CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) INFORMATION FOR VHA CLIENTS AND FAMILIES

Updated October 20, 2020

VHA’S RESPONSE TO COVID-19: KEEPING CLIENTS, FAMILIES AND STAFF SAFE

TELEPHONE TOWN HALL

Thank you to those who were able to join our Telephone Town Hall on Monday, October 19th. Please find the full recording of the call below:

Click here to view the opening remarks, questions and answers that were addressed during this call. 

If you have other questions or would like to receive regular updates from VHA, please email us at communications@vha.ca

VHA Home HealthCare (VHA) is closely monitoring the COVID-19 Coronavirus situation and is carefully following the guidance of Public Health Ontario to ensure all of our clients, families, staff and service providers are protected while we continue to provide necessary care.

Kathryn Nichol of VHA

VHA’s Ongoing Response to COVID-19 from VHA’s Chief Nursing Executive

– Kathryn Nichol, Vice President Quality, Best Practice, Research and Education and Chief Nursing Executive

Greetings. Let me introduce myself… My name is Kathryn Nichol and I am VHA’s VP of Quality, Best Practice, Research and Education and Chief Nursing Executive. In my role as Clinical Lead for the organization, I had the opportunity and challenge of a lifetime in leading VHA’s Incident Command Team responsible for our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We launched our Incident Command Team on January 24th, put it on pause at the end of June and are ready to relaunch it if necessary. This dedicated team managed and closely monitored VHA’s ability to continue to provide excellent service, the impacts of COVID-19 on our clients and families and on our staff and service providers, personal protective equipment supply and distribution, ever-changing infection prevention and control guidelines and recommendations and of course communications both internally and externally. I can’t say enough about the hard work, dedication and compassion of this 24-member team and how much we all learned.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I THINK I HAVE COVID-19?

If you are concerned that you have COVID-19 or that you may have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19, please call Telehealth (1-866-797-0000), your local public health unit or your health care provider and inform them of your concerns.

If you are a client currently receiving care, please call VHA’s main line at 416-489-2500 and explain your situation – one of our call response agents will be happy to assist you.

INFECTION CONTROL MEASURES AT VHA HOME HEALTHCARE

VHA’s priority is keeping our clients, families, staff and service providers protected. VHA’s Infection Prevention and Control team is in close contact with Public Health Ontario and other agencies and we continue to follow all recommended infection control measures for home health care. These practices include screening clients for new symptoms, and following recommended protocols on hand hygiene, the proper use of personal protective equipment and the disinfection of equipment.

WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT FROM MY VHA CARE PROVIDER?

We have encouraged our staff and service providers to telephone clients prior to visits to screen for symptoms of COVID-19 to keep everyone safe. These symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath and secondary symptoms such as unexplained fatigue, headache, difficulty swallowing, unexplained runny nose, unexplained nasal congestion, sore throat, diarrhea, chills, conjunctivitis (or pink eye), decreased smell or taste, nausea or vomiting, abdominal pain or sudden non-itchy rashes (in children). Screening may also take place in person at the beginning of a visit. This screening ensures that any individuals at risk of having or spreading COVID-19 are identified immediately.

Clinical evidence indicates that COVID-19 is contact/droplet spread, which means it is spread through direct and indirect contact and through respiratory droplets from actions such as sneezing and coughing. While physical distancing assists in controlling spread, we recognize keeping 6 feet or 2 metres apart is difficult due to the nature of health care work. For this reason, the use of personal protective equipment is important for staff and client protection and to minimize anxiety. We have implemented universal mask and face shield use for staff and service providers when providing close (within 6 feet) care for all clients. Please visit Public Health Ontario for further information on recommendations regarding the use of protective equipment.

Here are the actions our staff and service providers are taking to keep themselves and the clients and families they care for protected.

  • Self-screening for symptoms every day. If staff or service providers have any symptoms, they do not work.
  • Performing frequent hand hygiene.
  • Keeping a distance of 2 metres or 6 feet from others when possible.
  • We have universal masking at VHA, which means staff & service providers wear a mask at all times when providing care and can’t physically distance.
  • We have a voluntary universal face shield policy, which means staff and service providers can wear a face shield any time.
  • For the small number of COVID + clients VHA is providing care for, all of our healthcare workers are using full personal protective equipment (PPE) and have received additional training in putting on and taking off PPE as well as safe disposal.

VHA care providers are well-informed about appropriate infection prevention and control measures for home care. We value their expertise as health care professionals and their dedication to providing necessary care in the home, where most want to be. We thank our valued clients and families for their continued respect and support of their VHA caregivers.

For further information about VHA’s practices during COVID-19, please refer to our Frequently Asked Questions.

VHA held a Telephone Town Hall in May regarding our practices during COVID-19. Please find a recording of the Town Hall at the bottom of this page.

COVID-19 TESTING INFORMATION

The Ministry of Health and Ontario Health have announced changes to who is eligible for a COVID-19 test at Assessment Centres. To have a COVID-19 test at an Assessment Centre, people must:

  • Be showing COVID-19 symptoms

OR

  • Have been exposed to a confirmed case of the virus, as informed by their public health unit or exposure notification through the COVID Alert app; or
  • Live or work in a setting that has a COVID-19 outbreak, as identified and informed by their local public health unit; or
  • Are eligible for testing as part of a targeted testing initiative directed by the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Long-Term Care.

The Ontario Government has also made COVID-19 testing available in select participating pharmacies. Both of the following criteria must be met and people will only be eligible for testing in participating pharmacies if they are:

  • Not showing symptoms AND
  • A resident or work in an at-risk setting, such as a long-term care home, homeless shelter or other congregate setting

Eligible people will need to call a participating pharmacy to book an appointment. A list of the participating pharmacies can be found here.

We respect and protect the privacy of all of our workers. It is their choice whether or not to get tested, and it is their choice whether or not to share those results with VHA or with their clients.

MASK USAGE BY CLIENTS

As mandatory masking by-laws are now in effect for public indoor enclosed areas in many regions where we provide service, we understand some staff and service providers may request that clients wear a mask while providing care. VHA is supportive of staff and service providers who would like to ask clients and family members to wear masks if possible during visits.

If a client does not have a mask available, VHA has received many generous donations of cloth masks which staff and service providers can provide to clients.

The request to ask clients and family members to wear a mask is simply for added protection and to be abundantly cautious. The IPAC practices VHA has in place, including the personal protective equipment that our staff and service providers wear, offer adequate protection against transmission of COVID-19.

It is not mandatory for clients and family members to wear a mask and care will be provided whether a client chooses to wear a mask or not. It is also understood that some clients may not be able to wear a mask, such as individuals with medical conditions which make them unable to safely wear a mask, including breathing difficulties or cognitive difficulties, anyone who is unable to remove a mask without help, young children and anyone who is unconscious or incapacitated.

This applies to situations where clients and family have not screened positive for risk of COVID-19. If a client screens positive and an in-person visit is necessary at that time, service providers will provide a medical grade mask and the service provider will also wear their protective equipment for droplet/contact precautions.

Most Ontarians are not familiar with wearing a face covering, and they may cause feelings of anxiety and panic (including shortness of breath, which is a symptom of anxiety) in new wearers.  The most effective treatment for anxiety is graded exposure.

Diagram on how to overcome mask anxiety

VIRTUAL CARE

VHA is pleased to now be able to offer virtual care visits for some of our services. Virtual care is any interaction between a health care provider and a client when they are in different locations. During COVID-19 when we are all trying to practice physical distancing wherever possible, virtual care visits provide an opportunity for VHA to provide some services without needing to be in the client’s home.

By using technology, such as the telephone or video conferencing, a health care provider and a client and/or a family caregiver can virtually connect with one another to improve access to care, continue progressing health care goals and can help clients and their care providers to stay connected.

VHA is currently providing some rehabilitation services via virtual care when it is clinically appropriate including some physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech language services, dietetics and social work services. If you would like to learn more about virtual care opportunities for your rehab services, please contact your VHA rehab service provider or 1-888-314-6622.

PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT AND CLOTH MASK DRIVE AND DONATIONS

VHA has received many generous donations of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Cloth Masks during COVID-19. Our thanks to Canadian Tire, Capable Plastic Injection and Mould Ltd., The Fountain of Love and Life, The Lo Family, MDA Corporation, Michael Garron Hospital Foundation, The Sewing Army, We the BOMB Girls and many VHA volunteers.

If you wish to support the ongoing efforts of VHA’s dedicated care providers, we welcome donations of Personal Protective Equipment and Cloth Masks. For further information, please visit VHA’s PPE drive page or contact Sandy Cao at scao@vha.ca or 416-489-2500 ext 4602.

Financial donations to our Simple Comforts Fund, which is used to purchase products and services for clients who are in need of urgent assistance and have limited or no access to funding, are also appreciated. Online donations can be made here.

UPDATES FROM VHA

If you wish to receive regular updates from VHA about our ongoing efforts during COVID-19, please contact communications@vha.ca and we will send updates to you via email.

Please visit Public Health Ontario for further information regarding COVID-19 and measures we can all take to protect ourselves. We appreciate the cooperation of all of our clients and families to help keep everyone safe.