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9 dead from COVID-19 outbreaks in 2 Richmond care homes

Relatives say they are concerned about how COVID-19 cases are cared for in long-term care homes
Minoru Residence in Richmond
Minoru Residence, a Richmond long-term care home.

Nine residents have died of COVID-19 as a result of ongoing outbreaks at two long-term care facilities in Richmond, according to the provincial government.

Three residents at Minoru Residence and six at Fraserview Intermediate Care Lodge have passed since the outbreaks began in December 2020. Meanwhile, a combined total of 96 people have been infected.

The update, which is current up to Jan. 6, is part of what will now be a weekly report on COVID-19 cases and deaths in individual long-term care homes.

While the number of cases in care homes is now being shared, relatives of two Minoru residents told the Richmond News they want more information from Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) about how positive cases are taken care of. Both asked to remain anonymous out of concern for their family members in care. 

One relative, who lives in Richmond, told the News they weren't informed that their mother’s roommate had tested positive for the virus, instead hearing the news from the roommate’s family.

Their mother has since tested positive for the virus, they said, raising questions about how cases are managed.

The Minoru outbreak began in the 1 East unit on Dec. 21. Then, on Dec. 27, an outbreak was declared in the 3 West unit.

As of Dec. 31, the entire 250-bed facility has been under outbreak restrictions.

Cases at Minoru, Fraserview detailed

Regarding the cumulative number of cases in both facilities, the data appears to be inconsistent.

The report states there is a cumulative total of 54 cases at Minoru as of Jan. 6, while at the same time it notes the number of infected includes 49 residents and six staff, which is 55 cases total.

Meanwhile, the report states the outbreak at Fraserview has infected 27 residents and 14 staff.  However, it also states the cumulative total for the cases at Fraserview is 21.

There is also discrepancy regarding when the outbreak began at Fraserview, with the report stating Dec. 5 while VCH’s facility outbreak bulletin states that restrictions were imposed at that facility on Dec. 12.

The News asked the Ministry of Health for clarification about the numbers, as well as the date the outbreak began at Fraserview.

The ministry did not clarify the report’s data, but said in an emailed statement that “improving timely access to (long-term care) data is important for residents and their families, as well as to accurately track COVID data trends.”

The report is a “snapshot in time,” the ministry said, and will change as new information comes in.

Questions raised about isolation of positive cases

The Richmond resident whose mother in Minoru tested positive for COVID-19, said they are concerned about isolation procedures for residents who have tested positive.

They cited previous statements from VCH saying that positive cases were promptly isolated, however, the Richmondite said they understand residents remain in the same room together with a curtain separating beds in double rooms, as was the case before the outbreak.

In an emailed statement to the News, VCH acknowledged that residents remain in their rooms at all times during an outbreak, but added, “each of the bed spaces in a room are kept separate and staff don new (personal protective equipment) in-between treating residents.” 

During a virtual meeting with families last weekend, the family member said they asked health officials about isolation but were told “basically that the room is safer than moving the person out.”

They added they were also told test results could come back with false negatives.

“During an outbreak in a facility, we want to reduce the risk of potentially infecting those who have not yet been exposed,” VCH said in its statement. “If two residents are already sharing a room, and one person tests positive, there is an increased likelihood that the other resident will also test positive.”

In other words, there could be a “higher number (of cases) very, very quickly,” according to the family member.

“I think Minoru Residence is trying to do their best, the staff, the care they are trying to provide. But this is a high-level decision policy,” they said.

The second Richmond resident, whose father lives at Minoru, also said they would like residents who have tested positive to be separated “immediately” from those testing negative.

“Positive residents can be put in one floor, one wing, for example. Positive and negative in one room is totally unacceptable,” they said, adding that COVID patients should be moved to hospital for treatment when there is capacity. 

They also suggested that staff who work with positive cases only work in the isolated floors. 

“Every day, every shift (they are) moving around, getting in and out of the community and…bringing unnecessary risks to their homes and community, too.”

Staff working in long-term care “ensure the appropriate care” of residents with COVID-19, and the ongoing care of those who are not affected by the virus, VCH said, adding staff monitor all residents on a regular basis for symptoms. 

But the Richmondite whose mother is at Minoru wants families to be given more information about the level of care residents receive, particularly those who have tested positive.

“We need to know more, what they’re saying about appropriate care for the positive patient – what is meant by appropriate care? How many fluids are they having, other small details,” they said.  

Health authority trying to ‘keep ahead’ of outbreaks

Vaccinating residents, staff and essential visitors at long-term care facilities has been the first priority of VCH, including those where there have been outbreaks such as Minoru and Fraserview.

VCH told the News that eligible staff and residents at Minoru received the COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic at the facility.

On Tuesday, the health authority said it is expecting to have vaccinations completed at all long-term care facilities by the end of this week.

Meena Dawar, Richmond’s medical health officer with VCH, said they were trying to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities.

Now, trying to manage and “keep ahead” of the outbreaks at Fraserview and Minoru has been keeping the health authority busy, Dawar explained at Tuesday’s Richmond Community COVID-19 Task Force.

“We were working really hard all year to keep illness out of the facilities in Richmond but it made its way through which is really unfortunate, but it is what it is,” Dawar said.

“I know it’s causing anxiety for family members and to us, but we’re trying to stay on top of that.”

  • With files from Maria Rantanen