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Health authority takes over Vancouver care home ravaged by 41 COVID-19 deaths

Vancouver Coastal Health also secures Adanac Park Lodge, Little Mountain Court
Little Mountain Place on East 36th Avenue in Vancouver was ravaged by 41 COVID-19 deaths last year. File photo Dan Toulgoet
Vancouver Coastal Health has announced that it is taking over operations of a Vancouver care home that saw 41 of its elderly residents die of COVID-19 during a seven-week period last winter.

In a news release Tuesday, the health authority said it is working with Little Mountain Residential Care and Housing Society to transfer their operations and assets, including Little Mountain Place, to the agency.

Adanac Park Lodge and Little Mountain Court are also part of the transfer.

“The pandemic has shone a light on issues that exist at Little Mountain Residential Care and Housing Society, which include a limited ability to attract and provide growth opportunities for staff and insufficient access to support services like finance, human resources and general administrative support,” said Bob Breen, president of the board of directors for Little Mountain Residential Care and Housing Society, in the release.

“This is a move that has not been made lightly but one that will ensure greater stability and resources to provide the best possible care for residents.”

An outbreak was declared Nov. 22, 2020 at Little Mountain Place, a three-storey building on East 36th Avenue near Main Street. In the days that followed, infection rates soared, with 99 residents and 70 workers testing positive for COVID-19 at one point.

Of those, 41 residents died, but no staff.

Attempts by Glacier Media to interview the former and current executive director of Little Mountain Place to understand how the virus swept through facility proved unsuccessful at the time, with all calls referred to the health authority.

Several messages left for Breen were never returned either.

It continues to remain unclear how a care home that reported only two infections to staff and none to residents between mid-March and November 2020 became overrun with COVID-19 cases and so many deaths.

Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, told Glacier Media in January that “I can be very honest with you, we don’t know exactly how the virus entered this facility, and we may not get that information looking back.”

“Even the very first outbreak at Lynn Valley [care home in North Vancouver], we never determined exactly how the virus got into that facility,” Daly said at the time. “So it may not be possible.”

Added Daly: “What we do know is that the first case [in November] identified [at Little Mountain] was a staff member, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that was actually the initial introduction to the facility — almost certainly, it was not,” she said, noting by the time other staff and residents were tested, it was clear the outbreak was widespread.

“We’ve been pretty open about the fact that most outbreaks are introduced by staff members. That’s because residents don’t leave the facility generally, and that’s how the virus gets in. It’s the same with influenza and other viruses.”

In August, the Ministry of Health announced that it would be mandatory for all health care workers in care homes to be fully vaccinated from COVID-19 by Oct. 12, 2021. The order also applies to volunteers and personal service providers entering long-term care homes.

Meanwhile, VCH says it is in the process of “securing the necessary approvals, consulting with relevant stakeholders and completing customary due diligence” to complete the transfer of Little Mountain and the other facilities to the agency.

The transition is expected to be complete in the coming months.

“Over the past several years, Vancouver Coastal Health has worked closely with Little Mountain Residential Care and Housing Society to support the management of these facilities,” said Bob Chapman, the health authority’s interim vice-president in the release.

“The transfer of these facilities to VCH will provide long-term stability for staff and help ensure safe, quality care for residents.”

Little Mountain Place opened in 1987 and Little Mountain Court, an independent housing facility for seniors and people with disabilities opened next to it in 1988. Adanac Park Lodge, a 73-bed long-term care home that includes care for younger adults with complex mental health and cognitive needs, opened in 2000.