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Canada Military must test more soldiers deployed to long-term care homes, health expert warns

11:56  03 june  2020
11:56  03 june  2020 Source:   cbc.ca

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Some of the long - term care homes where troops are deployed "are also mass testing all personnel working in these facilities and therefore some of our Military members wrote extraordinarily precise, detailed accounts of the dire conditions they found in some of the facilities. They noted lapses in the

" Long - term care is a unique vulnerability in this pandemic The federal government has approved Ontario’s request for military assistance at long - term care homes amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Ford said they would first be deployed to five “priority homes .” The additional personnel will

Canadian troops © CBC News Canadian troops

Canadian troops serving in long-term care facilities are not being uniformly tested for the novel coronavirus — an omission that alarms a leading health and safety policy expert.

In response to questions from CBC News, the Department of National Defence (DND) said that soldiers, sailors and aircrew throughout the Canadian Forces are tested if they show symptoms of the virus.

Those personnel on deployment providing support to seniors homes in Quebec and Ontario are administered the test — but only in certain circumstances.

"To date, primarily symptomatic [Canadian Armed Forces] personnel are being tested for COVID-19, including [Operation] LASER deployed personnel," said Dan Le Bouthillier, DND head of media relations, in an email.

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Long - Term Care Partners. Because no soldiers have the new badge yet, testing will be administered early on by soldiers with the other expert badges, since To qualify to take the test , soldiers must pass the Army Combat Fitness Test , qualify as “ Expert ” on the M4 Carbine or M16

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"CAF personnel deployed on Op LASER and assessed to be in close contact with active COVID-19 cases in [Long-Term Care Facilities] may be proactively tested based on recommendations of the local public health authority."

A testing patchwork

Some of the long-term care homes where troops are deployed "are also mass testing all personnel working in these facilities and therefore some of our asymptomatic CAF members are subject to these mass testing activities," said Le Bouthillier.

It all amounts to a patchwork policy that fails to recognize the extraordinary uncertainty surrounding the transmission of COVID-19, Mario Possamai, a former senior adviser to the Ontario government's SARS Commission, told CBC News.

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Command – A military unit having a broad, continuing mission, composed of forces from two or more services, typically organized geographically. >Field Army – A tactical and administrative military unit consisting of a headquarters, two or more corps and auxiliary forces under the command of a full

And health care workers are the soldiers on the front lines. Out of Spain’s 40,000 confirmed In some retirement homes , soldiers deployed to disinfect the premises found elderly people The grim situation has left many of Spain’s health care professionals overwhelmed and pleading for more

While he acknowledged the military is following the established health protocol, he argued that the military's approach ignores mounting evidence of symptom-free transmission as a vector for the spread of the disease.

"One of the surprising characteristics of COVID-19 is the importance of asymptomatic transmission," said Possamai, an occupational health and safety expert.

"That's unlike SARS, unlike influenza. And that goes against typical public health control measures, which focus on the testing of symptomatic individuals."

Lax virus containment

Since Canadian Forces members were asked to backstop faltering seniors homes, 40 of them have tested positive for the virus — 25 in Quebec and 15 in Ontario. The figures are current as of June 1.

Military members wrote extraordinarily precise, detailed accounts of the dire conditions they found in some of the facilities. They noted lapses in the use of personal protective equipment in the long-term care homes and, in some cases, poor protocols for virus containment.

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Army soldiers deploy more than any other branch, with the possible exception of the Navy. Rod Powers was the U.S. Military expert for The Balance Careers and was a retired Air Force First Sergeant with 22 years of active duty service.

Many people in the military also avoid speaking up about mental health problems because they think it may hurt their careers, which is a valid concern, Stahl says. Although it’s not a long - term solution or cure for PTSD, medication can help improve sleep or other comorbid conditions, such as anxiety or

One military report noted that residents who had tested positive for COVID-19 had been allowed to wander freely in one facility.

Possamai said such accounts should have prompted alarm and a higher state of vigilance within the military establishment.

The 'Achilles heel' of pandemic response

"The military should ensure all of our personnel, whether they are symptomatic or not, are regularly tested," said Possamai, who pointed to a recent New England Journal of Medicine article that described asymptomatic transmission as "the Achilles heel of current strategies to control COVID-19."

One of the key conclusions of the SARS Commission was that health care workers were particularly vulnerable to the virus.

A debate is raging in the medical community right now over whether the novel coronavirus can be transmitted through the air through a process called "aerosolization", in addition to being carried by droplets.

The threat of airborne transmission prompted health officials in Montreal to inspect the defective ventilation system at the Vigi Mont Royal long-term care facility, where Canadian troops have been deployed.

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Health officials have been scrambling to get their own coronavirus testing kits up and running after getting stuck with faulty tests from the federal government. Five of the six deaths have been linked to the LifeCare long - term aged care facility in Kirkland in King County. The sixth victim was from nearby

In most cases, all officers in the Military must be American citizens in order to apply, but the Army and Army Reserve offers the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program. Noncitizens trained in certain specialties can receive expedited citizenship in exchange for a service commitment.

Take no chances, says expert

Many scientists have said they're skeptical of the idea that the virus could travel further than three metres from an infected person. And at the moment, there are no studies that support one mode of transmission over any another.

Given the uncertainty over how COVID-19 gets from one person to another, Possamai said it's incumbent on health professionals to take unusual precautions, scale up protective equipment to the highest level and institute uniform testing.

"There should be testing of both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, especially when they're in such a high-risk environment as our military is in those long-term care facilities," he said.

CBC News requested an interview with the Canadian Forces surgeon general last week but received no response.

Without exception, troops who do test positive are isolated in the hotel rooms where they're being billeted while on deployment.

Soldiers exhibiting symptoms are required to remain in their hotel rooms for 10 days under the supervision of military medical staff. They won't be allowed to return to duty until the fever and any other symptoms are gone.

DND says that if the member shows no signs of illness after a positive test, the individual will remain isolated for 14 days from the date of the test and will be allowed to return to duty if no symptoms develop.

Long-term care corporation says it will launch a review and changes .
Sienna Senior Living, one of the companies at the centre of the long-term care crisis in Ontario, says it will launch a company-wide review and sweeping changes to improve care at its homes. Among other things, the company said in a statement that it has hired a former provincial deputy attorney general, Paul Boniferro, to conduct a “company-wide review into the policies, practices and culture at Sienna.” It says it has begun the search to hire a senior health and long-term care expert to act as senior adviser to its management and board of directors “to push  forward with these new initiatives and address current challenges.

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