Sudbury Families Oppose New Long-Term Care Home Vaccination Policy

A group of families is protesting against a new COVID-19 vaccination policy that will be implemented in long-term care facilities operated by St. Joseph’s Health Center in Sudbury.

Group member Sandy Vachon said she was “shocked” to learn that St. Gabriel’s Villa in Chelmsford, where her mother lives as a resident, will require proof of double vaccination from all visitors, including essential caregivers, starting in November. 30.

St. Joseph’s Interim CEO David Paquette confirmed in a statement that this policy will be implemented at “all (four) operating sites” to protect the health and safety of residents, patients, patients, residents, patients and patients. staff and visitors.

Vachon, who acts as her mother’s attorney, said that while she understands the need to protect vulnerable residents from COVID-19, the new policy will violate her mother’s rights as a resident in a nursing home. long duration.

She also said that the implementation of the new policy, which was announced to family members via email on October 27, does not give families enough time to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or to make other arrangements if necessary.

“They are concerned about bringing COVID-19 into the home – as they should be. It’s also my concern, and that’s why I don’t mind being tested every other day when I go to see my mom, ”said Vachon, who chose not to get the shot.

“However, as a resident of a long-term care home, my mother has the right to make decisions about her care and voice her concerns. She can’t do this on her own.

Vachon referred to the Residents Bill of Rights, legislated in the Long-Term Care Homes Act in 2007, which states that every resident has the right to “fully participate in making all decisions regarding any aspect of their health. care “.

“My mother cannot speak for herself. She needs me there, plain and simple, ”she said.

Vachon’s mother has been a resident of Villa St. Gabriel, one of three long-term care homes in Sudbury operated by St. Joseph’s Health Center, since May 2021.

Before being admitted, she was in the hospital after suffering from a severe stroke.

“It left her completely paralyzed on the right side. She cannot speak or communicate, so it is essential that I have been part of her care from day one, ”Vachon explained.

“Through all the blockages, I was always allowed to see her. Then, on Halloween, I went to pick up my mom and saw the display in the elevator saying that no one will have access to the facility unless they are double vaccinated.

On contacting the St. Gabriel site administrator, Vachon learned that the new COVID-19 vaccination policy goes “beyond” what has been mandated by the Ministry of Long-Term Care.

After posting a video on social media expressing her concern, Vachon said she received an overwhelming response from other families in similar situations.

“I know I have stepped up and championed my mother’s health and well-being for over a year now in areas of gross neglect. I submitted photos of injuries and safety issues. You name it, I saw it – and I handled it, ”she said.

Vachon said that because personal support workers are so “overworked” and local long-term care homes are consistently “understaffed,” family members have been forced to step in as as essential caregivers.

“I’ve seen things the staff can’t see because they just can’t be with my mom all the time. My presence was fundamental to her care and recovery, ”she said.

“Allowing POAs and essential caregivers (in the facility) for people who cannot have a voice on their own is my greatest right, whether it is my mother or someone else.”

St. Joseph Health Center said in a statement that it made the political decision on October 26.

“Our long-term care homes and hospital serve some of the most vulnerable patients and residents in our community and our organization is committed to preventing further epidemics during this fourth wave of the pandemic,” the CEO said by interim, David Paquette.

“We know from experience in Ontario that this population has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and we are looking to reduce potential infections and preventable deaths. ”

Paquette added that this policy is important given the recent emergence of Greater Sudbury as a provincial hotspot for COVID-19.

He also said it was “consistent with those adopted by Health Sciences North and the City of Greater Sudbury as well as other health care organizations across the province.”

“We will ensure that all residents continue to receive appropriate, high quality care and that every effort is made to meet the health and social interaction needs of our residents during this time,” said Paquette.

“The care team at each of our sites will work directly with residents, patients, caregivers / visitors affected by this policy change to ensure that their needs are met and that individualized plans are in place where appropriate. applicable. ”

The Ministry of Long-Term Care has made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all long-term care workers in the province, in addition to random testing of vaccinated staff and visitors.

The deadline for staff to prove they have received a second dose of the vaccine, which was originally set for November 15, has been extended to December 13 following a recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization .

“The ministry has advised all long-term care homes that choose to implement their own vaccination requirements for general visitors and caregivers to do so taking into account all legal obligations, including the Bill of Rights. residents and the obligation to ensure a safe home, ”said a spokesperson for the ministry.

“Any vaccine requirement for general visitors and caregivers must appropriately balance a resident’s right to receive visitors of their choice and the right to live in a safe environment. ”

The ministry said the balance must take into account “available alternative measures” in addition to the general context of the household, the wider community and the leadership of local public health units.

Long-term care homes are strongly urged to consult with local health units, resident and family councils, and legal advisors before developing immunization policies.

“Long-term care homes are first and foremost a home for residents. The rights of residents must be fully respected and promoted at all times, ”the spokesperson said.

The ministry added that COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care homes “have generally not been identified as originating from general visitors or caregivers.”

“These groups typically visit only one resident at home and are subject to mandatory screening, testing, and infection prevention and control (IPAC) measures before and during their visit,” the spokesperson said. .

“This layered approach aims to strike a balance between necessary measures related to COVID-19 and the mental and emotional well-being of residents. ”

In an effort to escalate complaints from local families, Vachon said she filed a complaint with the Ministry of Long-Term Care’s ACTION line in addition to contacting Minister Rod Phillips.

She said the ministry agreed to send an investigator to St. Gabriel Villa in response.

Vachon also reached out to Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas, who told the Sudbury Star she was aware of the new COVID-19 vaccination policy, and contacted the province for more information.

The MP said she sympathizes with residents of long-term care homes and their families because she remembers how hard the initial lockdowns of the pandemic were on the mental health and well-being of residents .

She recommended that essential caregivers and IPs who are concerned about the new immunization policy contact long-term care homes directly to inquire about accommodation.

“I am on the side of long-term care homes. We are talking about vulnerable people. At the same time, you will have to make arrangements for caregivers and relatives of residents to see them, ”said Gélinas.

“If that means you only see them in their rooms, I’m ready to live with that.” I think this is a compromise that maintains social interaction while being respectful of everyone who lives in the home.

Health Sciences North issued a statement on Nov. 4 that said all “designated care partners” who visit the hospital will be required to provide proof of double vaccination or an approved medical exemption as of Nov. 22.

A spokesperson for the hospital said a previous press release said proof of double vaccination would be required by December 6, but the hospital “moved the date due to the increase in locally “.

“This requirement will not apply to patients – and no patient will be denied care or services because of their immunization status,” the statement said.

Health Sciences North has also included a number of exceptions to this new policy, including designated care partners visiting patients under the age of 18 and designated care partners “accompanying patients with communication, communication barriers. language, physical or cognitive impairments ”.

The Sudbury Star has contacted Extendicare and Pioneer Manor to learn more about their COVID-19 vaccination policies, but has not received a response.

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.

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