This letter is to correct misinformation currently circulating in the public regarding Fraser Health staff working at long term care and assisted living facilities in our region.
On March 22, Fraser Health issued two Orders under the Public Health Act enabling us to collect information on staffing and prepare for the assignment of staff to single facilities at all long term care facilities, as well as ordering long term care facility operators to implement a suite of measures to prevent the introduction of the virus into facilities and to minimize the risk of the spread of COVID -19 to vulnerable populations.
Soon after, we received direction from the Province that, given the complexity involved in coordinating staff working for multiple service providers and between multiple Health Authorities, the Province would coordinate the collection of staffing information and staff assignment. This led us to re issue our order on March 24th without the information collection provisions but maintaining the requirement to follow enhanced infection control measures. The Provincial Health Officer subsequently issued Orders on March 26th and 27th to allow the collection of staffing information. It is important to note that these PHO orders did not limit staff to working in only one facility, but enabled Medical Health Officers to make such orders to individual facilities, as needed.
Fraser Health is restricting facility staff from working at multiple sites if there is an outbreak at a facility. Staff working at long term care or assisted living facilities where outbreaks have been detected are not permitted to work at other long term care or assisted living facilities.
In addition, and prior to the Orders, we had implemented comprehensive strategies to prevent and respond to COVID-19 in long term care, assisted living and independent living facilities. We have also deployed more than 200 people as part of our rapid action teams which include clinical nurse educators, infection prevention and control experts, screeners, patient care quality officers supporting with communication to families and assessing symptoms at the site. Through these teams, sites are also connected with emergency supplies and additional personnel if needed.
Since the public health emergency was declared, we have seen no to limited transmission in our facilities with outbreaks. We have had no additional outbreaks in any of our facilities in two weeks.
On April 10th the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) issued an order requiring the Health Authorities to use the staffing information collected by the Province to develop plans to limit staff working at long term care, assisted living, extended care, private hospitals and provincial mental health facilities to a single site, and once the plans were completed, to issue appropriate single site orders. Implementation is underway as we await the staffing information.
All staff working in long term and assisted living are being provided the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment to care for our patients and clients. They are part of our significant response during this challenging time, and I commend their commitment to providing exceptional care to all of our patients and residents.
Dr. Martin Lavoie, MD, FRCPC
Vice President, Population Health & Chief Medical Health Officer