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OP-ED: How Southbridge Roseview found their helpers

Staff work around the clock to provide care to the residents at Southbridge Roseview during this difficult time.
Southbridge Roseview Signs
The public has put up signs of support at Southbridge Roseview, where more than 60 cases of COVID-19 have been detected. (Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com)

By Joanne Lent, Southbridge Roseview executive director

Stress, frustration, anxiety. There is no doubt that COVID has caused our community a tremendous amount of worry over the past year, and nowhere has that been felt more acutely than in long-term care homes across the province.

And Southbridge Roseview has been no exception. We have mourned the loss of cherished residents. And our staff have worked around the clock providing care to residents, forgoing time and holidays with their own families to look after others. We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating again: we are so appreciative of all that they do. Their dedication is unmatched, and the messages of support from our families and community have kept their spirits high and morale strong.

Which is why it concerns us greatly when we hear speculation or suggestions that our home and its staff have not been doing enough to fight this outbreak. While we have acknowledged there have been challenges, including staffing in the early days of the outbreak, we have worked diligently to increase these numbers. We have built and fortified relationships with local healthcare partners like the Thunder Bay District Health Unit (TBDHU), NorWest CHC, the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), which sent us IPAC Extenders, Thunder Bay Regional, which sent us registered nurses, and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, which sent us a physician to support our existing doctor. We have two epidemiologists supporting the home, with one on-site, and an Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) Specialist in the home multiple days a week conducting audits of our protocols. Overall, we’ve onboarded more than 55 Personal Support Workers (PSWs) to supplement our staffing levels, and more than 20 registered nurses. We have two physicians and a Nurse Practitioner on site, and as a result, our home has some of the highest levels of medical support in the province, and our staffing ratios greatly exceed our pre-outbreak levels.

And while we didn’t have an outbreak during the first wave, we watched other homes, and learned from their experiences on how to prepare for an outbreak. We have and continue to provide staff with education on proper personal protective equipment (PPE) use, provided them with masks for their own personal use while in the community, and maintained a good supply of PPE at all times. We have IPAC Champions in every area of our home on every shift, conducting on-the-floor audits to identify potential non-compliance with our policies and take immediate corrective action.

And we’ve worked hard to ensure our family partners have the most up-to-date information at all times. Not a day has gone by that we haven’t made phone calls, sent emails or updated our website. And for the most part, the response from families has been overwhelmingly positive. They’ve shared their appreciation for the care and help that their loved one receives.

Likewise, we’ve worked hard to keep our local representatives updated, providing our MPP, MP and Mayor with frequent updates, in addition to the daily calls we have with TBDHU, the LHIN, the Ministry of Long-Term Care and Thunder Bay Regional.

There is no doubt about it—this has been a difficult time for everyone, and we are deeply sorry that our families have had to go through this experience. And while we know that everyone is under pressure, we have seen the power that patience, kindness and support can have in fighting this virus.

The beloved children’s entertainer Mr. Rogers once said that when you see something scary, to look for the helpers, and we hope that our message today helps illuminate them for our community. They are there, working behind-the-scenes to make a difference.

And it is thanks to their efforts that today, we have no active cases of COVID among our residents.