Fraser Health’s chief medical health officer says proper hygiene, distancing and curtains can allow patients suspected of having COVID-19 to remain safely in the same rooms as other patients until a diagnosis is confirmed. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Curtain barriers allow suspected COVID patients to share care-home rooms with others, Fraser Health says

Provincial and federal guidelines say symptomatic patients should get their own rooms, when possible

Some Fraser Health long-term care patients showing symptoms of having COVID-19 may continue sharing rooms with asymptomatic patients until it is confirmed they have the virus.

That has alarmed some familiar with the practice, and federal and provincial guidelines suggest such patients should be moved to single rooms when possible. But Fraser Health’s chief medical health officer says it’s safe for symptomatic patients to continue sharing a room with others prior to confirmation of their diagnosis, so long as a curtain is erected around the patient, appropriate distancing between beds exists and advanced hygiene measures are in place.

“We have to remember, COVID-19 is spread by direct contact and by droplets, so those measures are sufficient to prevent the spread,” Dr. Martin Lavoie told The News. “This is not airborne. So having a curtain, having the physical distance between the beds, which is sufficient as well, the hand-washing, the use of proper PPE, all these measures are excellent at protecting against the spread of COVID-19.”

It’s unclear how prevalent the practice is in Fraser Health or in other health authorities. The scenario usually only occurs during the time between the onset of symptoms and the arrival of test results, at least in Abbotsford. When a positive case is confirmed, patients are usually transferred to a specialized unit at Abbotsford Regional Hospital where all those being treated all have COVID-19.

Lavoie was clear Thursday that when a symptomatic person is in a room with multiple others, curtains can and are used to separate them from others.

But while he said the situation isn’t unsafe, guiding documents from both the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BC CDC) and the federal government say it’s not preferred.

In March, the BC CDC issued guidelines for how long-term care homes should handle suspected COVID-19 cases. That document [read here] says:

“Any resident who is identified with respiratory symptoms should be placed on additional (Droplet/Contact) precautions without delay and should be placed in a single-bed room, if possible. If not possible, a separation of two metres must be maintained between the bed space of the ill resident and all roommates, and privacy curtains should be drawn.”

The federal government issued similar guidelines at the start of April.

That document says:

“A resident with suspect or confirmed COVID-19 infection, or who is a high-risk contact of a confirmed COVID-19 positive person, should be cared for in a single room if feasible, with a dedicated toilet and sink designated for their use. If this is not possible, a separation of two metres must be maintained between the bed space of the affected resident and all roommates with privacy curtains drawn. The resident should be restricted to their room or bed space.

“Clear (multilingual signage as required) signage that indicates Droplet and Contact precautions needs to be in place, posted in such a way that it is clearly visible to all entering the resident room or bed space.

“Posters illustrating the correct method for putting on and removing PPE should be displayed inside and outside of each COVID-19 resident’s room or bed space for easy visual cues.

“Roommates of symptomatic residents should not be moved to new shared rooms, and instead should be moved to a new single room for isolation and monitoring for symptoms, or maintained in place if a two-metre separation and privacy curtain can be implemented.”

story continues below

Saskatchewan and Alberta each have similar guidelines. In Saskatchewan, patients with suspected cases of COVID-19 are among the highest priority when it comes to deciding who should be placed in a private room.

Fraser Health has a long-standing shortage of care beds, with the situation particularly acute in Abbotsford, where officials have been promising to build hundreds of new care beds for nearly a decade. Those beds have never been built and the strain on the system has only increased as the province has worked to move as many seniors out of hospital as quickly as possible to free up space for a potential influx of COVID-19 patients.

FROM 2014: Fraser Health seeks development partner for MSA Hospital lands

The News asked Fraser Health Thursday why it might not be possible to put every suspected COVID-19 patient a private room, as the provincial guidelines suggest. Fraser Health has not responded yet.

The News also asked the Ministry of Health about the appropriateness of keeping such patients in rooms with those who are asymptomatic, but has not heard back. The News will update the story if and when more information is provided.

RELATED: IN DEPTH: How B.C. emptied its hospitals to prepare for COVID-19

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
tolsen@abbynews.com


@ty_olsen
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

Mission will begin reopening process on June 1

Part of Municipal Hall to open, plans in works for Welton Common, RCMP and fire station front desks

Potential for gravel removal this summer in Chilliwack has riled river stewards

Group says no ‘discernible merit’ for gravel mining when balanced off with the environmental damage

New book details 1893 murder in Abbotsford and 2 trials that followed

Farmer John Marshall was found dead on his Sumas Prairie property

Harrison Hot Springs Resort eases in to reopening

Reservations available Friday, May 29

Mission’s outdoor farmer’s market to return on June 6

The market will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday until Oct. 3

B.C. records no new COVID-19 deaths for the first time in weeks

Good news comes despite 11 new test-positive cases in B.C. in the past 24 hours

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The importance of accurate, ethical reporting is critical – perhaps as never before

BREAKING: Langley Gabby’s Country Cabaret announces ‘heartbreaking’ permanent closure

Owner Steve Gallagher ‘holds out hope’ of a new future for the 35-year-old nightlife hotspot

BC Corrections to expand list of eligible offenders for early release during pandemic

Non-violent offenders are being considered for early release through risk assessment process

Officials looking for answers after Abbotsford football star found dead in Sask. lake

Saskatchewan Health Authority looking into circumstances surrounding Samwel Uko’s hospital visit

Fraser Valley driver featured on ‘Highway Thru Hell’ TV show dies

Monkhouse died Sunday night of a heartattack, Jamie Davis towing confirmed

B.C. visitor centres get help with COVID-19 prevention measures

Destination B.C. gearing up for local, in-province tourism

Most Read