Northwood rejects claims of lack of protective equipment

Those in charge of a Halifax long-term care facility hit hard by COVID-19 say new staff brought on board to help with their response to the pandemic are adapting well and have enough supplies to meet the demand.

On Friday, Northwood president and CEO Janet Simm reported 30 additional cases among residents and one new case among staff. The facility now has 170 infected residents and 58 staff, for a total of 228 facility cases.

Eleven people have died at Northwood’s Halifax campus so far, making up most of the 16 COVID-19-related deaths in the province.

In a news conference Friday, Simm said there are now dozens of new team members on hand and they have “adequate” supplies of personal protective equipment.

“This is an unprecedented demand for those supplies, but we have enough,” she said.

Janet Simm is president and CEO of Northwood. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Forty workers from the Halifax Infirmary’s COVID-19 team have been redeployed to Northwood after Premier Stephen McNeil announced an emergency plan to help the facility deal with the pandemic.

On Thursday, the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union issued a press release saying the redeployed nurses were concerned about a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the facility.

Simm described the claims laid out in the release as “very disheartening” and said existing staff and reinforcements are now working together, and those initial complaints stemmed from not knowing the facility and its operations.

“It was very, very tough work on Sunday and Monday integrating our dozens and dozens of health-care professionals who have responded to the call for help,” she said. “But we are united now.”

She also said Northwood is ramping up efforts to better communicate with the residents’ family members.

Josie Ryan, Northwood’s executive director of long-term care, said the facility has never had a lack of supplies.

“Initially, when we had a big increase in the number of cases, we had a little bit of difficulty getting it to the floors on time, but whenever anybody asked, it’s there,” she said. “We’ve had shipments of thousands of gowns, thousands of masks, eye shields, face shields, gloves.”

Ryan said the facility has had a pandemic plan for a number of years, and it put together a decision-making team once the virus got to Halifax. 

She said all staff and residents at the facility are being tested. So far, they’ve tested 300 staff members and more than 450 residents, and she said they’re finishing testing this week.

Northwood would try to retest anyone with a negative test result every three days, she said.

Josie Ryan, executive director of long-term care for Northwood, said the facility has never lacked personal protective equipment. (Brian Mackay/CBC)

Ryan also said they’re testing on site 24 hours a day, which would explain the discrepancy between the number of new cases in Nova Scotia released by the province Friday — 23 — and the number of new cases at Northwood.

“It’s just the point-in-time issue that we’re facing in terms of when numbers are reported versus when we’re actually receiving updated test results,” she said.

While staff at Northwood no longer travel between buildings, Ryan said they may still need to travel between floors — “but they are all in full PPE and we have enough PPE to support that.”

“Basically, when you have contact with someone that’s wearing a mask and following PPE, that contact becomes low,” she said, adding that they’re trying to keep staff on the same floors as much as possible.

On Friday, the province announced 23 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 850. It said there are 10 long-term care homes and seniors’ facilities with cases of COVID-19, involving 189 residents and 82 staff.

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