Frequently Asked Questions
Last updated – June 4, 2020
Please see below for a list of frequently asked questions regarding the COVID-19 outbreak at Northwood’s Halifax facility.
For a detailed account of the steps and measures taken at Northwood’s Halifax facility, please review the updated timeline document.
RESPONSE TO OUTBREAK
What are you doing to ensure the safety of residents?
We have implemented strict safety measures to protect our residents. All employees are self-screening every day, and we are testing our residents. We have activated an emergency plan with the support of our health sector colleagues, and the QEII and EHS are assisting with testing and monitoring of our residents. We are ensuring our care providers are equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and that it’s being used appropriately. Increased infection control measures are in place to help mitigate the spread of the disease. Our employees are also trained in exceptional hand hygiene and health habits as they support those in our care.
How does the complexity of care that residents need impact the COVID-19 situation at Northwood?
Many of the residents who live with us have complex illness or are at end of life. It is a challenging, rewarding and beautiful part of life’s journey. We take great pride in providing dignified and comfortable living arrangements for residents at all our facilities. Because of the size of our Halifax facility and nature of the people we serve, we normally see 10 to 12 deaths per month. During flu season we can see even greater number. A difficult reality of the work we do. Our mission is to bring comfort and peace to those who need it and, in these trying days, we continue to offer this for our residents. Northwood’ s hospice team, our nurse practitioner, our medical director and the new members of the team who have joined us are working together supporting individuals who are at end of life so they continue to receive the quality of care they expect and deserve from Northwood.
Why is Northwood’s Halifax Long Term Care Facility been hit so hard by the COVID-19 virus?
We have a team working with public health analyzing the data. We’re hoping that the data will give us information about how we got here and how we respond going forward. The long-term care industry is used to communal living and we have expertise in preventing infections and outbreaks. This is part of what we do, however the world is still learning about the characteristics and behavior of this virus every day.
We have been doing screening for months. We had protocols in place long before they were mandated. Any staff member who travelled, displayed any of the expected symptoms, tested positive, or had known exposure to COVID-19, were put off work in accordance with the Public Health Order. It reinforces the critical nature of the Public Health orders. The choices that we make in our home and our communities impact us all, including the vulnerable individuals living at Northwood’s Halifax Campus.
Are individuals who are COVID-19 positive residents being isolated?
Yes. Measures have been put in place to separate residents and limit contact within the overall capacity and layout of the facility. In planning and preparation for COVID-19, Northwood prepared a 20-unit, single room unit. With increasing numbers on other floors, a second COVID-19 unit was created with an additional 23 beds. With additional spread throughout the building, we are now isolating individuals within their rooms on their units. Measures have been put in place to separate residents and limit contact within the overall capacity and layout of the facility. A treatment unit has been created for residents with COVID-19.
Unfortunately, given the spread and experience with testing, if an individual who has not been tested is sharing a room with a COVID positive resident we have to assume that co-resident is positive until testing can confirm their status. We then determine the ability to separate within our capacity. We are making every effort to ensure our positive residents are isolated as soon as possible.
Are residents being moved into hotels?
A COVID-19 Recovery Unit has been set up and residents who have recovered from COVID-19 are being moved to a local hotel that meets health and safety requirements.
Why are you moving recovered residents, instead of positive ones or negative ones?
Moving positive residents introduces obvious challenges associated with transporting somebody who has COVID-19, potentially exposing others to the virus. We do not move negative residents because of the 14-day incubation period associated with the virus – someone who has tested negative today could show symptoms and test positive in the days to come. If these residents are moved and bring the virus elsewhere, it will create an additional outbreak in a different location. Moving our recovered residents allows us to provide necessary care offsite and allows for capacity within our facilities to tend to positive residents.
Will COVID-19 positive residents be transferred to hospital?
The COVID-19 unit at the Halifax Infirmary has been relocated to Northwood to help support the acute care needs of residents on site. Northwood’s Medical Director is working with a team of physicians to assess residents and determine the best environment for treatment. We are able to complete testing and treatment for COVID-19 onsite. With the Halifax Infirmary being relocated to Northwood, necessary equipment, including ventilators, are available for use within Northwood.
How has the COVID-19 outbreak impacted home support, home care visits and other essential services?
We continue to be able to offer essential services to clients. With that said, we continue to have ongoing staffing issues due to lack of childcare and self-isolation for staff who may be demonstrating symptoms of COVID-19. Currently we have 346 of our 550 Continuing Care Assistants (CCAs) in home care offering care to 673 of our 1,850 home care clients. Staffing levels have made it a challenge to offer every visit throughout the day and unfortunately, some visits are being cancelled due to fluctuating staffing levels that are changing on a daily basis. We are managing these unprecedented challenges as best we can, but know they are causing stress for residents, staff, and families alike.
As the circumstances change we have been able to reactivate some visits and will continue to be in contact with our clients as we are able to offer more care. It’s our hope that through these safety measures we will be able to get through this pandemic together and get back to our full staffing compliment and continue to serve the Northwood community with the high-quality home care they’ve come to expect from us.
How is Northwood managing the significant reduction in Northwood staff who are coming to work?
In true Nova Scotian spirit, we have had staff come forward from other industries, and we are matching their unique skills to needs that we have. Our health system colleagues have been very supportive, and we are working with them to implement an emergency plan to isolate the virus and care for our residents. We have staff coming from the Nova Scotia Health Authority, VON, EHS and other long-term care facilities. It is heartwarming the support we are receiving so that we can focus our resources on providing care for our residents.
How many staff are there at Northwood?
We have over 2,000 staff, including just over 800 who typically work at our facility in Halifax. This is comprised of approximately 550 Continuing Care Assistants in Home Support, 200 Field employees in Health Services, and 85 employees in administrative roles fixed a typo (Supervisors, Staffing, etc.). There are approximately 340 employees who are actively working in Home Support and varied health services.
MEDICAL EQUIPMENT AND PPE
Do employees have access to personal protective equipment (PPE)?
Yes. Northwood is in the position to provide all our staff with the personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to continue to support our residents. We have been very fortunate to have procured the PPE we need to deliver services safely.
Is Northwood following proper protocol when it comes to waste and garbage disposal of used PPE or other potentially contaminated materials?
Yes. Northwood has been in close and regular contact with our waste collection services provider throughout the outbreak, and we have been following their clear direction in terms of how to separate specific waste items. These measures have been reviewed and implemented in consultation with infection control officials from the Department of Health and Wellness who are on site at Northwood. In terms of biohazardous materials, these are placed in separate red bags which are picked-up once-a-week by our medical waste collector. All staff working at Northwood have received clear instruction on how to dispose of materials to ensure the safety of frontline workers and residents.
Does Northwood have access to important medical equipment, like ventilators?
The COVID-19 unit at the Halifax Infirmary has been relocated to Northwood to help support the acute care needs of residents on site. Northwood’s Medical Director is working with a team of physicians to assess residents and determine the best environment for treatment. We are able to complete testing and treatment for COVID-19 onsite. With the Halifax Infirmary’s COVID-19 being relocated to Northwood, medical equipment, including ventilators, are brought in for use within the facility, as necessary.
HALIFAX CAMPUS: RESIDENTS AND TENANTS
How many residents and tenants does Northwood have?
Northwood’s Halifax facility has a total of 485 long-term care beds. There are 32 vacancies as of April 22, 2020.
Our Halifax facility is comprised of three buildings (Manor, Tower, Centre) with assisted living and other tenants. All of our buildings are attached by pedways.
- The Centre is comprised of long-term care residents (297 total beds)
- The Manor is divided between long-term care residents and tenants (188 total beds. 18 assisted living apartments)
- The Tower is only tenants, and functions like any other apartment building (66 apartments, 72 total tenants)
What is the difference between tenants and residents? Is it true that tenants are not held to the same set of rules and restrictions as residents?
The individuals who live in our affordable retirement living program are often referred to as “tenants”. These individuals are like any Nova Scotian, and the Tower is like any other apartment building governed under the Tenancy Act. As a result, they are expected to abide by the public health orders in place. This includes ensuring that they are following all of the physical distancing or PPE requirements when they have homecare staff visiting and they have to perform essential tasks like buy groceries or medication. To ensure we’re taking all the necessary precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic, tenants have been asked to provide the name of their support person for grocery/essential goods drop off so they can be vetted through our screening process.
Are residents and tenants living in the same facilities or interacting with each other?
There are two buildings at our Halifax facility where tenants live – the Tower and the Manor.
The Tower is comprised of all independent living units, occupied by “tenants”. The Tower is attached to both the Manor and the Centre through pedways, which have been blocked for passage by tenants and residents for many weeks now. In the Manor, there are floors that have both tenants and long term care residents. They have separate wings within the building, and they are currently separated by physical barriers that have been in place for several weeks. We also have separate staff that provide services to a small number of tenants in the Manor.
Access to our residential care wings are currently restricted, and any interaction that takes place at Northwood is subject to the physical distancing directives being mandated by public health officials.
How many residents are in double or triple rooms in the Centre?
In the Centre, there are nine triple rooms (one per floor), 72 double rooms. and 126 private rooms.
What screening protocols does Northwood have in place for its tenants to protect the health of those in LTC?
As is the case with all Nova Scotians, tenants are expected to abide by the public health orders in place. Tenants and their homecare staff visiting must follow physical distancing or PPE requirements, or when they perform essential tasks like buying groceries and medication. We’ve added an additional precaution, where tenants have been asked to provide the name of their support person for grocery/essential goods drop off so we can ensure they are vetted through our screening process.
Since early March, Northwood has had physical blockades installed throughout the facility (in pedways, connected hallways etc.) to prevent tenants and residents from connecting or using common areas. While these measures have helped us to ensure that no tenants have tested positive for COVID-19 to date, we continue to reiterate the importance of following the public health orders in place at the provincial level to ensure the health and safety of our tenants.
How many people were on the waitlist for admittance into a Northwood facility in March 2020 prior to the COVID-19 outbreak? How has this changed?
All admittance procedures for Nova Scotians waiting to get into long-term care facilities across the province, including Northwood, are managed by the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA). You can find more information by contacting the NSHA continuing care toll-free line at 1-800-225-7225, or by visiting their website for additional resources.
How can I arrange to have a video call with a Northwood resident?
We understand that loneliness and isolation are unfortunate realities caused by the pandemic. To keep residents in contact with their family and friends, Northwood has been scheduling online video calls. Family and friends can call Northwood directly to schedule a video call with their loved one. To schedule a call, please call the number below and leave a detailed message with your full name, the residents name, residents room number, and your call back number. You will receive a call back within 24 to 48 hours.
Halifax: 902-719-7523 (Platforms include FaceTime and Google Duo)
Bedford: 902-407-8545 (Platforms include FaceTime, Google Duo, and Zoom)
How has the pandemic changed the configuration of the Halifax facility?
There are a total of 485 long term care beds at the Halifax facility. Prior to the pandemic, we had 31 rooms that had multiple occupants between the Centre and the Manor buildings ( 9 rooms in the Centre, and 22 in the Manor). We currently have less than 25 rooms with shared occupancy.
Will you report the positive COVID-19 cases by floor?
Floor counts are difficult to report on at this time as it is changing on a daily basis. We are now moving recovered residents out of our facility so that we can move residents inside of the facility to increase distancing. Your loved one may be moved as a result of this; however, we are increasing efforts to connect with families so you will be kept informed of any changes.
All long-term care residents at Northwood Halifax are being tested for COVID-19, whether they have symptoms or not. Please be assured that if your loved one tests positive for COVID-19 the family will be contacted by a member of our staff to discuss the test result and the care plan.
Why are your reporting totals different than the totals being reported by the province?
We’ve had some questions about why our daily case numbers are sometimes different than what’s being reported by the province. The easiest way to explain this is that our number of cases here at Northwood and the total number of cases in the provinces are data that is reported at two different points in time.
Have there been deaths at Northwood that weren’t tied to COVID-19? Are all deaths since the outbreak confirmed to be COVID-19 related?
The reporting protocols we have set up, as recommended by public health, are that if an individual tests positive for COVID-19 and passes away, they will still be included in the count of COVID-19 related deaths even if they were at end-of-life. If someone at end-of-life and passes away and tested negative, we will not include them in the count. Our Medical Director reviews all deaths and will work with the Medical Officer of Health to determine the official cause of death. This will include those who did not test positive but have passed away to confirm they are not to be added to the count.
Is Northwood conducting COVID-19 research during the outbreak?
Northwood is collaborating with researchers at Dalhousie University and the Nova Scotia Health Authority on a study of why some people are less likely to develop COVID-19 and why some people who contract the virus fare better than others. The study is being conducted in collaboration with the Serious Outcome Surveillance Network. This is a national network that works with the Public Health Agency of Canada to monitor cases of the flu (and now COVID-19) in adults admitted to Canadian hospitals each year. All those who participate in the study will do so voluntarily. If a resident does not wish to participate in the study, they can simply decline participation. This will of course not affect the care that you receive in any way.
Why have your recovery totals changed recently?
Since the onset of COVID-19, Northwood and the Nova Scotia government have reported cases at two different points in time. With the recent changes to the province reporting active cases, we have updated how we are reporting our recoveries to be consistent with Public Health. We hope this will avoid confusion when sharing the figures publicly.