COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS INFORMATION FOR VHA CLIENTS AND FAMILIES

Updated January 7, 2022

COVID-19 UPDATE FROM VHA CEO FOR CLIENTS AND FAMILIES

While we have all been navigating this pandemic for close to two years now, the current situation is different than any other point in this public health crisis. Over 2020/21, the focus for the health sector was infection prevention and control – and ensuring that we changed our practices and processes as needed to reduce and eliminate the chance of transmission of infection and keep our clients and families and staff and service providers as healthy and safe as possible. Over 2021/22, the focus for the health sector has evolved to managing widespread absenteeism and a lack of health human resource capacity.

Please click here to read Kathryn’s full message to VHA’s valued clients and families. 

COVID-19 VACCINE BOOSTER DOSE AVAILABILITY

COVID-19 vaccine booster doses are now available to a number of vulnerable populations in Ontario. In early November, eligibility was extended to all health care workers. This means that all VHA team members are now eligible to receive their booster vaccine dose 6 months (or 168 days) following their second dose.

Many VHA clients and caregivers are also now eligible to receive their booster vaccine dose. Additional information can be found here on the government of Ontario website. Eligible individuals can book their booster dose appointment through the COVID-19 vaccination portal or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900. Vaccines may also be available from your family doctor or at select pharmacies.

COVID-19 VACCINES NOW AVAILABLE FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH AGED 5 – 11

In November 2021, Health Canada approved the paediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and this vaccine is now available for children and youth aged 5 – 11 in Ontario. Additional information from the Ontario Ministry of Health can be found here. COVID-19 vaccination appointments for youth aged 5 – 11 can be booked through the COVID-19 vaccination portal or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900. Vaccines may also be available from your family doctor or at select pharmacies.

MANDATORY VACCINATION IMPLEMENTED AT VHA

In accordance with the most recent recommendations from Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Health Canada guidelines, VHA requires vaccination of all eligible staff/service providers, to maximize safety and reduce harm associated with COVID-19. Effective December 14, 2021, proof of full vaccination is mandatory for all VHA staff, service providers, students and volunteers (other than those who are confirmed as exempt). Those who are confirmed as exempt are required to undergo regular rapid antigen testing. We believe this is an important and positive step VHA is taking for all of our staff and service providers, for our clients and their families and for the home and community care sector as a whole. On September 3rd, VHA, together with 22 other home care organizations in Ontario, announced the decision to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all our team members. You can read that announcement here. Prior to moving to mandatory vaccination, VHA implemented a Mandatory Vaccination Reporting Policy on September 7, 2021, in compliance with Directive #6 from the Ontario Ministry of Health. We firmly believe that having everyone at VHA fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is the right and safest thing for us to do.
  • For our staff, service providers, students and volunteers, research has shown that vaccines prevent serious illness and hospitalization.
  • For our clients and their families, it will further reduce the chance of transmission of infection – particularly for those who are most vulnerable.
  • For the health sector, it is a powerful message to have the home care sector united in the desire to provide high quality and safe care. This position is aligned with Home and Community Care Support Services (formerly known as the LHIN) and helps to emphasize more than ever that home is the safest place to receive care right now.
  • For the public, having all health care organizations taking a consistent approach builds public confidence in our health system.

VHA has created a written statement to share our viewpoint on COVID-19 vaccination.

VHA Home HealthCare (VHA) | Position Statement: COVID-19 Vaccination

December 15, 2021

In accordance with the most recent recommendations from Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Health Canada guidelines, VHA requires vaccination of all eligible staff/service providers, to maximize safety and reduce harm associated with COVID-19.

Mandatory Vaccination Requirement: Effective December 14, 2021, all VHA staff, service providers, students and volunteers are fully vaccinated as follows:

  • Fully vaccinated means valid proof of all required doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine has been provided to VHA and the 14-day waiting period following receipt of the last dose has been completed.
  • This means anyone requiring both doses of a two-dose vaccine series must receive the first dose by November 1, 2021 and the second dose by November 30, 2021.

Proof of full vaccination is mandatory for employment or involvement with VHA for all individuals (other than those confirmed as exempt). Those who are confirmed as exempt are required to undergo regular rapid antigen testing.

Prior to moving to mandatory vaccination, VHA implemented a Mandatory Vaccination Reporting Policy on September 7, 2021, in compliance with Directive #6.

With mandatory vaccination implemented, the following guidelines below, remain in place.

Safety Measures: All VHA staff/service providers will continue to complete daily COVID-19 self-assessment screening and follow required infection prevention and control protocols, including the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Clients and families are also asked to wear masks in care situations where social distancing (2 meters/6 feet) cannot be maintained.

Sharing Vaccination Status: COVID-19 vaccination status is private, personal health information. While it is not mandatory to disclose vaccination status, VHA staff/service providers may voluntarily share their vaccination status at their discretion. To protect the privacy of individuals, we ask that VHA staff/service providers do not ask others about their vaccination status.

Additional Information: Should you have questions or need more information about COVID-19 vaccination, please consult with your primary health care provider. Additional information is also available for staff/service providers on VHA’s intranet and for clients and families on VHA’s website (www.vha.ca).

COVID-19 VACCINE INFORMATION

Scientific evidence has deemed approved vaccines in Canada to be safe and effective in preventing infection and reducing the spread of COVID-19. In accordance with the most recent guidelines from Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Health Canada, VHA Home HealthCare strongly encourages vaccination of all eligible clients and caregivers to maximize safety and reduce harm associated with COVID-19.

Clients have the right to safe, high quality care delivered by VHA staff and service providers. Regardless of vaccination status, VHA staff and service providers will continue to follow the most recent Ministry of Health COVID-19 Guidance for Home and Community Care Providers as well as Public Health & Health Canada guidelines. This includes the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) regardless of vaccination status to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and to keep everyone safe.

Where to go for vaccination information: 

  • COVID-19 first and second dose and booster dose vaccinations are available for all eligible adult populations in Ontario. Vaccine appointments can be booked by visiting the Ontario COVID-19 vaccine portal or by calling 1-833-943-3900 or by contacting your local Public Health Unit for further information for your region.
  • COVID-19 vaccination is also now available for children and youth 5 years of age and older including those turning 5 years old in 2021 Further information about COVID-19 vaccines for youth can be found here.
  • The City of Toronto has announced the Vaccine Equity Transportation Plan, which will help ensure that vulnerable residents and seniors can access COVID-19 vaccinations by removing barriers to transportation and making it easier to travel to and from clinics in Toronto. For more information on this initiative, click here.
  • For VHA clients living in the Greater Toronto Area who are homebound and will require someone to come to their home to give a vaccination, please contact your Home and Community Care Support Services Care Coordinator.
  • Vaccine appointments are also available at many pharmacies and through many family doctors. Please contact your local pharmacy or your family doctor for further information.
  • For region specific information, contact your local Public Health Unit for further information.

VHA HOME HEALTHCARE ORGANIZATION STATUS

Personal support worker wearing a mask and face shield

VHA Home HealthCare (VHA) remains open for business during COVID-19. As a healthcare organization, it is critical that we remain open to provide much needed services for our clients. Our staff and service providers have the necessary personal protective equipment to provide care safely and they know the infection prevention and control practices to follow. All staff and service providers are required to wear medical-grade masks when providing care and VHA is asking all clients and family members to wear masks during care visits as well. Most of our office-based staff are currently working from home where this is possible for their role.

VHA Home HealthCare 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.

KEEPING YOURSELF AND YOUR LOVED ONE SAFE DURING COVID-19

We encourage all clients and family members to refer to the information below regarding proper infection prevention and control practices and information about COVID-19 to help keep everyone safe and protected.

Thank you for your cooperation and your support of VHA staff and service providers.

Maria, PSW and her client, Rosalinda

VHA Home HealthCare asks all clients, family members and caregivers, who are present for care visits, to wear a mask during visits from VHA’s care providers, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

VHA service providers will provide a mask to clients who do not have one. We understand some clients may be unable to tolerate wearing a mask for health reasons.

When our staff come into your home, it is their workplace. We need to work together to keep everyone as safe as we can.

Please click here for information on how to wear a mask while care providers are in the home.

Symptoms of , which is the disease caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus, range from mild — like the flu and other common respiratory infections — to severe.

Click here to learn about some of the symptoms associated with the virus.

If you are caring for or living with someone who has the virus, you are considered a ‘close contact’. Your local public health unit will give you special instructions about how to monitor your own health, what to do if you start to feel sick and how to contact them. 

Click here for a guide on self-isolation.

Click here for a guide on how to care for someone in the home with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case.

It is recommended that when coughing, someone should cough into a tissue or cough into their elbow, and then perform hand hygiene.

Please click here for proper hand hygiene procedures.

The Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) and Home Care Ontario (HCO), the associations that represent home care provider organizations in Ontario like VHA, recently released a report about the success of infection prevention and control (IPAC) in home care settings during the pandemic. Less than 4% of COVID-19 cases were home care related in 5 of the large home care agencies, due to strong IPAC practices.

Click here to read the full report.

 

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.

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.

Please click here for the latest information about who is able to get COVID-19 tests at assessment centres. 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.

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 nursing, rehabilitation and hoarding support services via virtual care when it is clinically appropriate. Our virtual rehab services include some physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech language services, dietetics and social work services. If you would like to learn more about virtual care opportunities, please contact your VHA service provider or 1-888-314-6622, or click here to learn more about VHA Virtual Care.

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

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.

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.

We know the pandemic continues to be very concerning for everyone and we understand you are worried about your own health and the safety of your family. On Tuesday, October 5, 2021, VHA Home HealthCare held a town hall for our clients and families.

During the town hall, clients and their families heard updates on VHA’s move to mandatory vaccination and other initiatives to keep clients, families and staff as safe as possible. VHA leaders also answered pre-submitted questions from attendees about VHA’s response to the ongoing pandemic.

Click the play button below to watch this recording or click here to view a full transcript of the event.

© 2019 VHA Home Healthcare | © 2019 Soins A Domicile VHA