The province will no longer allow an individual to work at more than one personal care home. That announcement was made Monday afternoon by Lanette Siragusa of Shared Health.
Siragusa says a significant portion of COVID-19 deaths in this country is related to residents of long-term care facilities. For example, she says more than 70 per cent of deaths in Ontario are of residents in long-term care facilities, while in Quebec it is closer to 80 per cent.
“While Manitoba is at an earlier stage of our fight against the virus, we have taken significant steps to protect this population as we’ve watched other jurisdictions struggle with the severe impact that this virus can have on personal care home residents,” notes Siragusa.
To date, in Manitoba there are visitor restrictions, daily staff screening before entering the facility, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols, as well as proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). But, Siragusa says more needs to be done, considering the risk to this population. And as Manitoba looks toward lifting some of the public health orders and reopening the province, she says we need to take every step possible to insulate personal care homes from this virus.
“So, beginning May first, staff in nursing and support service who typically work at multiple personal care homes will be limited to working at a single site,” explains Siragusa.
She notes this further aligns Manitoba with the recommendations that have come out through the Public Health Agency of Canada, which has infection prevention and control guidelines for within long-term care facilities.
Siragusa explains they have been working collaboratively with service delivery organizations, personal care home operators, unions and staff to ensure that this change is implemented without interrupting services, while minimizing the impact on staff.
“The priority will be on ensuring that those staff who have the most direct, prolonged and close contact with residents, are assigned to work at a single site for at least the next six months,” she says.
Siragusa says this is a significant shift operationally but they have been working with all 127 licensed personal care homes in the province to ensure everyone is ready. She notes the focus now is to have conversations with staff, confirming work locations for private PCH and agency staff who work within the province and to answer any questions they might have.
“We are also sending communication out to the families of those residents in the personal care homes just to make sure that they are aware of what we are doing and the steps we are taking,” adds Siragusa.
She notes they have looked closely at the tragic experiences in other jurisdictions and are applying their observations and lessons to the implementation here in Manitoba.
“We have not had any major outbreaks in PCH’s, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still need to do our part to make sure it’s safe going forward,” she says.
Siragusa explains, the way they will implement this, is that they will work with staff to determine where their primary location is. She points out this does not mean that is for sure where they will be assigned to, but notes they want to provide that option for staff. According to Siragusa, multiple employees work at two, three or even more sites and they do not want to impact these individuals in a negative way.
“Looking at their total amount of work and making sure that those hours are available to them at one site, is our goal,” says Siragusa.
She notes as a nurse and administrator, the disruption of work location and changing shifts is significant.
“So, we want to be as considerate as we can but also appreciating that there is a time pressure to get this done,” says Siragusa.