Struggle to contain deadly COVID-19 outbreak at Anson Place isn’t over yet: health unit

Anson Place Care Centre is one of the deadliest outbreaks of COVID-19 in the province, and Haldimand-Norfolk’s medical officer of health says it’s likely not over.

Twenty-four residents of the Hagersville, Ont., centre, have died from the virus, says Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, medical officer of health for the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit. That amounts to a quarter of the people living at the long-term care and retirement home.

Seventy-one residents, or three-quarters of the people living there, have tested positive overall, as well as 30 staff. Residents are confined to their rooms and the home is rushing to find more staff and train community volunteers.

“Regrettably, I would anticipate that there may be other deaths,” Nesathurai said Monday.

Staff change clothes when they get to work, and they wear masks, he said. When caring for residents, they wear full personal protective equipment. Patients are isolated, and staff travel only from work to home. 

“The people that are currently infected, to the best of our ability, were infected before these sorts of measures were instituted,” he said. 

Family members of people in Ontario long-term care homes are concerned the facilities still don’t have the equipment and staffing support needed during COVID-19 outbreaks despite urgent measures announced last week. 2:05

The Services Employees International Union (SEIU) has asked the province to take over operations of Anson Place, as well as Eatonville Care Centre in Etobicoke and Hawthorne Place Care Centre in Toronto. As of Saturday, 31 Eatonville residents have died and more than half are infected. SEIU president Sharleen Stewart said the handling of the pandemic at two homes in particular had been reckless and careless.

“This matter requires your urgent attention because lives are literally at stake,” Stewart said in a letter. 

Rykka Care Centres, an operating partner of Responsive Group, owns all three homes. The three centres and both companies are named in a court injunction filed by the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA).

Minister of Long-Term Care Merilee Fullerton said Ontario does not manage homes. “However, we do work to create the coordination with management groups that will go in and help our long-term care homes,” she said Saturday.

Nesathurai said he doesn’t have an opinion on the union’s call.

“The issue of who should manage or administer a facility is not really for the public health service to comment on,” he said. 

There are currently 47 residents of Anson Place who are sick from COVID-19, including 29 cases in the long-term care home and 18 at the retirement home, executive director Lisa Roth said in a Monday evening email.

The health unit is retesting “a number of front-line staff,” Roth said in an email Monday evening.

Physiotherapist assistants and a registered practical nurse have also joined the staff, she said. This week, the home will also be interviewing and orienting volunteers who have stepped up to help.

“The Hagersville community was also hugely receptive to our call for community support,” she said.

Anson Place accounts for a large number of the 28 COVID-19 deaths in Haldimand and Norfolk counties. So far, the area has 166 cases, or one for every 661 people. Thirty-two have recovered.

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