How the coronavirus took North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley Care Centre


The Lynn Valley Care Centre is pictured in Lynn Valley in North Vancouver, on March 16, 2020. All however 5 of Canada’s 13 coronavirus deaths as of Friday afternoon might be traced to Lynn Valley.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

Ruth was outraged when the colleague she was driving to work informed her rumours have been flying {that a} nurse at their North Vancouver care dwelling had examined constructive for COVID-19.

“I stated, ‘What? They’ve coronavirus right here? Why didn’t they tell us? What are we going to do now?’”

Ruth, an aide on the facility, recollects her dialog as they pulled into the power for the graveyard shift on the evening of Thursday, March 5.

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Ruth instantly requested her supervisor of the wing of the Lynn Valley Care Centre referred to as “the lodge” concerning the regarding hearsay. Ruth says she acquired no particular directions for the subsequent eight hours.

Because the solar rose on Friday, March 6, a half dozen involved aides and nurses waited round after their shift to press the director of care about whether or not COVID-19 had arrived on the North Vancouver nursing dwelling.

The director confirmed that, the day earlier than, their co-worker had examined constructive. The workers, nearly all middle-aged Filipina-Canadians, have been shocked after which angered.

“’The one factor it is advisable to do is wash your palms – wash your palms,’” is what Ruth recollects the director telling everybody. Ruth seethed.

“Why didn’t you tell us?” she requested.

To mitigate any potential unfold of the virus, workers reduce out the communal breakfast on the second flooring of the lodge and commenced “tray service,” delivering meals to rooms there, based on Ruth, a workers member who would later take a look at constructive for the virus, informed The Globe. She spoke on the situation of utilizing a pseudonym as a result of she was anxious about shedding her job and ashamed of the stigma related to the virus.

As panic set in amongst workers on the 200-bed facility, nurses scrambled to swab three residents exhibiting signs of the virus that day and despatched the samples off to be examined, based on different workers members who spoke with The Globe. After the morning shift was completed round 2 p.m., the director of care held a extra formal assembly and informed a bigger group of workers that their co-worker, whose final day at Lynn Valley was every week earlier on Feb. 29, had simply examined constructive.

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Anybody with flu-like signs wanted to cease working and get examined, she added.

Two days after receiving phrase that the virus had reached the care dwelling, British Columbia’s Provincial Well being Officer Bonnie Henry stood earlier than a scrum of reporters on March 7 to declare an outbreak on the facility as a result of novel coronavirus. Two residents and one health-care employee had examined constructive for COVID-19.

“This is among the situations that we have now been, in fact, most involved about,” Dr. Henry stated.

The following day, March 8, one of many residents would die, changing into the primary particular person in Canada to succumb to COVID-19. Within the ensuing two weeks, one other seven would die, and 36 residents of the power and 18 health-care staff linked to it will be contaminated by the virus.​

All however 5 of Canada’s 13 coronavirus deaths as of Friday afternoon might be traced to Lynn Valley, the place the common age of residents is roughly 87 years outdated.

The deadly outbreak marked a grim turning level within the nation’s battle towards COVID-19. The province reacted by prohibiting all however important visits to long-term care houses whereas acknowledging that the elevated isolation may harm the fragile psychological well being of many seniors.

The native well being authority, which has direct oversight of the provincially funded facility, continues to be piecing collectively how and when the virus was launched into Lynn Valley and why it unfold so shortly.

To grasp what was occurring there within the days earlier than Canada’s deadliest outbreak, The Globe reached out to staff and households of individuals both killed by the virus or nonetheless residing at Lynn Valley. 5 staff spoke to The Globe, however all of them, like Ruth, did so on the situation of utilizing a pseudonym. Their accounts provide a glimpse into how simply the extremely contagious virus can devastate a nursing dwelling, the type of housing in Canada that seems most weak on this international pandemic.

The native Sherkat household has lengthy owned the nursing dwelling, and their firm North Shore Personal Hospital Ltd. was integrated in 1985 to run the power.

In a full-page letter despatched from the nursing dwelling’s e-mail account, an unnamed consultant detailed how heartbroken everybody on the facility is on the mounting loss of life toll.

“We’re deeply grateful to each member of our workers, and their households, for his or her tireless and continued efforts to maintain residents protected, and guarantee we get via this tough time collectively,” the letter said. “The Lynn Valley Care Centre has been in operation since 1963, and below the identical possession because the mid 1980s.

“Our residents, their households, our workers, and their households really feel like a part of our household.”

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The letter said the centre is assembly each day with native well being officers and is concentrating all its efforts on stopping the present outbreak and minimizing its harms. As soon as the world is “on the opposite facet of the COVID-19 emergency,” the centre stated it’s dedicated to commissioning an unbiased assessment into how occasions unfolded on its property and sharing as a lot as attainable of the ensuing report into the outbreak.

The disaster in North Vancouver has revealed the devastating toll that the virus is having on the aged, in addition to those that take care of them. The precarious nature of employment in lots of non-public nursing houses could have additionally contributed to the unfold of the coronavirus.

Many workers within the sector complement their low wages by working at a number of amenities – an association that has already led to 1 Lynn Valley worker being suspected of spreading the virus to a second long-term care dwelling in close by West Vancouver. This week, the province introduced the virus has additionally contaminated a resident at a 3rd nursing dwelling, Haro Park Centre in Vancouver.

The employees who spoke with The Globe fear that the weak preliminary response by administration and the well being authority will inflate the final word loss of life toll.


Lynn Valley Care Centre sits halfway up the placing North Shore, nestled in between Grouse and Seymour mountains, which magnetize hikers, mountain bikers and skiers all year long.

The non-public facility homes 139 government-subsidized beds and 65 non-public pay rooms and suites in a wood-framed lodge and a more moderen and far bigger concrete tower known as “the manor.” The outbreak has to this point been contained to the lodge, which comprises roughly half the models at Lynn Valley.

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The Sherkat household has had no latest complaints or outbreaks of any type, based on an October, 2019, report from the province’s seniors advocate, whose function is to observe seniors providers and make suggestions to authorities and repair suppliers to handle systemic points.

Two-thirds of Lynn Valley’s residents reside with some extent of dementia and about 58 per cent obtain medicine for despair, which is 10 per cent greater than the B.C. common, based on the 2018-19 annual report from the unbiased provincial watchdog.

A 3rd of B.C.’s 27,000 provincially funded nursing-home models are owned and operated by the assorted well being authorities within the province. The remaining are run by non-profit organizations and for-profit firms contracted by these well being authorities.

The wages and dealing circumstances within the sector fluctuate tremendously between the totally different houses.

Lengthy-time staff at Lynn Valley say they as soon as have been unionized, however over the previous decade or so have been rehired by subcontractors that provided much less cash and rolled again advantages for the individuals who clear the power, prep and bus meals within the communal eating room, and feed and bathe residents.

Nurses within the province’s long-term care houses have stayed unionized over the previous 20 years, as stipulated below provincial laws that opened up the potential for privatizing these providers.

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Lena, a long-time aide at Lynn Valley, says administration there ditched an settlement together with her union a number of years in the past and the non-public agency that rehired her to do the identical job paid her $2 much less an hour and reduce the variety of sick days she was allowed annually from 10 to a few. Trip days – a possible buffer for illness – have been additionally reduce from 22 days a yr to 10, based on Lena.

The chief govt of her Vancouver-based employer, Carecorp Seniors Companies, deferred any remark to Vancouver Coastal Well being (VCH), the Decrease Mainland well being authority.

She has three sick days a yr, which is why, when she completed her shift on Feb. 29 and felt a chilly approaching sturdy, she determined to take simply two days off earlier than returning to work.

“We don’t have sufficient sick time,” Lena stated. “Even when persons are sick, we’re nonetheless working, and that’s the reality.”

After working the primary day with a cussed fever, Lena visited a North Vancouver walk-in clinic, the place a physician checked her lungs, ears, throat and temperature earlier than diagnosing her with the flu.

Lena, who commonly remits a refund to her household within the Philippines, continued working, however her sickness stored getting worse. Her fever was paired with a dry, nagging cough and a troubling shortness of breath.

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It was obvious residents have been sick as properly: These on the second flooring of the lodge have been requested to remain of their rooms on the night of Thursday, March 5, based on a number of staff.

There have been whispers amongst them that the coronavirus had reached Lynn Valley, however Lena wasn’t notified formally till the Friday afternoon assembly with the director of care.

Lena’s coronary heart sank. She suspected she had been contaminated, too. The next day, she went to a hospital near her dwelling, the place she defined her scenario and was given a nasopharyngeal take a look at – an uncomfortable swab of the nostril and higher throat – for the coronavirus. At that time, the virus was confirmed to have contaminated round 20 individuals in B.C.

“Deep inside my coronary heart, I knew I used to be constructive as a result of I had pneumonia and pneumonia is among the severe signs,” stated Lena, whose take a look at later proved her hunch appropriate.

She was afraid for her mates and colleagues, a few of whom she carpooled with. When Lena known as in sick that weekend, she was joined by a number of different colleagues now self-isolating with signs in line with COVID-19.

On Saturday, Dr. Henry, the province’s prime well being official, declared an outbreak on the Lynn Valley Care Centre. Two residents and one health-care employee had examined constructive.

“This is among the situations that we have now been, in fact, most involved about,” Dr. Henry stated.

Quick-staffed, some subcontractors provided double wages to entice individuals to come back again to work, however there have been few takers and the power limped alongside with no full complement of staff that weekend, based on a number of workers members and kinfolk of residents who spoke with The Globe.

As indicators have been posted to the care dwelling’s doorways warning of an outbreak and a group from VCH arrived on website to evaluate everybody on Saturday, March 7, anxious relations of residents helped frazzled health-care staff with feeding and different duties.

VCH personnel helped the nursing dwelling attempt to cease the unfold of the virus by implementing an outbreak protocol that ended communal meals within the lodge’s eating room and suspended leisure workout routines.

In a letter despatched to residents and their households that day, VCH’s deputy medical well being officer, Mark Lysyshyn, stated these with COVID-19 had been remoted to their rooms. The ability would nonetheless settle for guests so long as they weren’t sick, restricted their visits to 1 room or resident and obeyed all infection-control signage posted across the facility.

Daring letters emphasised a promise: “Residents who develop signs will obtain the care that they want.”

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At Dr. Henry’s information convention, it was revealed that the power first appeared on well being investigators’ radar two days earlier, after a girl with no latest journey historical past was confirmed to have COVID-19 – the primary confirmed case of neighborhood unfold in B.C. She had earlier visited her doctor, complaining of flu-like signs, and was administered a COVID-19 take a look at, which had lately been added to the province’s common influenza surveillance in efforts to pro-actively detect instances of the brand new illness.

The well being investigators then realized she was a health-care employee at Lynn Valley.


That Sunday, March 8, workers reported the scenario getting more and more dire.

Round 1 p.m., Janine, an aide, introduced an egg salad sandwich into the room of an aged lady and was startled to see a tray of toast and scrambled eggs laying untouched and out of attain. The bedridden lady beamed up at her with gratitude, however Janine couldn’t assist bursting into tears as she started feeding her lunch.

After, within the eating room of the lodge, Janine and the 2 different staff on shift confronted their supervisor as to what the plan was for coping with the almost 50 residents on one flooring of the constructing, a few of whom hadn’t been fed or helped to the toilet for a lot of hours.

“I don’t know,” her boss stated as she herself wept. She defined that their subcontracted firm had not acquired any steering from administration. Janine thought that was unusual, provided that she had seen an official with the native well being authority buzzing round earlier that Sunday with a public well being nurse and the house’s director of care.

One other signal of the chaos, she observed, was {that a} trio of kinfolk have been pitching in to assist feed the remaining visitors of the lodge, regardless of VCH’s warning that any visitors wanted to limit their visits to a single room or resident. Nonetheless, she was grateful for his or her assist that Sunday as a result of lots of her co-workers stayed dwelling battling signs of the virus.

That Sunday night, a resident of the power, an 83-year-old favored by everybody, grew to become the primary in Canada to die of COVID-19.

His daughter Kelly, who requested that her actual identify not be used to guard her deceased father’s want for privateness, stated her dad liked nothing greater than gardening within the acidic soil of North Vancouver or strolling via the native mountain paths with their household canine. Although he was frail and infrequently battling one ailment or one other, he was lucid sufficient to grasp what was happening round him.

“He was very weak, however he nonetheless stated ‘please’ and ‘thanks,’ ” Kelly informed The Globe final week in a cellphone interview.

Her mom knew one thing was mistaken on the nursing dwelling when she went to go to her husband that Friday and was informed now is probably not the very best time.

On Saturday, somebody at VCH known as Kelly, her dad’s second household contact, to inform them he had examined constructive.

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By Sunday afternoon, his situation had deteriorated quickly. When Kelly and her brother donned full protecting gear to enter his room, they noticed him related to a ventilator struggling to breathe, hours away from loss of life.

She stated the exhausted workers on website on the lodge that Sunday have been unbelievable of their makes an attempt to assist the residents, however the understaffing gave the constructing the sensation of a ghost city.

“When you’re attempting to serve extra individuals than they actually can and each time they’ve to enter that specific room and one other you’ve bought to go well with all as much as give them some water – it’s simply not occurring,” Kelly stated of the overwhelmed facility.

For some time, she had recognized the subsequent widespread chilly may fell their father, so his loss of life by the hands of the coronavirus was not inconceivable.

“The saddest half, given his age, given his frailty, is simply considering there was any worry or discomfort that was pointless due to the shortage of ranges of care,” Kelly stated. “However perhaps he might be the one contribution to bettering the extent of care in these houses. … [Staff] are run off their toes, there’s not sufficient of them.”

The following day, Monday, March 10, Dr. Lysyshyn of VCH issued one other letter to households of residents on the centre’s lodge, expressing disappointment over the loss of life.

“As a member of the family to one of many residents on the lodge, we perceive that that is regarding info,” he wrote.

He defined that the lodge was below outbreak precautions and {that a} medical well being officer was working with workers to make sure applicable infection-control precautions have been in place.

By that time, well being officers had revealed that two extra residents and a further health-care employee on the facility had examined constructive. Family and friends of the nurse who first examined constructive additionally have been notified that that they had the virus. Medical officers are working to find out how the virus was launched into the care dwelling.

When phrase {that a} Lynn Valley staffer had examined constructive started circulating locally, individuals started speculating about the way it occurred, stated Christine Sorensen, president of the BC Nurses’ Union, which represents a number of licensed sensible nurses on the care dwelling.

“There have been some criticisms from members of the general public about whether or not the nurse had introduced it in, or in the event that they have been bringing it out into the neighborhood,” she stated.

“A few of [the nurses] couldn’t get rides to work. Taxis wouldn’t choose them as much as go to Lynn Valley, or come to select them up from Lynn Valley to go dwelling. Some members had issue discovering youngster care as a result of as soon as they have been recognized that they labored at Lynn Valley, then their youngsters have been requested to be excluded from youngster care.”

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On March 12, Dr. Henry delivered additional dangerous information. “Most regarding for us is we do now have a second long-term care dwelling that has an outbreak that’s concerned with COVID-19,” she stated.

A resident of the Hollyburn Home Retirement Residence in West Vancouver, a person in his 90s, had examined constructive for the illness, she stated. A health-care employee who labored shifts at each amenities had by chance unfold the virus.

The day after the primary resident died, Gordo Bone pulled his anxious 85-year-old mom out of Lynn Valley after a brief stint recuperating from a foul fall. He introduced her again to his dwelling in Pender Harbour on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast, the place she is isolating now with out signs. His dad can also be asymptomatic, however the 87-year-old stays within the care dwelling, the place he has been staying on a extra long-term foundation.

Each have been residing within the newer and bigger manor constructing.

Mr. Bone stated that when he visited his mother and father on the outset of the outbreak, the centre appeared short-staffed with care suppliers working double shifts, however that has since improved. Further security protocols have been put in place – guests are restricted and meals are taken to all residents’ rooms to keep away from communal eating, he stated.

And the front-line workers – or “heroes” as he calls them – are doing their finest to cease the potential unfold of the virus among the many remaining residents. However that’s laborious as a result of many residents are struggling dementia and different debilitating circumstances, he stated.

Roger Wong, a scientific professor in geriatric drugs on the College of British Columbia, stated seniors are extra weak to creating infections partially as a result of immune operate declines with age. As properly, underlying well being circumstances could predispose them to creating infections extra simply.

“Seniors who reside in seniors houses are intrinsically extra in danger,” Dr. Wong stated.


The outbreak at Lynn Valley had one different affect on the health-care staff. A directive, confirmed by Dr. Henry, to solely work at one facility – a measure aimed toward mitigating the unfold of the virus – meant that those that labored informal shifts in a couple of setting all of a sudden had their earnings slashed.

“We’re trying on the impacts at that,” stated Ms. Sorensen, of the nurses’ union, “not solely on staffing numbers – as a result of for those who don’t get to work within the different facility, that reduces the variety of nurses in that different facility, which may compromise affected person care – but in addition the monetary impacts if nurses aren’t capable of work in each of their amenities.”

For Lena, the Lynn Valley staffer nonetheless battling the virus whereas quarantined in her own residence, this disaster exhibits how urgently the sector must be reformed to enhance wages and advantages akin to sick days and trip time. That might reduce down on staff travelling to a number of amenities in a day, she stated.

“That is the correct time for us to come back collectively so the federal government will see the scenario of the health-care staff who’re the front-liners who work laborious,” she stated.

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Carecorp Seniors Companies, a dietary aide subcontractor, directed all media queries to Vancouver Coastal Well being. Professional Vita Care Administration Inc., a care aide subcontractor, and WestCana Companies Inc., the corporate contracted for housekeeping duties at Lynn Valley, didn’t reply to interview requests.

In an announcement to The Globe, VCH stated Lynn Valley is working “very close to goal staffing ranges” and that the well being authority is working with the operator so as to add further workers as wanted. “We acknowledge the stepped-up outbreak response precautions delayed the supply of some providers, together with meals,” the assertion stated. “We’re dedicated to offering residents the care they want and we thank the households for his or her persistence, kindness and understanding.”

Janine, an aide at Lynn Valley, stated she has extra urgent issues than whether or not her pay will someday enhance.

Her husband additionally has examined constructive for COVID-19 and the couple is now attempting their finest to cease their seven-year-old son from contracting the virus whereas isolating him to a separate room of their two-bedroom basement suite.

“Nobody helps my son,” she wrote in a textual content message change Wednesday. “I’m nonetheless getting ready his meals. I simply washed my hand and don’t discuss with out masks on.

“I’m simply grateful my son has a great immune system.”


A timeline of the COVID-19 outbreak at Lynn Valley Care Centre

February 29: Nurse who would later take a look at constructive works her final shift on the North Vancouver facility referred to as Lynn Valley Care Centre.

March 5: Provincial Well being Officer Bonnie Henry pronounces {that a} lady in her 50s with no latest journey historical past or recognized hyperlinks to confirmed instances has examined constructive for the brand new coronavirus. This makes her the primary confirmed case of neighborhood transmission in B.C. – and proof that the virus is spreading undetected. That night, rumours swirl amongst workers at Lynn Valley that the virus had arrived on the facility.

March 6: A half-dozen involved aides and nurses at Lynn Valley confront the centre’s director of care on the finish of the graveyard shift. The director confirms that certainly one of their co-workers had examined constructive. The others are shocked and angered to study the information this fashion. A extra formal assembly is held that afternoon.

March 7: Dr. Henry pronounces an outbreak at Lynn Valley Care Centre. Well being officers tracing the contacts of the girl who examined constructive two days earlier had realized she was a health-care employee on the centre. There, they discover two residents are additionally constructive for the virus. The native well being authority dispatches a group to evaluate individuals on website and implement outbreak protocol.

March 8: A kind of residents, an 83-year-old man, dies. He’s the primary particular person in Canada to die of COVID-19.

March 9: Dr. Henry pronounces the person’s loss of life at a information convention. One other health-care employee at Lynn Valley assessments constructive, in addition to two shut contacts of the preliminary health-care employee.

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March 10: Two extra health-care staff at Lynn Valley take a look at constructive: a girl in her 40s, and a girl in her 50s.

March 11: One other two health-workers are confirmed to have the virus. They’re a person in his 20s and a girl in her 50s.

March 12: An outbreak is said at Hollyburn Home Retirement Residence in West Vancouver, the place one resident and one health-care employee have examined constructive. Well being officers verify it’s linked to the outbreak at Lynn Valley.

March 13: An outbreak is said at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, the place three administrative workers examined constructive for the virus. They don’t have any recognized hyperlink to Lynn Valley, and had no common contact with sufferers. One other shut contact of a Lynn Valley employee assessments constructive.

March 14: 5 extra instances linked to Lynn Valley are confirmed. By now, 4 residents and a dozen workers members have been contaminated. Resulting from a hovering variety of instances within the province, the B.C. authorities has stopped offering particulars of particular person instances.

March 16: Three extra residents of Lynn Valley die. Lions Gate Hospital escalates its outbreak response and accepts solely emergency sufferers.

March 17: Two extra Lynn Valley residents die.

March 18: A resident of Haro Park Centre, an unbiased housing, assisted residing and long-term care centre in downtown Vancouver, assessments constructive.

March 19: One other Lynn Valley resident dies.

March 20: Requested about instances on the care dwelling, Dr. Henry stated 36 residents had examined constructive so far, and eight had died. As properly, 18 health-care staff at Lynn Valley had examined constructive however all of these instances have been gentle. A brand new outbreak was declared on the Dufferin Care Centre in Coquitlam, the place a workers member examined constructive.

If in case you have additional details about this story, please electronic mail mhager@globeandmail.com and andreawoo@globeandmail.com.

With analysis from Stephanie Chambers and Rick Money

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