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Elmira long-term care home hits vax milestone

Catherine Schaulk is executive director at Barnswallow Place Care Community in Elmira, which reached 100% vaccination. [Justine Fraser]

Even as the Omicron variant prompted another push for vaccinations, Barnswallow Place Care Community in Elmira was celebrating a milestone in that regard: 100 per cent of the staff has received a second dose, with most already having a booster shot.

That’s an accomplishment worth marking, says executive director Catherine Schaulk – some good news as the region sees a spike in COVID-19 cases.

“The staff here are a spectacular group of individuals. They love what they do, and they’re all about great resident care. Part of great resident care is just ensuring that we’re protecting those we care for, so the home has always had that approach. We did lots of education around the vaccine and why we need to have it, and ultimately staff jumped in and everyone got vaccinated.”

Schaulk mentioned up until last week they have had no outbreaks at the facility. One staff member, who has all three doses, tested positive early in the week for COVID and was sent home. They tested all residents, and all came back negative.

She noted they thoroughly clean everything in the home from top to bottom on a regular basis, adding more cleaning measures during the pandemic.

“We’ve never had any residents that are positive. They clean their high-touch points on a regular basis, which makes a difference. High-touch areas would be things like handrails, bed rails and doorknobs, phones and computer mice, that kind of thing. So, we use a high-grade disinfectant, that gets done on a regular basis in the home because that’s the common areas that people will pick things up. We’ve also been very careful about visitors and making sure we meet the visitor protocols. We constantly are educating staff and families about social distancing and wearing the PPE when they’re in the home.”

The home is currently open to visitors who are double vaccinated. They are celebrating the holidays with fun events and activities for residents in separated cohorts.

“We’ve been open to visitors since phase three in the region opened up – we still keep residents cohorted in their areas. We’re providing more individualized programming in units. We have three home areas in this home and programs we provide in individual home areas,” explained Schaulk about programs Barnswallow is providing for residents.

Currently the home on Barnswallow Drive in Elmira has 95 residents, all of whom are in the process of getting third dose boosters, followed by the 128-member staff.

“We are just in the process of having clinics for third doses so our residents would have got their dose first. Then we hold clinics on a regular basis for staff. I think we’re more than halfway through our staff.”

Like other healthcare organizations, Barnswallow has also seen some staffing shortages during the pandemic, Schaulk noted they were able to fill the positions quickly using job fairs and agencies so it didn’t have as large an impact on them as other long-term care homes in Ontario.

“It hasn’t affected us too much. We do definitely work at getting Conestoga College students in our home. We love to do placement hours,” she said of the staffing process.

Schaulk said she is proud of the staff for rallying through the pandemic together, helping residents every step of the way as well as keeping the facilities immaculate.

“I’ve worked in the business for 36 years, and I have been in probably in more than 200 homes in the province. I would put this home against any of them. The staff are excellent and it’s very clean.”

The 100 per cent target was achieved ahead of the provincial government’s vaccine mandate for long-term care homes that comes into effect December 15.

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  1. This is the best part of the article, the staff member who already had three shots tested positive. So it literally proves the whole article useless. Touting “100%” vaccinated staff. What a joke lol
    Nothing against the vaccine. Coming from someone that is Double vaccinated and just finished having Covid 19. But I wouldn’t be writing articles praising the vaccines and then a paragraph in mention someone triple Jabed got covid.

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