'Hindsight would have benefited Northwood': Facility defends response to COVID-19 outbreak
HALIFAX -- As the Nova Scotia government is pressed for answers about the COVID-19 outbreak at Northwood, the facility is defending how it has been handled.
Thirteen people have died from COVID-19 at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax since Friday.
No new deaths were reported on Wednesday, but to date, the virus has claimed the lives of 35 residents at Northwood, which is the largest facility of its kind east of Montreal.
"Hindsight would have benefited Northwood, hindsight would have benefited Nova Scotia, hindsight would have benefited the world,” said Northwood CEO Janet Simm.
“It's easy to look back at the evidence as it emerged to say we should have. Northwood was on par or ahead of the province's directives with respect to long-term care."
Because of Northwood’s infrastructure, there are sometimes two or three residents in a room. Family members who have loved ones at Northwood have raised concerns for weeks about the fact that residents who tested positive for COVID-19 were not separated from their roommates.
"They are doing what they can,” said Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia.“They are well aware when people are living together and one is positive and the initial test is negative, that in all likelihood that person who is negative is going to test positive in the next few days."
Northwood says, where possible, they are now separating some of the residents.
"The evidence is clearly demonstrating that private rooms are beneficial,” said Simm.
"There hasn't been any more rooms created, but as we do have any people move out to the COVID unit, we've been using that capacity to make private rooms in addition to any deaths that we've had,” said Josie Ryan, who works at Northwood.
“We’ve not been admitting anyone to Northwood, so we’ve been using any of those rooms to create those rooms for people.”
There are currently 160 residents at Northwood with active cases of COVID-19. The outbreak continues to cause major staffing issues.
"We have over 100 staff who remain off work due to a variety of reasons and we are still relying heavily on the support of other organizations to maintain our staffing levels,” said Simm.
Fifty-one employees still have the virus, some of whom were recently diagnosed. Public Health officials are investigating how the staff members were exposed.
"One source of their exposure could have been out in community, it could have been also if there were breakdowns in infection control or their own use of personal protective equipment. I do not at all say that in a blaming way,” said Strang.
While Canada has not seen as much community spread as some other countries, the epicenter of the epidemic is in long-term care homes.
The federal government issued guidelines in early April with its pandemic recommendations, but it’s up to each province and territory to determine how to respond.
Dr. Samir Sinha, with the National Institute on Aging, says B.C. was the most decisive and quickest to act and has seen less than 10 percent of long-term care homes end up with an outbreak.
"Whereas in Ontario and Quebec, that took longer to act, and Nova Scotia, which was one of the last provinces to act, that's where you're seeing over 90 per cent of the deaths in long-term care homes that have occurred. So now, those provinces are all playing a game of catch-up,” said Sinha.
Meanwhile, Nova Scotia’s opposition parties want more accountability in relation to the outbreak at Northwood. They’re asking that the health committee be reconvened so they can ask administrators some of those questions.