Vancouver Coastal Health says it has replaced shared blood pressure cuffs and other medical equipment at long-term care facilities after research found they could be at risk of COVID-19 contamination.
The change came after VCH collected samples at three long-term care homes experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks. Eighty-nine surfaces were swabbed, including entrances, kitchens, staff communal areas, nursing stations, and care areas, and six of the samples tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Person-to-person transmission is believed to be the primary driver of outbreaks in long-term care facilities, says VCH, but their research found that medical equipment is a potential route for transmission.
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The virus was detected on four of the nine standard reusable blood pressure cuffs that were tested.
The virus was also found on the handle of a mobile linen cart, and on the touch display of an electronic tablet used for electronic medication records.
VCH says the preliminary findings, which were published in the American Journal of Infection Control, have led to changes at its long-term care facilities. Shared blood pressure cuffs and other medical equipment were replaced with either disposable cuffs or dedicated equipment that is not shared between patients.
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“The findings of the study have informed our response to long-term care outbreaks and highlight the need to be vigilant against COVID-19,” Dr. Michael Schwandt, VCH Medical Health Officer, and article co-author said in a statement.
“Doing this type of research doesn’t just help us manage outbreaks now, it adds to the science on COVID-19 transmission so VCH and other health authorities have a better understanding of this new virus and so we can respond more effectively in the future.”
Nineteen people have died of COVID-19 at the Holy Family Hospital long-term care facility, the site of the sole ongoing outbreak in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. Fifty-three residents and 35 staff members at Holy Family have been diagnosed with the disease.
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