The Greenwoods complex care facility on Blain Road on Salt Spring has declared a COVID-19 outbreak after 17 residents and five staff members tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
In addition to the test positive cases of COVID-19 at the facility, there are also a number of staff and residents who have symptoms and are considered presumptive cases. Those who have tested positive or are presumptive cases have mild to moderate symptoms, said Greenwoods Eldercare Society executive director Aletha Humphreys.
The society operates the 51-bed residential facility with 48 residents at present, providing 24-hour nursing care to elders who live with complex cognitive and physical challenges. Registered care aides and registered nurses provide care to the residents who live at the facility on a permanent basis.
The eldercare society also operates an assisted living residence, Braehaven, where so far only one person has tested positive for COVID-19. The resident who tested positive was transferred, Aletha stated, as the facility did not have 24-hour care.
“The exposure to other residents at Braehaven is considered to be low and we have spoken to the residents who may have been in closer contact,” she stated on the society’s website. “We will be continuing to monitor everyone closely and provide support.”
All staff are vaccinated and there is a high vaccination rate among residents at Greenwoods, Humphreys said, including early roll-out of the third booster vaccination last October.
While staff are stretched and working long hours, Humphreys confirmed they are still able to maintain staffing levels and provide essential care and services for residents. While the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is highly transmissible, the up side is the short isolation period required. Staff who tested positive or are presumptive cases isolate for five days, then are able to return to work.
“We’re in a much better shape than facilities who had outbreaks early on when their staff was out for 14 days,” Humphreys said.
The society has also reached out to Lady Minto Hospital to see if they have staff capacity to help out at the facility.
On Feb. 25, Humphreys informed families and the public that one Greenwoods resident had tested positive, with transmission having occured outside the facility.
The outbreak was declared on Feb. 28, yet outbreak protocols have been followed since last week when staff started seeing concerns. This includes closing the dining room and having residents stay in their private rooms. The facility has no shortage of personal protective equipment, Humphreys confirmed.
The facility has not had to change the visiting protocols, she added, so visitors have been able to come in and support their loved ones with some social time and during mealtimes.
Island Health noted that the outbreak response also includes limiting staff movement, enhanced cleaning and infection control and enhanced screening of staff and patients for symptoms.
Humphreys puts out frequent bulletins on the society’s website concerning the outbreak, and is also holding a Zoom meeting for residents, family and friends on March 3 from 1 to 2 p.m.
The outbreak will be monitored with the help of Island Health and the medical health officer. It will be declared over 10 days after the last staff or resident shows symptoms of COVID-19.
This is the first outbreak at Greenwoods, Humphreys said, and she wants to ensure morale is kept high among staff and residents during this difficult time.
“This pandemic and this virus is changing all the time and the fact that we’re dealing with it now doesn’t diminish the success that they’ve had for two years keeping it at bay, especially at the very critical time,” she said.
A March 1 information bulletin from Island Health included Greenwoods as one of three new COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care homes in the region. The bulletin noted that four existing long-term care outbreaks were over.
The outbreak at Greenwoods was not included in a Tuesday update from the provincial health ministry, which noted that there are 28 ongoing healthcare facility outbreaks including 12 outbreaks in long-term care facilities in the Island Health region.
Across the province, 466 new cases were recorded, including 95 in Island Health.
From Feb. 18 to 24, Salt Spring Island saw 11 new test-positive cases while the other southern Gulf Islands saw two. The case rate is more than double on Salt Spring than the rest of the Southern Gulf Islands. Salt Spring has a 14 per 100,000 case rate, compared to six per 100,000 on the other islands.