According to Ken Rawlins – the CEO of Holland Christian Homes – a company that manages the Faith Manor and Grace Manor long-term facilities for the elderly outside Toronto, in some other nearby nursing homes the coronavirus is still "spreading like wildfire".
Sputnik: Two weeks ago, a Twitter user, who appears to be close to the staff in one of your long-term care facilities – the Faith Manor nursing home, addressed Ontario Premier Doug Ford with a plea to urgently vaccinate essential caregivers against COVID-19. What is the situation like now at long-term care institutions managed by your company when it comes to the spread of coronavirus?
Ken Rawlins: In terms of vaccines we've been very fortunate. The government has over the last three to four weeks been very responsive.
As a matter of fact, 97% of my staff in Faith Manor – we had two refusals, two of the staff said "no", so, virtually everyone of my staff members were vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine, and over 50% of my staff in Grace Manor have been vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine. We hope that the remaining staff members in Grace Manor will receive the Moderna vaccine within the next few days as well.
Supplies universally across the world, unfortunately, are very scarce – of both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines. But our government and, certainly, our region in Ontario here has been very responsive in ensuring that long-term care staff and residents are being vaccinated.
All of my residents in both homes have been vaccinated, all that have agreed and consented have been vaccinated, so that's encouraging as well.
Sputnik: Since the early days of the pandemic, many long-term care facilities have been understaffed. Are you experiencing such problems now?
Ken Rawlins: We've been very fortunate all the way along. We have been overstaffed. I actually staffed up to at least double if not triple the number of staff during the outbreak. We used agency staff – at least a hundred of different agency staff during the height of the pandemic. So, the care that we've been able to provide for our residents has not suffered, I don't believe, in any way whatsoever through a lack of staffing.
I should also mention that we had incredible support from the Canadian Red Cross who sent in a team during the height of our pandemic at Faith Manor. We had our local hospital come in with additional nursing and medical support from doctors, and then, we partnered just recently with a hospital from outside of our region, the Markham Stouffville Hospital.
They partnered with us and sent in a whole infection protection and control team, and actually helped us manage the home, and manage our staffing shortages through hospital resources. We've been very, very fortunate to have all that support from the health network.
Sputnik: How did the life of the tenants in your long-term care facilities change during the pandemic, and what is the mood like among these people now, when the vaccines and so much help has arrived?
Ken Rawlins: Well, I can only speak to my two long-term care homes here at Holland Christian homes. We've gone now several weeks without any new cases within our residence. The only new cases that are being added, and we haven't had actually new cases in the last three weeks, but three weeks ago we had some staff members – it was community-acquired and not from within our home.
And so, I would say that our two long-term care operations are no longer hot zones, which is good. Across the rest of the province – yes, there are definitely homes that are having a very difficult time. The virus is insidious – it just spreads like wildfire. One of the homes in northern Ontario, north of Toronto, got hit with, I believe the British variant, and they had a terrible time – it just spread so quickly through that home.
So, I wouldn't say that across the province we're out of the hot zone, but certainly, I can speak for Holland Christian Homes – I think we've seen the worst and now that the vaccine is arriving we are anticipating that we have weathered the storm.
Sputnik: Nursing homes in Ontario were among the first ones to take a hit from the virus in 2020. In your opinion, are the long-term facilities in your province still COVID hot zones?
Ken Rawlins: I would say that the families and the residents are much more upbeat. Soon they will be able to visit. We've been in lockdown for quite some time. So, visitation has been very difficult.
We've only allowed visitation at the end of life. Essential caregivers are now going be able to start coming back within the next couple of weeks. We're also moving forward – our government has supported us with rapid antigen testing so that we'll be able to screen everybody coming in with a rapid test for COVID which will allow many of those essential caregivers to now come back into the home.
So, that will be a tremendous benefit for both the residents, their social well-being and their psychological well-being along with my staff too – they will welcome some assistance in working with the loved ones and the families that are coming in.
I think there is a much more positive upbeat mood right now. There is still concern. We realise that a very small percentage of the external community has been vaccinated. Most of the focus has been on long-term care and in hospitals.
So, once we see more of the external community being vaccinated I think spirits will rise so that we can have all kinds of visitors coming in, and we'll be back to normal within a number of months' time. It's going to mean that more people are going to have to be exposed to the vaccine.