Pilot Surveillance Project to Test Asymptomatic Patients in Niagara & Hamilton Area Seniors Retirement and Long-Term Care Facilities for COVID-19

Niagara Health & St. Joseph’s Health System launch new pilot surveillance project to provide protection for the most vulnerable in our health system

A News Release from Niagara Health, Niagara, Ontario’s amalgamated system of hospitals and related health care facilities, and from St. Joseph’s Health System in Hamilton

Posted April 20th, 2020 on Niagara At Large

Niagara, Ontario – COVID-19 has had a devastating effect within many congregate care facilities caring for vulnerable elderly residents, prompting the Ontario government to call for greater testing in long-term care and retirement homes.

With that in mind, St. Joseph’s Health System (SJHS) and Niagara Health are taking the vital step in testing all asymptomatic patients, residents and select staff within its long-term care, retirement home and congregate settings as part of a pilot surveillance project.

Under the directive of Dr. Tom Stewart, CEO of St. Joseph’s Health System and Niagara Health, and the SJHS Executive team, supported by Research Institute and Lab, the project will test our most vulnerable patients and residents, including those living in long-term care, to save lives.

Researchers at the Research Institute of St. Joe’s Hamilton, McMaster University, Guelph Assessment Centre, Public Health Ontario Lab and select public health units across the GTA are working together to test thousands of samples collected from long-term care facilities and retirement homes.

“We are testing the prevalence of asymptomatic COVID positive cases that could inform future testing strategies and prevention measures to curb the spread of this devastating virus and save lives,” says Dr. Jack Gauldie, Vice-President of Research at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

“It’s vital we learn how we can protect our most vulnerable population and our staff today and, in the future. We need to share our findings widely to make changes to how we protect the elderly living in congregate settings.”

“St. Joseph’s Health System and Niagara Health are committed to delivering integrated care across the continuum,” says Dr. Tom Stewart. “With our capacity and network of hospitals, research laboratories, long-term care home, Home Care, and retirement homes, it would be irresponsible not to put our collective efforts together in the fight against COVID-19.

If our surveillance project demonstrates that asymptomatic cases can be COVID positive, it will dramatically change the COVID-19 response and prevention strategy going forward and most importantly will save lives.”

Testing of staff, residents and patients across St. Joseph’s Health System and Niagara Health has already begun.

“We have tested all 111 long-term care residents for COVID-19 whether they had symptoms or not. All results have come back negative,” says Niagara Health President Lynn Guerriero. “We need to do everything we can to minimize the risk to our residents, and testing will continue on a regular basis to support a safe environment and understand more about this virus.”

The Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, working with the Ministry of Long-Term Care and Ontario Health, will review results from these tests and work to refine testing guidance as appropriate to support continued testing of asymptomatic residents and staff.

NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.

“A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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