Cassellholme outbreak cases 'misleading' – CEO

Health unit reporting 'erroneous' numbers at long-term care home

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The chief executive officer at Cassellholme Home for the Aged is frustrated by the health unit’s “clumsy” process in dealing with COVID-19.

“The numbers are misleading,” Jamie Lowery said Monday.

“The 13 cases the health unit reported to the community on Friday was erroneous. At least seven of those cases reported Friday are negative. Those individuals went to the hospital (North Bay Regional Health Centre) to get retested and ended up with a negative result,” he said.

However, Lowery said the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit will not take those seven people who tested negative off the total case count.

When asked why, Lowery said it is because “the health unit isn’t supporting those test results. They want people to isolate for 14 days. They are telling people not to get retested at the health centre, because they will not take the quarantine period seriously if the test comes back negative.”

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He said that action seems “cruel.

“I’m hoping the reason why this is happening is to ensure we are doing everything we can.”

The health unit declared the outbreak at the long-term care home late Friday after 13 people, none of whom are residents, tested positive for COVID-19, including one person who tested for a variant of concern.

On the weekend, Cassellholme released a statement saying 10 essential caregivers, who had tested positive Feb. 16, were being reassessed. Of those, seven had retested negative, with arrangements being made to retest the remaining three.

The residents those individuals care for were immediately moved into isolation and tested, with all confirmed negative for COVID-19, the statement said.

Cassellholme confirmed two staff members, a delivery driver and a staff member who hasn’t worked since November, received positive, low COVID-19 detection results and both were confirmed to have retested negative.

One caregiver tested positive, but was retested at the health centre. This individual hasn’t been at Cassellholme since Feb. 11.

No one is currently allowed in to Cassellholme, including essential caregivers who have negative results.

Lowery said caregivers who have received a low detection positive result also have been instructed to not leave their homes for 14 days. If they do, they could be fined.

“Many of these caregivers are seniors and they’re scared,” he said. “They can’t go out, they can’t get a second test.”

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The Nugget has sent numerous emails to the health unit, but has not received a response.

Lowery said it’s not unusual for the long-term care home to have several “low detection” positive COVID-19 test results.

He said it’s been happening since December and those results have never been included in the health unit’s daily case counts.

Lowery said an overwhelming majority of people head to the hospital to get retested and end up with a negative result.

But Friday was different, because this time the health unit issued a media release declaring an outbreak at the long-term care home.

“I was surprised,” Lowery said.

The situation, he said, has caused a lot of stress for residents, their families and staff.

He said within 45 minutes of the declared outbreak, all 10 residents whose caregivers initially tested positive were relocated to private isolation rooms in the long-term care home’s COVID-19 ward.

None of the residents tested positive.

“What about the human cost to this? Seniors were removed from their rooms with no idea what was happening. They were taken to another room with staff who were dressed in hospital gowns, masks and face shields. Their caregivers have been shut out and staff are seen as lepers.”

Lowery said testing resumes today and if any staff receive a low-level positive or positive test result they will have to isolate for 14 days, their kids will not be able to go to school and their spouse or partner can’t got to work.

“We’re 100 per cent supportive of the health unit wanting to protect our residents. However, there has to be some reasonable communication.”

Lowery said Cassellholme is looking at what it can do at its end to reduce the false positives, such as changing labs and swabs.

Staff also have had additional training on taking a COVID-19 sample.

Lowery said it would be wise if all residents, staff and caregivers who received a positive test from long-term care homes had the option to get retested at the health centre in a controlled environment so they aren’t forced to self-isolate for 14 days.

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