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CHO outbreak about care, not the numbers

The COVID-19 outbreak at the Barrie Memorial Hospital in Ormstown has now officially been declared over, two months after it was first detected in early December. The nature of the coronavirus, with asymptomatic carriers and a long incubation period, means it takes a long time before outbreaks can safely be called.

As such, it will be some time before the current outbreak at the Centre d’Hébergement d’Ormstown (CHO) will be considered over. There were still three active cases listed by the Quebec government on Feb. 7. So far, at least 60 residents and 41 employees have tested positive at the CHO, where unfortunately there are now 14 beds lying empty due to the virus.

“The outbreak was massive, and huge, and quick,” says Dr. Catherine Bélanger, the COVID-19 coordinator for the Haut-Saint-Laurent local health network (LHN), and head doctor at the CHO. “It was like a forest fire,” she says. “In the first 24 hours, we had 10 cases. It was only a matter of time.”

The outbreak started on the second floor more than a month ago, and the team in place responded quickly to convert the entire floor into a hot zone to treat patients on site as they were diagnosed. A team of three doctors was present at the height of the outbreak to ensure around-the-clock care. “We called on our medical colleagues from across the Montérégie-West,” says Bélanger, and they responded in large numbers.

“All of the people I was fortunate to have worked with knew what they were doing,” she continues, while emphasizing that of the numerous CHSLD outbreaks she has now attended to, it was the staff at the Huntingdon Residential and Long-term Care Centre and the CHO that made the difference.

“It was not a failure of control,” says Bélanger, with conviction. “I don’t judge the success of our management of this outbreak by the numbers. It is about people. And we measure success by the care that was given,” she maintains, referring to some of the horror stories that have emerged of other CHSLDs and residences dealing with outbreaks.

“I am so proud of the team. They are so devoted,” she says, while detailing how those who came from the outside to help were amazed at how humane the care was. “Every time someone passed away, our staff held an internal ceremony. We really love our people. They are not patients, they are residents,” Bélanger says, admitting it is difficult to talk about a return to normal at the CHO once the outbreak is over, with the loss of so many. “We will not forget this.”

Second wave has crested

According to Dr. Bélanger, the second wave of the pandemic has peaked. This doesn’t mean we are in for a smooth ride out, though, as the spread of new variants continues to raise concerns and vaccine shortfalls fuel frustration on the ground. “If anything will end this cycle of lockdowns and deconfinement, it is a steady supply of vaccine,” she laments.

Bélanger says the local health-care workers are feeling the pressure, fatigue, and strain on their mental health. “It reflects what everyone is feeling,” she acknowledges. “I think everyone has COVID fatigue. I know I am sick of it,” she confesses. “People need to be really nice to health-care workers right now,” she says, with a laugh trailing off into a sigh.

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1 Comment

Cheryl Kyle 2021-02-14 at 11:13

Thank you to everyone caring for my dad, Douglas Kyle on the 2nd floor in Ormstown, although thank you does not come close to adequately express how grateful I feel about the care and attention given by so many local people caring for the residents who cannot care for themselves. Lockdown happened 5 days before my planned visit east in March 2020 and it has now been 17 months since I have seen him. He survived Covid. I hope social interaction among residents will return soon.


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