Supporting care home operators and staff through times of fear and anxiety during COVID-19, this dedicated, hand-picked group implements strategies as well as tools beginning at outbreak and lasting through to recovery and prevention of future outbreaks.

The supportive Long-term Care Outbreak Response Lead team is an invaluable source of relief and hope for long-term care staff and residents, alleviating them through times of fear and anxiety. They work quickly and closely with facilities to implement strategies and tools to combat COVID-19.

For many of us, the pandemic months have been the most challenging of our lifetimes. It is seniors living in long-term care and assisted living homes, though, who have been most deeply impacted, the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

At their sides have been the staff and medical staff providing compassionate care while working under extremely stressful conditions. At the helm have been the care home operators managing a myriad of safety measures and resource challenges to try to keep COVID-19 out of their care homes.

It was early in the first wave of the pandemic, that we learned that COVID-19 works differently – and that so must we.

The Outbreak Response Lead team was a specific group of 40 clinical and non-clinical Fraser Health staff members, brought together to infiltrate outbreaks of the virus at long-term care and assisted living homes. Each individual was hired or deployed to the team for their specific skillset and experience. The vast majority of the team members were working outside of their regular scope of practice. Despite hailing from different backgrounds and programs, individuals quickly melded with each other to navigate outbreaks as they arose. It worked extraordinarily well.

The purpose of the team is to work quickly and closely with operators and staff to implement strategies and tools to manage COVID-19. They play a pivotal role in supporting care home operators and staff through times of fear and anxiety. Actions taken onsite range from cleaning audits and assigning staff/ resident/tenant cohorts to supporting communication with worried families and drawing in relief staff from the Long-term Care Deployment Team (also receiving a 2020-2021 Above and Beyond Award), as needed. Their involvement starts with outbreak outset and lasts through to recovery and prevention of future outbreaks.

In the early days of the pandemic, no one was immune to the virus and staff and operators were at risk of severe physical and mental exhaustion. The Outbreak Response Lead team became an invaluable source of relief and hope for homes where COVID-19 had taken a toll on staff and residents.

Now in the fourth wave of the pandemic, the Outbreak Response Lead team continues its critical support of homes with outbreaks. Whenever an outbreak is declared at a long-term care or assisted living home, within 24 hours the Outbreak Response Lead team is brought in to support the operator, staff and residents and their families. The team works with an infection prevention and control expert, clinical supports, patient care quality officer and other colleagues to manage COVID-19 outbreaks.

“It shows how in Fraser Health we can build incredible teams with stakeholder involvement in the midst of the unknown,” says Alison Orr, former Outbreak Management, Long-term Care-Assisted Living Coordination Centre Director.

“The Outbreak Response Lead team members are all supportive, never saying, ‘No, I don’t know’ but rather ‘Let me see what I can do; let me find out for you’,” says Susan Brown, director, Clinical Programs, Pandemic Response-Prevention and Outbreak Management, Long Term Care and Assisted Living Services. “Those are reassuring words to hear during uncertain times.”

Evaluation of each outbreak response is also a critical part of their role, so that lessons learned and successes can quickly be shared with other homes to give them an edge in combatting COVID-19. In fact, the Outbreak Response Lead team approach has proven so successful that it has been modeled in other health authorities in the province.

As noted in The Globe and Mail, the teams’ strong oversight, quick response and rapid action approach to tackling COVID-19 resulted in no to limited spread of COVID-19 in our long-term care and assisted living facilities during the first wave of the pandemic.


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