Wales home still COVID free

By Gordon Lambie

Over the last several weeks Brendalee Piironen, the Executive Director of the Wales Home, has been providing regular written updates on the state of things via the home’s website and social media accounts. On Thursday of last week, her letter to family members mentioned the fact that five residents were being tested for COVID-19 through a prioritized testing process for healthcare workers, hospital patients, and people in long-term care facilities.
Reached for comment on those tests on Monday afternoon, Piironen told The Record that there are still no confirmed cases of the virus in the facility.
“All of (the tests) have come back negative, for all of our employees and residents,” the Executive Director said, pointing out that all senior healthcare facilities in the province have been mandated to act as if they have a positive case in the building since the early days of the crisis. “The moment that anyone has a runny nose, a cough, a sore throat, a fever, they are put on isolation.”
Piironen explained that the procedures for testing are different depending on whether the person being tested is living at the home or working there. If the person being tested is a resident, someone from the healthcare network comes to the home to conduct the test, but if the person is an employee, then they have to report to the Hotel Dieu in Sherbrooke.
“Everybody in the building feels the pressure,” she said. “The last thing we want to happen is to bring the virus in here,” she said.
After being tested, residents must remain in their room with the door closed until the results come back negative.
“They have been very quick,” the director said, noting that the result is generally known within 24 hours.
While the life-or-death stakes of the crisis put a lot of pressure on all of those who work and live at the home, Piironen said that the community is holding up well. She also made a point of saying that as important as the guidelines are, if a test does come back positive, no one is going to play the blame game.
“If it did come in here it would be no fault to anybody,” she said. “Our employees are doing an outstanding job at making sure that they are washing their hands, only going to the grocery store when needed.”
Asked if anyone working at the Wales Home is isolating from their own families, Piironen said that at this point everyone is still going home.
“The door is open for anyone who needs it,” she said, explaining that the offer has already been made to staff who may want to stay at the home full time to avoid the risk of transmitting the virus from the outside world. Piironen said that she, personally, has not been anywhere other than the home or her own home in over a month.
Although already operating under very strict limitations, the Executive Director said that should the day arrive when there is a positive test result, the situation will become even more challenging.
If that positive test comes back for a resident, then their isolation from the rest of the population would increase.
“We have the protective equipment that we need,” Piironen said, explaining that the resident would be kept at the home unless he or she becomes too sick. “The person would be even more isolated and we would use the full face shield and booties and everything.”
If a positive test came back for an employee, then life at the home would change more dramatically than it already has.
“That would make it as if everyone was positive,” the Director said, explaining that anyone who had come into contact with the employee in question would need to be isolated and, “Everyone in the building would be wearing masks and gloves.”
At least for now, though, that situation is still hypothetical
“We’re not there yet, and we’re touching wood that we won’t get there.” Piironen said, adding that right now her focus is on keeping everyone safe while keeping employees and families informed. “We’re not trying to scare people, but we’re not out of the woods yet.”

Published in the Tuesday, April 7 edition of The Record.

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