COVID testing begins at LTC homes


Under a provincial directive, every staff and resident in Rainycrest Long Term Care home are being tested for COVID-19.

According to Acting Medical Officer of Health for the NWHU Dr. Ian Gemmill, the province-wide act is to provide the medical community with a snapshot of COVID-19 in the LTC system, to prevent an outbreak.

“Long Term Care homes are a high priority for the province,” said Gemmill.

Although there no known positive cases in local homes, outbreaks in long term care homes in other parts of the province and country have proven particularly deadly. Nearly half of all of Ontario’s deaths are linked to the facilities.

If a positive result emerges from this testing, it will initiate an orchestrated response to isolate and trace the source of infection, to prevent a widespread outbreak, said Gemmill.

“We don’t want to have happen here what we’ve seen in Long term care facilities in other places,” he said.

The testing has been welcomed by Riverside Health Care.

“Riverside Health Care is taking the proactive step to test all asymptomatic staff, residents and inpatients across the continuum of care. Phase 1 priority testing has already begun with residents and select staff at our long-term care facilities, with plans in place to further test Riverside inpatients and the balance of our staff,” they issued in a press release.

“Riverside firmly supports the government’s stance on increased surveillance testing, and we have already initiated testing of asymptomatic residents and staff across the district.” stated President & CEO Henry Gauthier. “The introduction of asymptomatic testing may inform future strategies and added preventative measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. This additional testing enhances protections for those we serve and our staff, and demonstrates a clear shift across the health care system to a more proactive approach in combating COVID-19.”

Riverside has already tested numerous long-term care residents and staff members. “To date all results have come back negative,” noted Julie Loveday, Vice President of Clinical Services & CNE. “With our capacity and network it is imperative we progress our fight against COVID-19. Our teams already have put extensive precautions and controls in place to prevent the spread of the virus. This added screening of asymptomatic people in our facilities is another way to expand protection for everyone.”

Testing has been done with all symptomatic staff and residents, agreed Gemmill. There have been several viruses and infections pass through the homes this winter.

“It’s been a rough winter,” he said. But as seasonal flus and viruses wane, the focus remains on finding any COVID-19 case as early as possible.

Along with an increased focus on testing, the province has actively reduced the length of time for results to be reported.

Earlier this month Riverside implemented a new courier service running 7 days a week to transport COVID-19 tests from all Riverside facilities including their Assessment Centres. Testing turn-around times have improved dramatically from upwards of 10 days to a new average of 2-3 days, as tests are now delivered from Thunder Bay to Toronto daily. This courier service has been able to serve Riverside’s Indigenous Health Partners and the Atikokan General Hospital in also transporting their COVID-19 swab tests to Thunder Bay.

“Riverside remains committed to providing excellent quality care in a safe and healthy environment, with the well-being of our residents, patients, clients, staff and the community a continued focus and priority,” said the release.

Gemmill has been pleased with the faster testing turnaround, made possible with a newly opened testing facility in Thunder Bay. The lab eliminates most of the transit time, which had caused test result delays in previous weeks, he said.