Local health unit revises guidelines for long-term care and retirement home residents

Isolation is also a risk, says health unit

By Lindsay Advocate

The local health unit has issued revised, interim guidance on when residents of area long-term care and retirement homes need to isolate in a COVID-19 outbreak.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit issued the revised guidance in recent days. This comes amid rising concerns about the increased risk to the physical and mental health of residents who have been placed in isolation if their long-term care facility or retirement home has been declared in outbreak.

While public health units follow provincial guidance for case, contact and outbreak management of COVID-19, there is some discretion to adapt these to unique situations in their local regions, according to a media release. The interim Health Unit guidance includes directions for facilities with cases identified only among staff, as well as updated recommendations on testing and isolation for residents at homes with suspect outbreaks. The change could allow residents to be released from isolation sooner if certain requirements are met.

The Health Unit’s interim guidelines only apply to retirement homes and long-term care homes in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes.

“These changes are meant to strike a balance between the negative impacts of strict outbreak measures, like isolation, and the continuing need to protect older residents from COVID-19,” says Dr. Natalie Bocking, Medical Officer of Health with the HKPR District Health Unit. “COVID-19 has changed from the first wave, meaning we also need to change our response. At this point in the pandemic, most residents of long-term care and retirement homes are highly vaccinated. We’re also seeing less illness and transmission of COVID-19 in these facilities. While there is an obligation to protect those most vulnerable to the virus, we know that strict isolation measures can also negatively affect residents.”

All other COVID-19 control measures will continue as before in long-term care and retirement homes.

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