All staff and residents of St. Joseph’s Health Centre were tested for COVID-19 over the past four days, says Public Health.
The long-term care facility has one patient and six staff members who have previously tested positive for the virus and approached public health about getting what amounted to 900 people tested.
Testing took place at both the facility and at the Guelph COVID-19 Assessment Clinic at the Victoria Road Recreation Centre from Friday to Monday, said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nicola Mercer.
“It’s not unusual to test a facility in whole,” Dr. Mercer said, adding that normally would mean several tests over a period of time that amounts to the entire facility being tested.
“What is probably more unusual is to do so in such a rapid way, which is what happened with St. Joseph’s," she said.
“We have been more aggressively testing residents and staff in institutions when we get one positive case."
St. Joseph’s head office in Hamilton requested the testing, Dr. Mercer said. They have done so in other regions where they have a facility.
“They wanted to get baseline surveillance information for all its sites,” she said.
Public Health has done a similar blanket testing of a long-term care facility, albeit a much smaller one, in Dufferin County, she said.
“Is it something we do routinely? No. Will we be doing more of it moving forward? I think that the more we learn about this new virus, which we didn’t know much about before, I think the more we need to do research on it and do surveillance on it.”
In a news release, St. Joseph's said testing all asymptomatic residents and staff was an innovative proactive measure they took to help ensure safety.
“Testing all patients, residents and staff is a proactive step to help SJHCG protect our community. This weekend has represented an excellent example of St. Joseph’s Health Centre Guelph coming together with our community partners to make tremendous things happen,” said David Wormald, President of St. Joseph’s Health Centre in the news release.
Dr. Mercer said that anyone that is living in a group setting, particularly if they have complex health conditions, are more vulnerable.
“What we’re noticing is that the disease, once it gets into these settings, spreads very quickly. The more we learn, the more we understand we have to be very vigilant and when we find something we should test very aggressively, everybody in those settings.”
Other vulnerable institutions would be given the same option, she said.
As a rule, Public Health does not want people coming to the assessment clinic to be tested if they have no symptoms. The St. Joseph’s testing was done based on the fact they have an outbreak and that they were healthcare workers.
“In a perfect world we would be able to test very broadly and have the results back in a very short period of time,” Dr. Mercer said.
Testing swabs are not in short supply, Dr. Mercer said, but the chemical reagent used for testing is.
As of Monday afternoon there are seven institutions in WDG Public Health’s coverage area with outbreaks, totalling 101 individuals:
Caressent Care: one resident
Dufferin Oaks: four residents, five staff
Headwaters Health Centre: five patients, 18 staff
Homewood Health Centre: 14 patients, five staff
Norfolk Manor: 22 residents, four staff
Shelburne Reisdence: 14 residents, two staff
St. Joseph’s: one resident, six staff