Fraser Health says 'no' to removing COVID-19 cases out of long-term care

The response came in a call with reporters after Glacier Media reported on a leaked document detailing missteps during the province's deadliest outbreak to date, as well as recommendations should a second wave hit a long-term care home.

Fraser Health will not remove COVID-19 patients from long-term care into a centralized facility following recommendations in a leaked report that the health authority should do so. 

A Glacier Media exclusive report Wednesday detailed a leaked report highlighting the missteps during the deadliest outbreak in the province. The so-called Langley Lodge COVID-19 report was penned by CEO of the Langley Care Society Debra Hauptman, who recommended Fraser Health initiate a protocol that would remove COVID-19 patients from long-term care homes and isolate them in a standalone facility. 

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“That is a point of contention that hasn’t been resolved yet,” said Hauptman in an interview, pointing to B.C.’s COVID-19 Ethical Decision-Making Framework, which says “the needs of the community may outweigh the needs of individuals in such crisis” and that “personal rights and freedoms must sometimes be constrained.”

But in a call with Fraser Health Thursday, health officials said the risks of moving patients with dementia and other cognitive illnesses outweighed the benefits of isolation.

“We know that any transition point when an individual with severe dementia moves from one place to the next poses a great risk to them overall,” said Norm Peters, vice president of regional care integration for Fraser Health.

“The evidence would suggest that that is not good practice because it can result in a rapid decline because they move into very unfamiliar settings and environments and it can be very stressful for the individual.”

Langley Lodge
Source: Google StreetView

The second and most deadly outbreak at Langley Lodge took off when the virus was introduced to a unit for people with dementia and other cognitive impairments, which would end up accounting for more than half of the 51 cases among residents, according to the facility’s internal report. 

“Staff were not able to socially isolate residents from each other… due to wandering and advanced dementia,” the report notes in reference to one of the contributing factors to the outbreak. “There was a lack of clinical guidance on COVID-19 precautions with this population.”

Or as Hauptman put it to Glacier Media, the behavioural stabilization unit was the worst place to have an outbreak: “They do not understand social distancing, social isolation, staying in their rooms, not touching one another. That’s where I really appealed to the health authorities.”

“We’re very fearful of that happening in that unit again — and so are my colleagues,” she added. 

In responding to questions regarding the introduction of the virus into Langley Lodge by an infected staff member not following screening protocols, Fraser Health officials said it’s not approaching missteps from a punitive point-of-view.

Instead, both Peters and Fraser Health CEO Dr. Victoria Lee said the health authority’s main focus is bolstering protocols which prevent COVID-19 from getting in to a long-term care facility.

“Can I say that a staff person will never try to evade it? No,” said Peters, acknowledging he is unsure of how the staff person who introduced the virus to Langley Lodge avoided screening. 

“But we would look to staff to also be responsible for their own actions.”

At her daily COVID-19 briefing, Dr. Bonnie Henry said she had been unaware of the existence of the Langley Lodge document until it was reported in these pages.

“To me what it highlights is the challenge... and how difficult it is once this virus gets into long-term care homes,” she said. 

Meanwhile, Health Minister Adrian Dix addressed the leaked document, saying the province wouldn’t work in the context of blame.

“The stakes are too high,” he said.

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