its own management team was stepping in as PSWs to fill in the gaps. 

Kaffer said the priorities also include better communication with families and the public, working with physicians to ensure comprehensive health assessments and providing infection prevention and control education to staff. 

Increasing concern

This decision to provide further assistance to the home, was made out of concern and to prevent the Ontario government from filing a mandatory order, Kaffer said. 

“We started to really look at the increasing concern coming up from the public, the increasing concern being expressed by the ministry about what they were hearing from the public and from the family members of residents,” she said. 

“We both agreed that it was an important step to try and go down this road to see whether or not we could make a difference together before there was a decision made b government to put in any kind of a mandatory order.”

‘It’s a little too late’

Katrina Simonato, whose 75-year-old mom is a resident at The Village at St. Clair, says while she’s happy to hear that the home is receiving additional support, she also thinks “it’s a little too late.” 

“I think that everybody knew that there was going to be that second wave and I think the preparation for the second wave was just not realistic. That people just thought ‘ok might not happen to us’ .. as long as people are still trying to do normal living then of course seniors and [the] vulnerable population is going to be effected. I think they should have had a strategy sooner,” she said. 

Katrina Simonato says her 75-year-old mom is a resident of The Village at St. Clair and that it’s been challenging to get any staff on the phone. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

On top of the extra staffing, she said she wants more transparency and coordination between community partners. 

“It is heart-wrenching, it is sad and you can’t even really celebrate Christmas knowing in the back of your mind that we’re going to [maybe] get a call that my mom is positive.” 

Hotel Dieu also in outbreak

Since the hospital is also experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, which was declared on Nov. 29, Kaffer said it is stretched “extremely thin” with staffing, but that it will continue to help the home and reassess resources. 

It’s not clear at this time how many COVID-19 cases the hospital is still dealing with in terms of that outbreak. 

She said on Boxing Day she and Schlegel Villages CEO James Schlegel will run town halls with families of residents and staff to better understand the situation. 

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