COVID-19 (coronavirus) Updates and Resources for Retirement Home Operators
The RHRA is closely monitoring developments related to COVID-19 and will post advisories and information related to COVID-19 here as they become available. RHRA’s primary concern is the health and safety of seniors living in Ontario retirement homes.
The situation related to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve. We know that elderly people are at highest risk when it comes to the effects of the disease. To this end, the RHRA is aligning its COVID-19 response with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to ensure clear and consistent communication and action. In this context, RHRA is clarifying its expectations related to implementing the following practices as part of the COVID-19 response efforts. We also encourage homes to review their infection prevention and control procedures and emergency plans to ensure preparedness. Both AdvantAge and ORCA have pandemic resources available as well that can be helpful in your preparations.
Please see RHRA’s COVID-19 FAQ for Retirement Home Operators
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has recommended that retirement homes and long-term care homes allow only essential visitors. In the context of retirement homes, the ministry is identifying essential visitors as those who have a resident who is very ill or requires end-of-life care. These essential visitors must continue to be actively screened into these settings. No other visitors will be permitted at this time.
Service providers such as hairdressers and entertainers, as well as businesses deemed essential, are not essential visitors. Only essential visitors who pass active screening can be admitted into the home to visit residents.
ACTIVE SCREENING PROTOCOLS
The RHRA, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, is requiring all retirement homes to implement active screening protocols for anyone entering a retirement home including staff and essential visitors. You can find Ministry of Health posters below for both residents and visitors that can be used as-is or you can adapt them to your needs to help raise awareness of COVID-19 within your home.
Active Screening Required for Staff and Essential Visitors
In alignment with the Ministry of Long-Term Care’s instruction to all Ontario long-term care homes, retirement homes must conduct active screening of all staff and essential visitors. ANYONE who fails any part of the screening process will not be allowed in the home and is advised to contact Telehealth or their public health unit.
- Homes are being asked to have a screener at the home’s entrance to conduct the active screening during business hours. Outside of these times, the home’s charge nurse/administrator should develop processes and procedures to ensure that all people entering the home are screened and visits are logged. These procedures are to apply seven days a week 24 hours a day.
- Retirement homes should instruct all staff, students and volunteers to self-screen for COVID-19 at home. All staff, students and volunteers with symptoms of an acute respiratory infection must not come to work and must report their symptoms to the retirement home. All staff should be aware of early signs and symptoms of acute respiratory infection (such as fever, cough or shortness of breath).
- See the “self-monitoring” information for further guidance.
- See the latest case definition, as well as the up-to-date COVID-19 Affected Areas List.
Active Screening Required for Residents
Retirement homes must actively screen all resident admissions, re-admissions and returning residents. ANYONE who fails any part of the screening process will be placed in isolation.
- Retirement homes must consult with the local public health unit and the resident’s primary care provider if residents exhibit symptoms or have had exposure to or if there has been confirmation of transmission of COVID-19, in order to determine any additional public health or clinical actions.
- See the latest case definition, as well as the up-to-date COVID-19 Affected Areas List.
In addition to active screening, retirement homes should follow the guidance for respiratory outbreak and COVID-19 prevention from the Ministry of Health. This includes prevention activities such as:
- Posting signage and advising visitors who have travelled to affected areas or been exposed to a case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days to postpone their visit.
- Posting signage and advising all visitors who are ill to postpone their visit.
- Ensuring availability and accessibility of hand hygiene throughout the facility.
- Keeping staff and residents informed on COVID-19.
- Reminding staff to be monitoring themselves for illness and to stay at home when they are sick. Developing policies for managing staff who may have been exposed to a case of COVID-19.
- Assessing incoming residents for respiratory symptoms and potential exposures to COVID-19. Monitoring residents for new respiratory symptoms or fever.
- Quickly identifying and isolating any resident with acute respiratory illness or fever.
- Ensuring signage is clear and that personal protective equipment (gowns, gloves, masks and eye protection) for health care workers are available and accessible for care of patients with acute respiratory illness.
- Helping visitors with personal protective equipment if they are visiting residents under precautions.
- Reporting any suspected COVID-19 illness in residents or staff to the local public health unit.
The RHRA is working closely with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Long-Term Care and we will continue to share information as the situation evolves.
For the latest information on COVID-19 and how to recognize possible symptoms, visit the Ministry of Health’s information portal.
RHRA requires following the protocols set out in the materials, particularly the active screening of visitors and self-monitoring of staff and volunteers. We strongly encourage homes to review their infection prevention and control procedures and emergency plans to ensure preparedness. Both AdvantAge and ORCA have pandemic resources available which can be helpful in your preparations.
Government of Ontario COVID-19 Portal – updated daily at 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
RHRA Guidance on Ontario Regulation 118/20 – April 3, 2020
CMOH Directive #5 – PPE in Hospitals – updated March 30, 2020
CMOH Directive #1 Health Care Providers – updated March 30, 2020
Ministry of Health COVID-19 Guidance: Long-Term Care Homes – updated April 1, 2020
Case Definition – Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) – updated March 30, 2020
Ministry of Health COVID-19 Screening Checklist – updated March 13, 2020
Memo from the Chief Medical Officer – Visitors in care homes – March 13, 2020
MOH COVID-19 Guidance for Food Premises & Best Practices – March 24, 2020
COVID-19 Affected Areas List – updated daily
MOH Update on COVID-19 Preparation – updated March 12, 2020
Updated IPAC Measures for COVID-19 – updated March 10, 2020
Information on use of N95 Masks Beyond Shelf Life – updated, March 27 2020
Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Posters
English Poster – updated March 14, 2020
French Poster – updated March 14, 2020
RHRA Special Advisories
The RHRA also provides up-to-date information on COVID-19 through Special Advisories to our newsletter subscribers. Please email email@example.com to be added to the list.
- On April 2, the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility filed an amendment to the Retirement Homes Act, 2010 regulation
- Homes may take any necessary steps related to staffing and work deployment required to prevent, respond to or alleviate the impact of COVID-19
- Homes are now required to report COVID-19 outbreaks to RHRA on the same day as it is reported to public health
- As well as additional measures on information posting, collective agreements and suspension of other requirements for the duration of the emergency
- The Chief Medical Officer of Health has provided more specific directives for Long-Term Care Homes that are to be implemented immediately by all retirement homes in Ontario
- Health providers and health care entities have been provided with updated directives on the required precautions when caring for patients with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19
- Statement and survey regarding PPE
- Government funding for enhanced screening and infection control for retirement homes
- Public Health Ontario has confirmed that COVID-19 tests for retirement home residents are to be prioritized by laboratories as is the case for long-term care home residents’ tests
- Residents are no longer permitted to leave the home for short-stay absences to visit family and friends
- Residents may go outside of the home but should remain on the home’s property and maintain a distance of a minimum of two metres from other people at all times
- On March 20, 2020, the province amended the Retirement Homes Act, 2010 to require retirement homes’ infection prevention and control programs to follow the recommendations of the Chief Medical Officer
- Homes must also take all reasonable steps to follow any recommendations by the Chief Medical Officer directed at long-term care homes as they relate to COVID-19
- Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer has released recommendations related to managing health worker illness and return to work which retirement homes will now be required to follow
- RHRA now has a COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions web page for Retirement Homes
- ORCA is now making pandemic materials in its Learning Centre available to non-members free of charge, including webinars
- The RHRA will be modifying our inspections process on a temporary basis to limit the need to enter retirement homes during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Important information on compliance during this time
- Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has recommended that retirement homes and long-term care homes allow only essential visitors
- Essential visitors will be screened upon entry
- Those who fail screening will not be permitted to enter
- Active screening required for staff and visitors
- In addition to active screening, retirement homes should follow the guidance for respiratory outbreak and COVID-19 prevention from the Ministry of Health
- The Ministry of Health is advising all retirement homes to implement active screening protocols for all visitors, resident admissions, re-admissions and returning residents
- Guidance and links to resources are available from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Ontario Retirement Communities Association (ORCA) and Advantage Ontario
- Helpful links and resources for protocols, signage, screening, self-isolation and pandemic resources
- Every licensed retirement home in Ontario must have an infection control program
- Links to helpful resources