Swab supply, logistics delayed widespread long term care home testing, doctor says

Eastern Ontario Health Unit Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis. (Zoom via Newswatch Group, File)

CORNWALL – Testing swab supply and logistics led to the almost two week delay for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit to do widespread coronavirus testing of long term care homes, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said Monday.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced proactive testing on Friday, April 10 for several priority groups including residents of long term care and retirement homes.

But it wasn’t until April 23 (Thursday) when an outbreak was declared at a nursing home in Plantagenet that Roumeliotis publicly declared they would be testing all residents and staff at the region’s 17 long term care homes in Cornwall, SD&G and Prescott-Russell with the help of hospital teams.

So, why the delay?

“It was a matter of waiting for swabs and it was a matter of organizing the teams to be able and get directives. We were asked in the interim to do a risk assessment of each and every one of them (homes). It took about a week or so to get that risk assessment done so we could see which one we could start with,” Roumeliotis told Cornwall Newswatch.

He says there was also an issue with lab capacity.

But the doctor says there was testing done in “homes that were in outbreaks (of other viruses) before. That’s why there was a lag. We were in touch with those homes immediately.”

Roumeliotis says they did some proactive “sentinel testing” while doing tests for other outbreaks. “We actually tested a few homes and they were negative.”

It was more important to do the risk assessment for the 17 facilities to make sure they had all procedures, staffing and personal protective equipment in place because testing is only a snapshot in time, he explained.

“I just can’t test and just because it’s negative, forget about that facility.”

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit tested St. Jacques Nursing Home in Embrun yesterday will be testing Caressant Care in Bourget today (Tuesday). A “whole slew” of SD&G facilities, including Dundas Manor in Winchester, will be tested later this week.