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Charla Huber: Lack of spread at Duncan facility a testament to leadership, guidelines

Charla Huber: Lack of spread at Duncan facility a testament to leadership, guidelines
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Ts’i’ts’uwatul’ Lelum Assisted Living in Duncan. Google Street View

By the time you are reading this, all long-term care facilities in B.C. should have received COVID-19 vaccines.

I work for M’akola Housing Society and earlier this month, M’akola had its first COVID-19 outbreak at Ts’i’ts’uwatul’ Lelum Assisted Living in Duncan. It was the dreaded announcement that no one wanted.

I joined meetings between M’akola and Island Health and saw firsthand procedures that followed. This experience reinforced to me that protecting our elders, seniors and other residents is an incredible collaborative effort.

The words “COVID-19 outbreak” are bone chilling, and the staff who work in these facilities during this scary time exhibit both bravery and dedication. The COVID-19 outbreak at Ts’i’ts’uwatul’ Lelum was declared because one staff member had tested positive and had been in contact with residents and staff.

“We are forever grateful to the individual who came forward when they tested positive — that action saved lives and I know it wasn’t an easy choice,” said Kevin Albers, M’akola CEO.

During the outbreak, all potentially affected individuals were isolated and tested, twice. There was zero spread.

“It was really well managed — thank goodness it didn’t spread,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer.

To me, hearing there was zero transmission is a testament to the effectiveness of the provincial health guidelines.

“If we didn’t follow those guidelines, we wouldn’t be on this call with you today celebrating,” Albers told Henry. “We experienced firsthand how effective your guidelines are. They ensured that no transmission occurred beyond that first positive case.”

Throughout the outbreak, I heard several Island Health employees credit Audrey George, manager of Ts’i’ts’uwatul’ Lelum, for her leadership.

“This is so, so important. Leadership in long-term care and assisted living facilities, has been one of the most important things in helping us manage these outbreaks,” said Henry. “I understand how important Audrey’s role is.”

I wanted to share this positive story, not only for its success, but because George is a Cowichan Tribes member. Unfortunately, there has been significant racism that members of the Cowichan Tribes have faced in-person and online.

George saved many lives with her leadership. Ts’i’ts’uwatul’ Lelum is a partnership between M’akola and Cowichan Tribes and provides homes and care for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

“We have a history between the health system and Indigenous people. Ts’i’ts’uwatul’ Lelum has been building that bridge and building that trust within the community,” George said.

I witnessed George lead with humility, respect and honoring community. George brought her cultural values into her leadership, and that’s what set her apart.

“We are that little speckle of hope in the world of COVID-19 right now,” said George. “I remind people there is a purpose to what we are doing. Even if we look like an alien with our mask and face shield, that is what is protecting us, that is what is granting us a chance at another day to share a meal with our family down the road.”

Keeping safe is a collaborative effort and we all need to do our part.

“Every day I have to stand up and say how many have died,” said Henry. “It’s so hard to do. Knowing many of them are our seniors, our elders, our history, our stories, our communities and our families. As we have this virus transmitting in our communities, it’s going to get into our care homes and our schools. It’s how we respond to that that is the most important thing we can do.”

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