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Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario      

Dear Colleagues:  Welcome to my Thursday, April 23, COVID-19 report -- now in the fourth month of COVID-19 in Ontario. For the many resources RNAO offers on COVID-19, visit the COVID-19 Portal. In particular, VIANurse is your go-to page if you need to augment your nursing and personal support worker human resources. You can refer to earlier update reports here, including thematic pieces in my blog. Feel free to share this report or these links with anyone interested – they are public. Today, once again, our focus is on long-term care.

The tragedy in long-term care defies description. Of Ontario's official toll of 713 COVID-19 deaths, 72%, or 516 of those deaths, have occurred in long-term care facilities. There are currently outbreaks in 132 nursing homes, or just over a fifth of the 626 homes province-wide, and there are outbreaks in 63 retirement homes. Some 2,189 nursing home residents have been infected by the novel coronavirus, while 1,058 staff members have tested positive – which is about 70% of all the staff infected across all sectors (about 1,500). These numbers severely underestimate the real numbers of infected persons as testing has been very limited. As part of its action, the government has finally announced they plan to test all 78,000 residents and 56,000 health-care workers in long-term care homes – a measure RNAO has repeatedly asked for since April 10. When will this universal testing begin to happen and how long it will take to complete is not clear. The government is now also seriously addressing the PPE shortages across the sector. You may say that RNAO’s CEO sounds angry, and you are right: All nurses in our province are furious, heartbroken and devastated!   

Meanwhile, RNAO’s VIANurse program, launched on March 13, has already registered 283 NPs, 1,016 critical care RNs (who have experience and continued competency in the provision of critical care) as well as 7,277 RNs for virtual and clinical care. RNAO is continuously responding to requests from health organizations. So far, we have served 226 organizations, of which almost 170 are LTC or senior’s homes. RNAO has also offered the government to identify NPs and RNs who can help manage LTC organizations that are in crisis, and assist with urgent interventions where severe outbreaks are ongoing. RNAO’s long-term care coordinators are engaged in around-the-clock support to organizations in the sector that require help. Some of their activities can be found in this page.

Earlier today we launched a new survey for RNs, NPs and nursing graduates urging them to register for work in nursing homes that have an outbreak. This will fasten even more the matching of nursing staff to homes in dire need. Today we responded, within hours, to the staffing needs of 10 nursing homes with an outbreak. Please retweet the following urgent tweet.

For those of you ready to work in a nursing home with an outbreak -- we need you -- please CLICK HERE and complete our survey. We need your response as soon as possible given the rapidly evolving situation, and the urgent need in nursing homes across the province.

RNAO was surprised to hear that premier Ford has called for military backup for five of the hardest-hit nursing homes, though the province has not announced which facilities those will be. This, at a time when RNAO has the resources required to support these homes and has repeatedly offered to assist, as mentioned above. Earlier, in Quebec, premier Legault was pleading for medical specialists and family physicians to lend a helping hand to nurses and orderlies in hard-hit nursing homes and senior residences. Nurses in Quebec also found this to be a peculiar request.

The references in the media to efforts to bring medical specialists prompted a RN who works with seniors to write, brilliantly detailing the specialized knowledge required to work in long-term care. She prefers to remain anonymous. Please know that I am deeply appreciative for your willingness to share your exquisite knowledge and commitment. My RN colleague wrote the letter last week, before we heard about the invitation for military backup in Ontario nursing homes. Her arguments are relevant also in reference to the role of the army.

Working with seniors in long-term care requires specialized knowledge

I have extensive background in long-term care (LTC), where I have spent most of my 25-year career. I have worked at the bedside, in support, as well as management of homes, and currently as a case manager in geriatric psychiatry.

I watched the news this morning [about bringing medical specialists to LTC homes] with mixed feelings, probably like many RN colleagues. They need help in LTC, for sure. It is a horrible situation, which no doubt was preventable with proper use of PPE. That PPE is, at least, in place now, so that will help in those homes lucky enough to have no outbreaks so far.

I am concerned about the deployment of “specialists” to LTC. I use quotations since LTC itself is a specialty. As much as I would not be qualified or safe to work in ICU, a step down cardiology unit, or even in acute care – how do they think a “specialist” will manage in LTC?  No disrespect to them – I am sure most of them do a wonderful job in their specialty. However, physicians don’t receive basic training on how to feed, transfer, bathe, do skin assessments, or administer medications (often to as many as 60 people at a time). The actual medical care requirements of sick patients are limited. I expect many of the COVID-19 patients would be palliative or at least bedridden, and their biggest need is a sitter and support. A health provider with training in palliative care would do this job more effectively (at far less cost to an already taxed health care system).

Dementia is prevalent in LTC, and dementia care is a specialty. Would medical specialists in other fields have good understanding of dementia? This includes how to deal with responsive behaviours, how to convince someone with dementia to eat when they do not want to, or get dressed or bathe or shower when they are agitated. Would they be trained in de-escalation techniques, or would know non-pharmacological techniques to use to soothe a person with dementia who is crying and wanting “to go home” or looking for their parents?  Would a specialist, despite their best intentions, know what extra-pyramidal side effects are? Or which medications (as a last resort) to prescribe, for which behaviours, to elicit the least side effects? These are just a few of the specialized skills care workers apply in LTC. I have similar concerns with the deployment of hospital nurses to LTC, as I would with LTC nurses assigned to the hospital sector. However, they have basic nursing skills and, by listening to their peers and accepting direction from them, are likely to do better.

We must recognize that LTC is a different environment – for example, we use no restraints. One often hears people misjudge that LTC does not require a skill set. I heard early in my career, from other nurses, that I was “wasting my degree working in that nursing home,” and have been taunted that “all you do is wipe asses.” In each case, I responded they would know better if they worked there – there is a significant skill set and there is in-depth expertise. These remarks signify something different: that there is alarming discrimination against seniors and the staff that house and protect them.

Finally, I want to address the cries for more regulation of the LTC sector. Inspections have their place but are not sufficient for quality care. Does the public know that government inspectors, in a manner similar to LTC, do not inspect hospitals? What LTC needs is funding for staff – not more inspections. When I worked as a director of care in LTC I spent my time writing policies that I knew we didn’t have the staff to uphold. To my colleagues: LTC needs adequate staff – please help us advocate for this. We require more RNs and higher staffing ratios. Also newer homes with single rooms would have gone a long way towards changing the outcomes in some of the hardest hit homes.

RNAO’s response: Thanks for your thoughtful contribution and for your expertise – explicit in every phrase. RNAO has advocated since at least 2003 for changing the funding formula and archaic staffing in nursing homes.   

Your messages: Voices and responses

Each day we welcome new readers to this daily report: thank you deeply for the work you do always and especially during this public health crisis, and also for keeping us well informed. You can see previous reports at RNAO updates and resources on COVID-19 for members and other health professionals. Feel free to share these updates with other health professionals and other organizations both at home and abroad. RNAO media hits and releases on the pandemic can be found here. Daily Situational Reports from Ontario's MOH EOC can be found here. Many of the articles you see here are posted in my blog, where you can catch up with earlier issues. The COVID-19 Portal is here.

This evening we received a message from Cheryl Knott, NP-PHC. She says:

Thank goodness for RNAO weeding through the politics and keeping me grounded! [You are] My daily source of information. For instance, discussions about swabbing atypical presentation (in the NP group) took us ahead of the curve in regard to vigilant swabbing. I have never been so proud to be affiliated with RNAO knowing that they are walking side by side with the Minister of Health to make decisions - in an ever evolving situation.

Cheryl is referring to the weekly virtual meetings of NPs with me and RNAO’s LTC team where valuable information and experiences are exchanged. For more on RNAO’s support for long-term care, see here.  

Together we can do it

Today was day #34 of RNAO’s #TogetherWeCanDoIt campaign, started on March 19. Here are my picks for a noise that is becoming louder and louder in streets, workplaces and social media to #cheer4healthworkers – and it has gone even to Taiwan! Please remember to join-in this community building moment every evening at 7:30pm local time - until we defeat COVID-19! and post tweets from your communities, workplaces and memory places - with your messages, cheers here, pots & pans, songs and other expressions of gratitude -- Because: #TogetherWeCanDoIt.

MOH EOC Situational Report #88 here for Wednesday, April 22

Situation:

Case count as of 8:00 a.m. April 22, 2020

Area

Case count

Change from yesterday

Deaths

Change from yesterday

Worldwide total

2,575,682

+97,309

178,662

+8,341

Europe

1,153,218

+40,082

108,750

+3,915

China

82,788

-5635

4,632

0

Middle East

235,652

+11,515

8,210

+337

Asia & Oceania

105,583

+10,500

2,924

+268

Africa

25,699

+3,277

1,200

+66

Latin America and Caribbean

115,145

+7,284

5,769

+482

North America

857,597

+30,286

47,177

+3,273

United States

819,175

+28,695

45,343

+3,129

Canada

38,422

+1,591

1,834

+144

  •  510 new cases were reported today in Ontario, bringing the cumulative total to 12,245 (this includes 6,221 resolved cases and 659 deaths).
  • In Ontario, a total of 184,531 tests have been completed, with tests performed at Public Health Ontario Laboratories and non-Public Health Laboratories. There are currently 6,845 tests under investigation.
  • 878 patients are currently hospitalized with COVID-19; 243 are in ICU; and 192 are in ICU on a ventilator.

EOC report #88 for April 22 informs of the following actions taken

  • Ontario announced progress on the implementation of the COVID-19 Action Plan for Protecting Long-Term Care Homes to help stop and contain the spread of COVID-19 in the province's long-term care homes.

EOC report #89 for April 23 informs of the following actions taken:

  • Ontario is delivering a new COVID-19 Action Plan for Vulnerable People to better protect vulnerable populations during the outbreak of COVID-19.
  • The Government of Ontario announced a new emergency order issued to support people with mental health and addictions issues, as well as an extension of all emergency orders to May 6, 2020.
  • The Ministry has developed two documents which can be used to assist with COVID-19 screening. The first is the COVID-19 Symptoms document that can be used a resource for partners who are looking for an up-to-date symptoms list. The second is a Patient Screening Guidance document which can be used as a tool to help screen people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.  They are available in English and French on the Ministry’s website and will be updated as the situation evolves. 
  • The Command table met yesterday; a summary of the discussion is here.
  • A new memo was issued today regarding transfers from hospitals to retirement homes. It is here.

Staying in touch          

Please continue to keep in touch and share questions and/or challenges of any kind, and especially shortages of PPE. Send these to me at dgrinspun@rnao.ca. We are responding daily and are continuously solving your challenges. RNAO’s Board of Directors and our entire staff want you to know: WE ARE HERE FOR YOU!

Thank you deeply colleagues in the front lines; in administrative roles; in all labour, professionals and sector associations, and in governments in Ontario, in Canada and around the world. We are here with you in solidarity. These are stressful and exhausting times; the only silver lining is coming together and working as one people – for the good of all!

Together, we must redouble our efforts to tackle COVID-19 with the best tools at hand: accurate and transparent information, calmness, determination and swift actions. 

Doris Grinspun, RN,MSN, PhD, LLD(hon), Dr(hc), FAAN, O.ONT
Chief Executive Officer, RNAO  

 

RECENT RNAO POLICY CORNER ITEMS:

22 April - Shaking the stigma: We need a proactive COVID-19 response for mental health and addiction go here.

21 April - We Require Expanded and Accessible COVID-19 Data in Ontario go here.

20 April - Can Loss of Smell and Taste Help Screen for COVID-19? – go here.

18 April - COVID, Trump and the World Health Organization go here.

16 April - A Home Based Model To Confront COVID-19 – The Case Of The Balearic Islandsgo here.

15 April - COVID-19 and the Challenges in Homecare – go here.

14 April - Reprocessing Of N95 – An Update – go here.

14 April - A New COVID-19 Facility For Persons Experiencing Homelessness In Toronto – go here

13 April - Practical Tips for Safe Use of Masks – go here.

10 April - Ontario’s Tragedy in Long Term Care Homes and Retirement Homes – go here.

10 April - RNAO Action – Supporting Long-Term Care – go here.

10 April - Update For Nursing Students – NCLEX Exam – go here.

9 April - Celebrating Passover, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday and the start of Ramadan during a pandemic – go here.

9 April - Guidance on use of N95 mask – go here.

7 April - Sentinel surveillance and on-site testing in the homeless service sector – go here.

7 April - Reprocessing of n95 – safe? – go here.

5 April - We must change the way we do testing and case definition – go here.

5 April - Ringing the alarm bells on critical care beds – go here.

4 April - COVID-19, stay at home and domestic violence – go here.

We have posted earlier ones in my blog here. Please go and take a look.

RNAO’S policy recommendations for addressing the COVID-19 crisis: We have 17 recommendations for government at this particular juncture. Read them here.

 

Information Resources

Public Health Ontario maintains an excellent resource site on materials on COVID-19. This is an essential resource for Ontario health providers. 

Ontario’s health provider website is updated regularly with useful resources here.

Ontario’s public website on the COVID-19 is there to inform the general public – encourage your family and friends to access this public website. The WHO has provided an excellent link for you to share with members of the public here.

Please promote the use of Ontario’s COVID-19 self-assessment tool: It also has a guide where to seek care, if necessary. Its use will provide the province with real-time data on the number and geography of users who are told to seek care, self-isolate or to monitor for symptoms. Data will inform Ontario's ongoing response to keep individuals and families safe.

Health Canada's website provides the best information capturing all of Canada. It contains an outbreak update, Canada's response to the virus, travel advice, symptoms and treatment, and resources for health professionals.

The World Health Organization plays a central role in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. See here and here.

You can find up-to-date global numbers in Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE.

 

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