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Halton Hills' Long Term Care Facilities Hit Hard By COVID-19

Last spring, the first wave of COVID infections hit Ontario's long-term and retirement homes like a tsunami. To some degree, especially in these early days, these facilities functioned as a petri dish for the virus. Contributing to the high rates of mortality was the fact that most institutions weren't ready for the onslaught, personal protection equipment was meagre or lacking, and staffing, in many cases, wasn't sufficient to weather the onslaught. Horror stories emerged from those times, but there have been some changes made. For one thing, in early December the second interim report by the province's commission on COVID-19 on long-term care, called for the resumption of annual Resident Quality Inspections and harsher enforcement of these facilities. As well, the Provincial Government temporarily raised wages by $3 for approximately 50,000 eligible workers in long-term care. Other personal support workers in home and community care, public hospitals and social services sectors have received wage increases of $2 or $3 per hour, a measure that should remain in place until March 31. Despite these initiatives, and alongside spiking COVID numbers, the situation for many long-term care residents remains dismal. According to Public Health Ontario , out of 626 long-term facilities, approximately one third of them (218) are currently experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks. The numbers are smaller for retirement homes (142) and hospitals (68), but are still alarming. Now doubt, this virus will continue to be toughest on seniors. As cited in above Public Health Ontario report, people 80 years or older account for 22.7 percent of COVID deaths in the province, by far the largest slice of the pie. Since last January 15, 2020, 2,928 long-term care residents and nine health care workers with confirmed COVID have died. Residents of these facilities remain the most vulnerable classification. In the same report, on January 6, long-term care residents accounted for 43 of the 89 confirmed COVID deaths that day. The previous day, January 5, 20 long-term home residents were slain by the same bug. Retirement and long-term care homes in Halton Hills haven't been spared the wrath of this scourge. Although, there have been no new outbreaks at the Mountainview Residences in Georgetown since the first wave in April 2020, 10 residents died as a result of that initial outbreak many months ago. Presently, Extendicare in Georgetown is among the hardest hit among 19 of Halton Region's long-term homes and hospitals currently experiencing outbreaks. According to Halton Region's website , since December 4, that facility has recorded 132 cases among residents and staff resulting in 14 resident deaths. On a positive note, some retirement homes in Halton Hills have already received vaccines and residents will be among the first to receive the shots. But only time will tell if this will be enough to protect our most vulnerable population and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.


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