The provincial seniors advocate says long-term care homes like Mountain Lake Seniors Community seen here in Nelson are already prepared to handle any possible outbreak of COVID-19. Photo: Tyler Harper

B.C. Seniors Advocate: care homes well equipped to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks

Isobel Mackenzie downplays concerns seniors are at risk

The provincial seniors advocate says she believes B.C. care homes are properly equipped to protect residents from outbreaks of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The World Health Organization has said elderly people and those with pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes are more likely to develop a serious illness if they are diagnosed with COVID-19.

But to date, there have been no cases of coronavirus in any of B.C.’s 294 long-term care homes. Seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie expressed confidence in facilities to manage the virus.

“Care homes are accustomed to these types of outbreaks,” said Mackenzie. “An outbreak of influenza, pneumonia or norovirus are all frankly equally as serious as an outbreak of COVID-19 would be in a care home, and we handle those outbreaks.”

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and health minister Adrian Dix said Thursday there are 21 confirmed cases of coronavirus in B.C. One of those cases is a woman in her 80s who is in critical condition after returning from a trip to India.

In an update Friday, Dix said over 2,000 people in B.C. have been tested for the virus.

Mackenzie said families shouldn’t be concerned about loved ones in care. Controls, Mackenzie said, are in place to limit or prevent the spread of coronavirus among senior residents.

“I think perspective is important,” she said. “There has been no reason to think anything other than we are handling this as best we can. I know there’s a lot of people running around saying we aren’t prepared for a pandemic, go stock up on toilet paper and cans of beans. I think we need to be careful here and we need to look at the facts and perspective.”

That perspective might need to include use of medical supplies.

On Monday, the World Health Organization warned of global shortages to personal protective equipment such as gloves, aprons and masks.

SafeCare BC is a non-profit association focused on safe working conditions for continuing care givers. The organization’s CEO, Jennifer Lyle, said she is concerned about the equipment supply chain and, if shortages begin to affect Canada, the health of care givers.

“In B.C., if you are a healthy individual and you are just going about your day in the community, you do not need a surgical mask,” said Lyle. “We really need to be asking ourselves some hard questions about if you are using a mask and you may not necessarily need it, who are we taking that mask away from?”

Related:

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tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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