*This information was last updated May 9, 2020 and is subject to regular updates.
VON's COVID-19 FAQ
The Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) is actively monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak, while we continue to provide support, service, and care to our clients. In collaboration with our partners, we have made proactive, preventative changes to our service and care delivery approach to keep our clients, employees, and volunteers safe. Please find below a list of current Frequently Asked Questions, which will be updated as the situation evolves, and more information becomes available.
- What is COVID-19?
- How is COVID-19 transmitted?
- Are VON’s services and/or programs impacted by COVID-19?
- Are VON’s services considered ‘essential’?
- What steps has VON taken to protect its clients, employees and volunteers?
- What personal protective equipment are VON staff using?
- How is VON ensuring that our care providers' personal protective and other equipment is clean and safe?
- How is VON ensuring there is enough personal protective equipment?
- How is VON maintaining delivery of services and care while practicing physical distancing?
- What is the difference between physical distancing and self-isolation?
- Will VON be caring for any clients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19?
- How can I find out if my program/service has been impacted and/or cancelled?
- What is the impact of isolation on the people you serve and what is VON doing to help?
- Are you still relying on volunteers to support your programming?
- I receive regular emails from many other organizations about what they are doing during COVID-19. Why have I not received anything like this from VON?
- Where can I find out more information about COVID-19?
1. What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is the name used to describe the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and different species of animals. Animal coronaviruses can infect people (although rare) and then spread between people as was the case with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus, COVID-19.
The COVID-19 outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. In January, the World Health Organization classified it as a public health emergency of international concern, and on March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization formally declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic due to its ability to infect people easily and spread from person to person.
2. How is COVID-19 transmitted?
COVID-19 is a respiratory virus and its symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The virus can be transmitted through droplets generated from coughing or sneezing. VON is following all Public Health Agency of Canada directives on what personal protective equipment to wear to avoid contact with the virus. We do know that regular hand washing, physical distancing and avoiding unnecessary touching of one’s face are important preventative measures everyone can take to prevent the spread.
3. Are VON’s services and/or programs impacted by COVID-19?
The health and safety of our clients, employees, and volunteers remains our most important priority as we continue to deliver essential care. We recognize that certain VON programs and services are essential to helping you or a loved one remain safe, healthy and at home. We will continue to do our best to ensure these services continue without too much disruption, while maintaining the health and safety of those receiving and delivering VON care.
In light of the exceptional circumstances we find ourselves in during the COVID-19 pandemic, VON continues to make changes and adjustments to our local programming. This information is being reviewed and subject to change on a daily basis and is available on our website.
4. Are VON’s services considered ‘essential’?
All VON front-line service providers and those who support them, are considered staff in essential workplaces in accordance with the Nova Scotia and Ontario governments. With that in mind, VON continues to monitor the safety of our services and delivery to ensure that essential care needs are met. At the direction of public health, VON has reduced, altered, or cancelled some of our programming to help contain the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety of our clients, their families and our staff. More information on our programming can be found on our website.
5. What steps has VON taken to protect its clients, employees, and volunteers?
All employees and volunteers are self-screening every day. This is consistent with directives from the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as the Government of Ontario and Government of Nova Scotia. The employee/volunteer self screening questions are consistent with public health requirements to assess for illness. Anyone with a positive screen is immediately directed to the most appropriate care to undergo further assessments.
We have been screening clients before every visit since mid-January, and are updating our screening tools constantly as Public Health adapts requirements. We ask client and their household caregiver/family members about symptoms of illness, travel history and contact with others who may have travelled and are ill. If a client or household caregiver/family member screens positive, we have steps to take to ensure that they receive the most appropriate care. Public Health requires VON to report when there is a positive screen and Public health determines if there is a need for further assessment. VON follows the Public Health directions for care to the client and family/household members using the standards for Infection Prevent and Control and precautions.
We are ensuring that front-line service providers are equipped with required personal protective equipment (PPE) as directed by Public Health. This means that our providers will wear PPE in accordance with government in Ontario and Nova Scotia directions. All VON frontline service providers wear face masks when they are delivering clinical care and/or having face-to-face contact with a client.
We have increased our already stringent infection control procedures in VON spaces where services are coordinated or delivered. VON follows best practice in infection prevention and control during normal times, and is ensuring that everyone:
- Practices exceptional hand hygiene and health habits
- Self monitors using provided self-screening tools
- Screens clients and those who accompany them, prior to delivering care
Where possible, our employees are practicing physical distancing. In response to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s recommendations on physical distancing, we are encouraging our employees who can work from home to do so. We are ensuring that all employees follow provincial directives related to self-isolation.
6. What personal protective equipment are VON staff using?
VON follows direction from provincial and federal Public Health authorities on when (and how) personal protective equipment must be worn. Our employees have access to masks, gowns, gloves and goggles/face shields, and use them as required. As of April 27th, all VON care providers in both Ontario and Nova Scotia are following provincial protocol that requires them to wear face masks any time they are delivering clinical care and/or having face-to-face contact with a client.
7. How is VON ensuring that our health care providers' personal protective and other equipment is clean and safe?
VON care providers are trained on how to safely put on and remove any personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes handwashing before and after wearing to reduce spread of germs and illness. VON staff regularly wash uniforms at home, separate from personal clothes, and are following infection prevention and control guidance on how to safely clean their cell phones, VON bags and other reusable client-care equipment.
8. How is VON ensuring there is enough personal protective equipment?
VON is closely monitoring our supplies and is working collaboratively with stakeholders to ensure that supplies are available for care. Staff follow federal and provincial Public Health agency direction on when they should wear certain items of personal protective equipment, which includes wearing face masks whenever delivering client care. Much of this equipment is single use or limited extended use. As VON continues to respond to the pandemic, we have introduced conservation strategies for PPE and are regularly replenishing our supply. If you are a vendor or manufacturer of authorized PPE and are able to provide supply to VON, please email email@example.com with details including: type of equipment, quantities available, and any support you may be willing to provide.
9. How is VON maintaining delivery of services and care while practicing physical distancing?
We are focused on safety first and foremost – we screen prior to each visit/client encounter and do this by phone as often as possible. Upon our arrival to a client’s home, we are practicing hand hygiene and wearing protective equipment (PPE) as required for the care/service. In order to support physical distancing, we ask that household members/family members who are not involved in the immediate care maintain a 2 metre/6ft distance from our staff. In some programs, we are delivering meals at the door and in other programs we are using alternative ways of providing services including virtual visits.
10. What is the difference between physical distancing and self-isolation?
Physical distancing means minimizing contact with other people, to ensure that you and those around you remain safe:
- Maintain a safe distance (two metres) from other people.
- Limit your trips outside your home to what is essential, and limit the number of essential trips as well. Essential trips include things like getting groceries and medication, going for walks and walking pets, supporting vulnerable friends and neighbours with their own essential needs.
- Do not participate in social gatherings – gatherings of five or more people (other than family) are prohibited by the governments of Nova Scotia and Ontario.
Self-isolation means staying at home for a minimum of 14 days when:
- You return from travel outside of Canada
- You return from travel outside of the province (if you reside in Nova Scotia)
- You have been in contact with someone who has, or may have, COVID-19
COVID-19 self-assessment tools provided by the Government of Ontario and the Government of Nova Scotia are very useful tools to help you determine if you must self-isolate:
Ontario self-screener: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/self-assessment/#q0
Nova Scotia self-screener: https://when-to-call-about-covid19.novascotia.ca/en
Measures to prevent spread of the virus during self-isolation include regular hand washing, use of separate washrooms from other members of the household (if possible), sanitizing surfaces, arranging for groceries and supplies to be dropped off at home by others, and keeping a safe distance (two metres) from others.
11. Will VON be caring for any clients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19?
VON staff are continuing to deliver compassionate and essential care to clients who show symptoms, or, who have tested positive for COVID-19. They continue this care because it is essential for the client’s health and safety in their home. To safely deliver care, VON staff are wearing masks, goggles/face shields, gloves and gowns around clients who are symptomatic, or who have tested positive for COVID-19. These are the items of personal protective equipment that Public Health Agency of Canada has directed staff to wear in these situations. Clients whose condition become severe are directed to 911 for emergency management/assessment.
12. How can I find out if my program/service has been impacted and/or cancelled?
If there are changes to your schedules or to any of the programs you participate in, VON will be reaching out directly to advise you of any cancellations. We are also sharing changes on our website, https://www.von.ca/en/program-cancellations – this information is updated every weekday.
13. What is the impact of isolation on the people you serve and what is VON doing to help?
Being with other people and maintaining connection with our families, friends and loved ones is important for one’s mental wellbeing and physical health. But for many people, particularly seniors, loneliness and isolation are realities they face every day; during this pandemic, the feeling of isolation may be further intensified. VON recognizes the value and importance our programs – particularly our congregate and community-based programs – have in the lives of our clients and we are committed to providing supportive alternatives wherever we can. VON’s staff are finding creative ways to maintain contact by phone and other virtual means to provide regular check-ins with those affected by a reduction in our services.
Through continued delivery of virtual care and support, where we can offer it, VON is able to maintain the social connections and conditions that help people stay healthy and well. To read more about VON’s approach to primary health care, visit: www.von.ca/en/principles-primary-health-care.
14. Are you still relying on volunteers to support your programming?
VON continues to deliver programs and services in certain communities that rely on volunteer support. In particular, our meal delivery programs are supported by volunteers and are critical to ensuring food security among some of our most vulnerable clients and community members. The health and safety of our clients, employees, and volunteers remain our most important priority as we continue to deliver all essential care. All volunteers are required to self-screen, every day before their duties with VON. In addition, VON is screening all clients by phone, prior to them receiving our service. Volunteers are also following physical distancing measures and are avoiding or reducing any face-to-face contact with clients.
15. I receive regular emails from many other organizations about what they are doing during COVID-19. Why have I not received anything like this from VON?
VON takes its responsibilities as a health and social service provider very seriously, and part of this is ensuring that we use your personal information very judiciously. There are strict rules in place to protect your privacy and the security of your personal health information, and we take those seriously. Most information to clients and their families is coming directly from our staff who work most closely with them. We are considering providing other more general information to clients via email, but for now, we are focusing our resources on direct outreach.
16. Where can I find out more information about COVID-19?
For more information and resources on COVID-19 symptoms, spread, risks and guidance on how to protect yourself, please visit your provincial public health organization or the Public Health Agency of Canada and World Health Organization’s dedicated COVID-19 websites.
Please consult only official and recommended sources for information regarding COVID-19. Misinformation can raise anxiety, create confusion, and promote unsafe practices and behaviour. Now more than ever, we need to trust and rely upon the experts.