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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

Pilot Surveillance Project to Test Asymptomatic Patients in LTC, Retirement Home, Hospice and Home Care for COVID-19

St. Joseph’s Health System & Niagara Health launch new pilot surveillance project to protect the most vulnerable in our health system

COVID-19 has had a devastating effect within many congregate care facilities caring for vulnerable elderly residents, prompting the Ontario government to call for greater testing in long-term care and retirement homes.

With that in mind, St. Joseph’s Health System (SJHS) and Niagara Health are taking the vital step in testing all asymptomatic patients, residents and select staff within its long-term care, retirement home and congregate settings as part of a pilot surveillance project.

Under the directive of Dr. Tom Stewart, CEO of St. Joseph’s Health System and Niagara Health, and the SJHS Executive team, supported by Research Institute and Lab, the project will test our most vulnerable patients and residents, including those living in long-term care, to save lives.

Researchers at the Research Institute of St. Joe’s Hamilton, McMaster University, Guelph Assessment Centre, Public Health Ontario Lab and select public health units across the GTA are working together to test thousands of samples collected from long-term care facilities and retirement homes.

“We are testing the prevalence of asymptomatic COVID positive cases that could inform future testing strategies and prevention measures to curb the spread of this devastating virus and save lives,” says Dr. Jack Gauldie, Vice-President of Research at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. “It’s vital we learn how we can protect our most vulnerable population and our staff today and, in the future. We need to share our findings widely to make changes to how we protect the elderly living in congregate settings.”

“St. Joseph’s Health System and Niagara Health are committed to delivering integrated care across the continuum,” says Dr. Tom Stewart. “With our capacity and network of hospitals, research laboratories, long-term care home, Home Care, and retirement homes, it would be irresponsible not to put our collective efforts together in the fight against COVID-19. If our surveillance project demonstrates that asymptomatic cases can be COVID positive, it will dramatically change the COVID-19 response and prevention strategy going forward and most importantly will save lives.”

Testing of staff, residents and patients across St. Joseph’s Health System and Niagara Health has already begun.

“We have tested all 111 long-term care residents for COVID-19 whether they had symptoms or not. All results have come back negative,” says Niagara Health President Lynn Guerriero. “We need to do everything we can to minimize the risk to our residents, and testing will continue on a regular basis to support a safe environment and understand more about this virus.”

The Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, working with the Ministry of Long-Term Care and Ontario Health, will review results from these tests and work to refine testing guidance as appropriate to support continued testing of asymptomatic residents and staff.

Partnering Organizations


Media Contact:
Christine Cho |Sr. Public Affairs Specialist |St. Joseph’s Health System | 905-870-1293 | ccho@stjoes.ca
Caroline Bourque Wiley | Dir. Communications | Niagara Health | 905-329-9523 | cwiley@niagarahealth.on.ca 


About St. Joseph’s Health System 

St. Joseph’s Health System (SHJS) is one of the largest healthcare organizations in Canada, and only system in Ontario delivering a full continuum of health care services. Medical and specialty services affect care at all points and include acute care, long-term care, home care, hospice and research & education. SJHS is a globally recognized leader for innovation in models of patient-centred integrated care. St. Joseph’s Health System has a unique partnership with Niagara Health to leverage each organization’s strengths to bring better care to the people in the communities we serve. 

About Niagara Health 

Niagara Health (NH) is a community-based academic centre with a focus on teaching and learning, research and innovation. We are very proud of our strong partnership with the St. Joseph’s Health System and our  academic partners, including McMaster University, Brock University and Niagara College. Serving more than 450,000 residents across 12 municipalities making up the Regional Municipality of Niagara, NH is a regional healthcare provider with multiple sites and a growing network of community-based services. The team is made up of more than 4,800 employees, 600 physicians, and 850 volunteers to deliver ‘Extraordinary Caring. Every Person. Every Time’. We provide a wide range of inpatient and outpatient services to residents across Niagara, including Acute Care, Cancer Care, Cardiac Care, Complex Care, Emergency and Urgent Care, Kidney Care, Mental Health and Addictions, Stroke Care, Surgical Care and Long-Term Care.