Impact of a Public Policy Restricting Staff Mobility Between Nursing Homes in Ontario, Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic
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OBJECTIVES: To assess changes in the mobility of staff between nursing homes in Ontario, Canada, before and after enactment of public policy restricting staff from working at multiple homes. DESIGN: Pre-post observational study. SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: 623 nursing homes in Ontario, Canada, between March 2020 and June 2020. METHODS: We used GPS location data from mobile devices to approximate connectivity between all 623 nursing homes in Ontario during the 7 weeks before (March 1-April 21) and after (April 22-June 13) the policy restricting staff movement was implemented. We constructed a network diagram visualizing connectivity between nursing homes in Ontario and calculated the number of homes that had a connection with another nursing home and the average number of connections per home in each period. We calculated the relative difference in these mobility metrics between the 2 time periods and compared within-home changes using McNemar test and the Wilcoxon rank-sum test. RESULTS: In the period preceding restrictions, 266 (42.7%) nursing homes had a connection with at least 1 other home, compared with 79 (12.7%) homes during the period after restrictions, a drop of 70.3% (P < .001). Including all homes, the average number of connections in the before period was 3.90 compared to 0.77 in the after period, a drop of 80.3% (P < .001). In both periods, mobility between nursing homes was higher in homes located in larger communities, those with higher bed counts, and those part of a large chain. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Mobility between nursing homes in Ontario fell sharply after an emergency order by the Ontario government limiting long-term care staff to a single home, though some mobility persisted. Reducing this residual mobility should be a focus of efforts to reduce risk within the long-term care sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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