An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
JUST AS SIGNS OF HOPE appear in COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care homes, the numbers suddenly vibrate again. There have been new concerning reports from Westsyde Care Residence and Brocklehurst Gemstone Care Centre, and other care facilities in Kamloops are being watched nervously.
It’s the same across B.C. Long-term care homes took the brunt of the first wave, suffering by far the highest rates of mortality. Provincial governments shut down access by family members and took sometimes dramatic steps to assure adequate staffing.
And yet, in the second wave, seniors in long-term care homes continue to die from COVID at an alarming rate.
You have to wonder if we could do more.
For months, both B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie and the B.C. Care Providers Association headed up by Terry Lake have urged the use of rapid testing in long-term care homes.
Other than a pilot program, Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix have resisted, saying the rapid tests have limited accuracy and are labor intensive.
Advocates for rapid testing, though, say it could be very useful and can be quite easily administered. They say it could save lives.
I’m not an expert; don’t take my word for it. But Michael Karey, the director of research and policy for the B.C. Care Providers Association, is an expert, and here’s what he wrote about it back in early December:
“…while the rapid tests are not perfect and have limitations, the deployment of these tests will likely detect most asymptomatic cases, prevent transmission to staff and residents, reduce the frequency of catastrophic outbreaks and alleviate the detrimental physical and mental health impacts of social isolation.”
And Lake says, “…It’s now time for B.C. to scale up its rapid testing efforts to include seniors care homes province-wide.”
With new reports from Health Canada and the World Health Organization supporting immediate expansion of rapid testing, the question remains, “Why isn’t B.C. doing it?”
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.