Thu | Nov 26, 2020

NURSING HOMES IN BREACH - Majority of elderly care, indigent facilities fail COVID-19 inspection

Published:Thursday | October 22, 2020 | 2:34 PMJonielle Daley/Gleaner Writer
Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie speaking to a resident of the Golden Age Home in Vineyard Town, Kingston, on March 30 during a clean-up and sanitisation exercise at the facility.
Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie speaking to a resident of the Golden Age Home in Vineyard Town, Kingston, on March 30 during a clean-up and sanitisation exercise at the facility.

More than half of the nursing homes and infirmaries inspected across the island since May to gauge how they have been adhering to COVID-19 protocols aimed at mitigating the risk of an outbreak of the virus have been found unsatisfactory.

The revelation was made yesterday by Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton as he addressed a press conference following a COVID-19 cluster of 46 cases being detected among residents and staff at the Golden Age Home in Vineyard Town, Kingston, this week.

The minister said that of the 214 nursing homes islandwide, 206 had been inspected since May, two months after the virus surfaced on local shores.

Of that number, 95 homes were satisfactorily implementing COVID-19 protocols and 160 were deemed unsatisfactory. Seven infirmaries also met the criteria while eight, reportedly, needed more work.

“In regards to other entities, the instructions that have been given to the standard agency and the public-health officials is to increase the frequency of visits to these institutions and ensure that, particularly [at] those that have been found wanting, we push for all the appropriate systems to be put in place because we would not want a recurrence of this in any institutions,” said Tufton.

He said that the ministry would be moving to increase random testing at such facilities to stave off future outbreaks.

Alarm bells first went off at the Golden Age Home on October 13 after a 73-year-old resident, who had been experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, including a cough and fever, since October 5, was admitted to the Kingston Public Hospital.

Two days later, he returned a positive test result for the virus, which had infected 8,445 persons locally up to Tuesday and claimed at least 174 lives.

The resident remains in critical condition.

Last Saturday, enhanced surveillance was initiated, with testing and contact tracing at the home, which has 428 residents and 162 staff..

Forty-six of the initial 72 samples taken from residents and staff came back positive, with 43 cases identified among residents and three among staff. The positive residents were placed in isolation in a section of the facility while infected staff are being isolated at home.

The elderly are among the high-risk groups for adverse outcomes from COVID-19, and with the majority of the residents of the home being over the age of 60, there has been heightened concern.

Yesterday, Tufton said that arrangements were being made for those who may become critically ill and require medical care to be transferred to appropriate medical institutions.

“We will deploy resources to include a visit by a medical doctor or medical doctors on a daily basis to the facility and any other clinical support necessary to include equipment and pharmaceuticals to ensure the safety and well-being of both staff and residents,” he said.

In addition, a no-visitor rule has been triggered since the cases were discovered.

Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie said a thorough probe would be conducted into the circumstances leading to the outbreak.

He said that up to yesterday, only five positive cases had been identified at infirmaries across the island – two cases were in Hanover, one in St Elizabeth and two in St Thomas. Of the five confirmed cases, he said, only one remained in the hospital.

“So it is clear that the protocols that we put in since March of this year have worked, but there is some slippage at Vineyard Town, and we are very concerned about it,” McKenzie added.

jonielle.daley@gleanerjm.com