Calls growing to expand visits in Ontario long-term-care homes as vaccinated residents still can’t see family

Long-term-care resident Heinz Ziebell had never asked for a birthday party. This year, he did. The soon to be 91-year-old thinks it will be his last birthday. Ziebell is a resident of Carlingview Manor, a long-term-care home in Ottawa. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, he has seen most of his loved ones only through a window, putting his hand on the glass to greet theirs. Like many seniors across the province, his mental and physical health has deteriorated due to the isolation. He doesn’t have much time left, says his daughter Esther Hladkowicz.“I will be damned if he is going to leave this world feeling unwanted and unloved,” she said. “We can’t wait anymore. Before he passes, we have to touch him.”Seniors and their families in Ontario have faced stringent restrictions since the virus ripped through long-ter- care homes, claiming the lives of 3,764 residents and 11 staff members. Most Ontario long-term-care residents have been largely confined to their rooms for more than a year, allowed visits from just two caregivers, who can be family members. For Ziebell, his caregivers are his wife and Hladkowicz’s sister, meaning he can’t see his other children or grandchildren under provincial rules. Geriatricians, advocates and family members say some of rules implemented to protect residents have become “cruel” and “unreasonable.” It’s time, they say, to expand visitation in long-term care. With the overwhelming majority of residents fully immunized, over half of staff members having received both jabs, vaccine rollout gaining speed and case counts dropping across the province, seniors can safely meet more than two family members, experts say.As of May 11, 96 per cent of residents and 53 per cent of long-term-care staff are fully vaccinated, with 86 per cent of staff having received at least one jab, according to the Ministry of Long-Term Care. As well, 98 per cent of essential caregivers — often family members who are allowed in long-term care homes — have had their first dose. “The time is now to continue to liberate these residents from the restrictions they’re living under,” said Dr. Nathan Stall, geriatrician and epidemiologist at Sinai Health in Toronto.“The only metric we look at cannot be COVID-19 cases and deaths. We need to consider the humanity of what we’re doing … for many people, we are robbing them of a very limited amount of time they have left on this planet.”As of last Monday, Ontario allowed long-term-care homes to resume activities such as communal dining and indoor events. The updated regulations also permit physical touch “beyond what is required for care and supervision,” such as hugging and holding hands, between fully immunized residents and fully immunized essential caregivers. Residents can leave their homes for essential absences, including outdoor exercise, buying groceries or visiting the pharmacy.What’s missing from the update are the changes to visitation implemented by provinces like Alberta this week and British Columbia last month, Stall said.On Monday, Alberta loosened COVID-19 restrictions in long-term-care homes, allowing each resident to designate up to four friends or family members as visitors, and expanding outdoor gatherings up to 10 people. On May 11, there were 1,799 confirmed new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, which has been seeing a severe third wave. While eased visitation needs to be considered within the context of the provincewide stay-at-home order currently in effect in Ontario, outdoor visits, especially if visitors are distanced and masked, are “extraordinarily low-risk” and “extremely reasonable and safe,” Stall said. For the residents of long-term care who celebrated Mother’s Day with just one or two family members at most, the restriction is “cruel and unnecessary,” Stall added “The majority of residents are women and we’ve just denied many of them their last Mother’s Day visit with much of their family,” he said. “It did nothing to actually reduce risk for many of these residents in any of these long-term-care homes, particularly when we could have arranged outdoor visits … I’m really, really hoping that by Father’s Day, we don’t do the same thing to people.”While thousands of family members across Ontario were restricted to window visits on Mother’s Day, member of Parliament Scot Davidson was granted an exemption by River Glen Haven Long Term Care in Sutton to visit residents Sunday.Jordan Kannampuzha, chief operation officer at ATK Care Group, said the Consevative MP for York-Simcoe was rapid-swabbed, wore PPE and stayed in the lounge area, where three or four residents met him six feet apart. “It was an exception, with Mr. Davidson. Being a political figure, we believe it was OK to have him come in a very limited approach and say ‘hi’ to some of our residents who know him, as the Davidson family is very prominent in this region,” Kannampuzha said.Davidson said he “was not aware an exception had been made to facilitate this opportunity” and had he known

Calls growing to expand visits in Ontario long-term-care homes as vaccinated residents still can’t see family

Long-term-care resident Heinz Ziebell had never asked for a birthday party. This year, he did. The soon to be 91-year-old thinks it will be his last birthday.

Ziebell is a resident of Carlingview Manor, a long-term-care home in Ottawa. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, he has seen most of his loved ones only through a window, putting his hand on the glass to greet theirs. Like many seniors across the province, his mental and physical health has deteriorated due to the isolation. He doesn’t have much time left, says his daughter Esther Hladkowicz.

“I will be damned if he is going to leave this world feeling unwanted and unloved,” she said. “We can’t wait anymore. Before he passes, we have to touch him.”

Seniors and their families in Ontario have faced stringent restrictions since the virus ripped through long-ter- care homes, claiming the lives of 3,764 residents and 11 staff members. Most Ontario long-term-care residents have been largely confined to their rooms for more than a year, allowed visits from just two caregivers, who can be family members. For Ziebell, his caregivers are his wife and Hladkowicz’s sister, meaning he can’t see his other children or grandchildren under provincial rules.

Geriatricians, advocates and family members say some of rules implemented to protect residents have become “cruel” and “unreasonable.” It’s time, they say, to expand visitation in long-term care.

With the overwhelming majority of residents fully immunized, over half of staff members having received both jabs, vaccine rollout gaining speed and case counts dropping across the province, seniors can safely meet more than two family members, experts say.

As of May 11, 96 per cent of residents and 53 per cent of long-term-care staff are fully vaccinated, with 86 per cent of staff having received at least one jab, according to the Ministry of Long-Term Care. As well, 98 per cent of essential caregivers — often family members who are allowed in long-term care homes — have had their first dose.

“The time is now to continue to liberate these residents from the restrictions they’re living under,” said Dr. Nathan Stall, geriatrician and epidemiologist at Sinai Health in Toronto.

“The only metric we look at cannot be COVID-19 cases and deaths. We need to consider the humanity of what we’re doing … for many people, we are robbing them of a very limited amount of time they have left on this planet.”

As of last Monday, Ontario allowed long-term-care homes to resume activities such as communal dining and indoor events. The updated regulations also permit physical touch “beyond what is required for care and supervision,” such as hugging and holding hands, between fully immunized residents and fully immunized essential caregivers. Residents can leave their homes for essential absences, including outdoor exercise, buying groceries or visiting the pharmacy.

What’s missing from the update are the changes to visitation implemented by provinces like Alberta this week and British Columbia last month, Stall said.

On Monday, Alberta loosened COVID-19 restrictions in long-term-care homes, allowing each resident to designate up to four friends or family members as visitors, and expanding outdoor gatherings up to 10 people. On May 11, there were 1,799 confirmed new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, which has been seeing a severe third wave. While eased visitation needs to be considered within the context of the provincewide stay-at-home order currently in effect in Ontario, outdoor visits, especially if visitors are distanced and masked, are “extraordinarily low-risk” and “extremely reasonable and safe,” Stall said.

For the residents of long-term care who celebrated Mother’s Day with just one or two family members at most, the restriction is “cruel and unnecessary,” Stall added

“The majority of residents are women and we’ve just denied many of them their last Mother’s Day visit with much of their family,” he said. “It did nothing to actually reduce risk for many of these residents in any of these long-term-care homes, particularly when we could have arranged outdoor visits … I’m really, really hoping that by Father’s Day, we don’t do the same thing to people.”

While thousands of family members across Ontario were restricted to window visits on Mother’s Day, member of Parliament Scot Davidson was granted an exemption by River Glen Haven Long Term Care in Sutton to visit residents Sunday.

Jordan Kannampuzha, chief operation officer at ATK Care Group, said the Consevative MP for York-Simcoe was rapid-swabbed, wore PPE and stayed in the lounge area, where three or four residents met him six feet apart.

“It was an exception, with Mr. Davidson. Being a political figure, we believe it was OK to have him come in a very limited approach and say ‘hi’ to some of our residents who know him, as the Davidson family is very prominent in this region,” Kannampuzha said.

Davidson said he “was not aware an exception had been made to facilitate this opportunity” and had he known he would have come at a later date.

Long-term-care advocate and researcher Vivian Stamatopoulos said the visit is “merely a photo op.” She spoke to two families Wednesday, who expressed their frustration with the exemption for Davidson. “To boot, he has no family there,” she said.

Maureen McDermott, whose mother lives in the home, said Davidson’s visit was “a huge slap in the face to the caregiver community.” She said she’s angered that “most family are still locked out yet he was able to go in, without being anyone’s essential caregiver in the home, and engage in photo ops with his assistant.”

“He abused his power and used the residents as political pawns to advance his career.”

The Ministry of Long Term Care did not provide comment when asked what vaccine and staffing thresholds must be met before Ontario expands visitation. “Once the current provincewide stay-at-home order is lifted, further direction allowing social and temporary outings for fully immunized residents will be issued,” said spokesperson Mark Nesbitt.

But at a news conference this week, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, said people need to be fully immunized before the province “opens the gates” to people getting together.

“We have very high, full vaccination rates in long-term-care and retirement homes. Where we have on average, close to 100 per cent of residents vaccinated, fully immunized. And we are starting to open it up in those settings,” Yaffe said.

In Ottawa, Ziebell’s dementia has “progressed significantly” in isolation, Hladkowicz said. And physically he’s on a “downward slope.

Ziebell is fully vaccinated, and Hladkowicz and her daughter Emily have received one dose. She knows the safety risks of meeting indoors, but questions why despite the protection offered by vaccines, the three can’t come together for a distanced, masked, outdoor gathering.

Stamatopoulos said it’s safe to expand visitation — at least to socially distanced outdoor visits — in “exactly” the way Alberta has done. Over and over, she has heard from residents “desperate” to see their new grandchildren, born during the pandemic.

“Let them sit with their families outside,” said Stamatopoulos, an associate professor at Ontario Tech University. “They can distance and do that meaningfully.

“Why they have yet to do this makes zero practical and zero scientific sense … there’s no reason we can’t finally start reuniting whole families. ”

It’s possible homes want to monitor outdoor visits on their premises, and can’t expand visitation due to staffing shortages, she said.

“Some homes are already allowing more expanded visitation, and it tends to be homes that have better staffing,” she said.

“Time is ticking, and these residents are nearing the end of their lives, they don’t have time to wait, while this government sits on its hands, ignoring the evidence.”

Maria Sarrouh is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star. Reach her via email: msarrouh@thestar.ca

Source : Toronto Star More   

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Premier Doug Ford complains to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of ‘no action’ on borders to tackle COVID-19

Premier Doug Ford is escalating his calls to Ottawa for tighter border controls to limit the spread of COVID-19.After three unsuccessful requests for action from his cabinet ministers to their federal counterparts, Ford has written Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directly.“I want to thank you again for your collaboration during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Progressive Conservative premier, who has worked closely with the Liberal prime minister throughout the 14-month crisis, wrote Wednesday.His letter was released to the public Thursday.“Ontarians, and all Canadians, expect their governments to work together, and that is why I am once again asking for your help to address the issues at our borders,” wrote Ford, adding he is “disappointed” the province’s recommendations have not been heeded.On April 22, Ford’s government asked for a reduction in “incoming international flights to lessen the mobility of COVID-19 variants and roll out further protective actions at the Canada-U.S. land border.”Four days later, the Tories asked for pre-departure polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for “all domestic air travellers entering Ontario, consistent with the requirements for international flights.”Then, on April 29, they demanded the “loophole” at Canada’s international land borders be closed “by implementing a mandatory 3-day hotel quarantine in federally designated hotels at the highest traffic crossings” like Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, and Windsor.“To date, there has been no action on any of these requests and no indication that anything is coming,” complained Ford.“As you are aware, Ontario is currently fighting an extremely challenging third wave fuelled by variants, including the B.1.1.7 variant that has now become the dominant strain in the province,” he noted.“Recently, we have also seen new travel-related cases of the B.1.617 variant in Niagara, Ottawa, and London, and confirmed cases of the P1 variant in Hamilton.”Ford said over the past fortnight, 40 domestic and 24 international flights landed at Pearson International Airport with confirmed cases of COVID-19.“Unfortunately, because there is currently no testing requirement for domestic travellers, passengers who may have been exposed on the domestic flights are immediately able to move around within Canada.”The premier added that over that same two-week time frame, “172,000 individuals, excluding essential truck drivers, have crossed Canada’s international border” and many of these travellers entered at the land border to bypass mandatory hotel quarantine.” His border push to Ottawa comes at the same time as the PC party is airing campaign-style TV, radio, and online ads, attacking Trudeau over the borders.Last week, the prime minister said “if the Ontario government wants to do more to restrict the volume of people coming into Ontario, we are more than happy to work with them on it.” But he chided the provincial Tories for their ad blitz.“It’s been a week since we’ve received that request directly from the premier, that they haven’t followed up on, except with personal attacks, which doesn’t make sense and frankly won’t help Ontarians.”Trudeau said he told Queen’s Park he could impose stricter limits on temporary foreign workers, farm workers, and international students.Ford will meet with reporters later Thursday where he expected to announce that Ontario’s stay-at-home order, in effect since April 17, will be extended to June 2. It had been slated to expire May 19.That order has, among other things, closed golf courses and tennis and basketball courts in a bid to limit mobility that scientists say contributes to the spread of COVID-19.About 8,400 Ontarians have died from the virus since it struck in March 2020.Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

Premier Doug Ford complains to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of ‘no action’ on borders to tackle COVID-19

Premier Doug Ford is escalating his calls to Ottawa for tighter border controls to limit the spread of COVID-19.

After three unsuccessful requests for action from his cabinet ministers to their federal counterparts, Ford has written Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directly.

“I want to thank you again for your collaboration during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Progressive Conservative premier, who has worked closely with the Liberal prime minister throughout the 14-month crisis, wrote Wednesday.

His letter was released to the public Thursday.

“Ontarians, and all Canadians, expect their governments to work together, and that is why I am once again asking for your help to address the issues at our borders,” wrote Ford, adding he is “disappointed” the province’s recommendations have not been heeded.

On April 22, Ford’s government asked for a reduction in “incoming international flights to lessen the mobility of COVID-19 variants and roll out further protective actions at the Canada-U.S. land border.”

Four days later, the Tories asked for pre-departure polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for “all domestic air travellers entering Ontario, consistent with the requirements for international flights.”

Then, on April 29, they demanded the “loophole” at Canada’s international land borders be closed “by implementing a mandatory 3-day hotel quarantine in federally designated hotels at the highest traffic crossings” like Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, and Windsor.

“To date, there has been no action on any of these requests and no indication that anything is coming,” complained Ford.

“As you are aware, Ontario is currently fighting an extremely challenging third wave fuelled by variants, including the B.1.1.7 variant that has now become the dominant strain in the province,” he noted.

“Recently, we have also seen new travel-related cases of the B.1.617 variant in Niagara, Ottawa, and London, and confirmed cases of the P1 variant in Hamilton.”

Ford said over the past fortnight, 40 domestic and 24 international flights landed at Pearson International Airport with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, because there is currently no testing requirement for domestic travellers, passengers who may have been exposed on the domestic flights are immediately able to move around within Canada.”

The premier added that over that same two-week time frame, “172,000 individuals, excluding essential truck drivers, have crossed Canada’s international border” and many of these travellers entered at the land border to bypass mandatory hotel quarantine.”

His border push to Ottawa comes at the same time as the PC party is airing campaign-style TV, radio, and online ads, attacking Trudeau over the borders.

Last week, the prime minister said “if the Ontario government wants to do more to restrict the volume of people coming into Ontario, we are more than happy to work with them on it.”

But he chided the provincial Tories for their ad blitz.

“It’s been a week since we’ve received that request directly from the premier, that they haven’t followed up on, except with personal attacks, which doesn’t make sense and frankly won’t help Ontarians.”

Trudeau said he told Queen’s Park he could impose stricter limits on temporary foreign workers, farm workers, and international students.

Ford will meet with reporters later Thursday where he expected to announce that Ontario’s stay-at-home order, in effect since April 17, will be extended to June 2. It had been slated to expire May 19.

That order has, among other things, closed golf courses and tennis and basketball courts in a bid to limit mobility that scientists say contributes to the spread of COVID-19.

About 8,400 Ontarians have died from the virus since it struck in March 2020.

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

Source : Toronto Star More   

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