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by Suzanne Gammon
“No news is good news.” That’s how Jacques Dupuis, administrator of Au Château Home for the Aged, described waiting for results from COVID-19 testing done on all of his staff and residents. The tests were conducted Friday and Saturday, May 8 and 9 on 150 residents and 202 employees, including himself. Residents and staff at Le Pavillon Long Term Care Unit at the WN General Hospital were also tested earlier the same week, starting May 5, as part of enhanced testing in long-term care facilities throughout the district.
The enhanced testing was mandated by the province after seeing the devastating effects of the pandemic on seniors’ homes throughout Ontario and the country. On May 4, the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit announced a first case of contamination inside one of the area’s long-term care facilities, Casselholme in North Bay, stating that the elderly man infected had shown no symptoms but was tested as part of a facility-wide testing blitz on May 1.
The next day, WN General Hospital CEO Cynthia Desormiers confirmed that testing was also being done locally. “The Au Chateau residents and staff are being tested Friday and Saturday by hospital staff / the Assessment Centre team (which is operated by the WNGH). This week beginning today we are testing our LTC residents in the LTC unit at WNGH and our LTC staff,” she wrote on May 5 in response to the Tribune’s query. “Test results normally take about 48 hours, however with the increased testing in LTC homes across the province we are seeing once again longer turn around times for the test results.”
On Wednesday, May 13, the hospital had not yet responded to queries regarding the testing results, however Au Château’s Jacques Dupuis indicated this was a good sign.
“There is a system for reporting and it has to go through certain channels, and basically any information will come from the Health Unit,” he explained. The testing is done in Timmins and results are entered into a system. Those tested can look up their own results online, as Dupuis himself has done, with a clean bill of health. Results are communicated to the health unit, “and the minute they see a positive result in a long-term care, they declare an outbreak there, it only takes one case.”
As yet, the Health Unit has not made any announcement about the WN General Hospital Pavillon or Au Château, which presumably means all results received so far have been negative.
“We know many results are in, because some people are saying they got their results, like me, but there may still be some pending,” Dupuis stated. “But so far, so good. Let’s hope it stays this way.”
The Tribune contacted the Health Unit to ask if all results had been received for the two local facilities, and confirming whether or not all tests were negative. An answer was not received by press time.
“I am fairly optimistic,” said Dupuis, adding that 60 residents and 20 staff had already been tested before this process and all had come out negative. He added that Au Château had the advantage of advance notice, as the pandemic hit more populated areas before coming North, so they put protective measures in place early on. “The home has been closed to outside visitors since the beginning. We isolated residents and staff in their own sectors to avoid exposure and facilitate distancing. We’ve done everything we possibly can and our staff has been very conscientious as well. They take this very seriously and have been very careful even outside the home.”
There are also plans already in place should there be a positive case at Au Château. The Grand Salon lounge has been converted into a dedicated COVID-19 space, and closed off. The hall has a separate entrance, its own bathroom and shower, and Dupuis said some staff members have already volunteered to work exclusively with COVID patients if ever the need arises. “We will be able to contain it, if it ever comes to that,” he assured.
If a staff member should test positive, Dupuis said that person would be identified only to the home’s Infectious Disease Control nurse, in order to protect their privacy. “Even I would not be allowed to know who it is,” he stated. The nurse, along with the Health Unit, would retrace that person’s steps and identify anyone they may have potentially exposed. Dupuis said the protective gear, such as gloves and masks, worn by staff at all times means there is little chance they could infect a resident. “The only place I could see is maybe the lunchroom, being with other staff, but even there they practice social distancing,” he noted.
Any employee testing positive would be sent home to quarantine for fourteen days, he added, and would then have to test negative twice, 24 hours apart, before being allowed back in the home. “We have a responsibility to protect our residents and our staff,” Dupuis summed up, adding that families have also been doing their part by communicating with residents through video chat and phone rather than physical visits. “We know it’s hard for families, but their cooperation is what has kept our residents safe. The distancing measures are working.”
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