(The Canadian Press)

(The Canadian Press)

Federal aid for care home systems needed ahead of second wave, advocates say

Ontario Long Term Care Association calling for more action

The federal government must do more to help provinces prepare long-term care homes for the next wave of COVID-19, the Ontario Long Term Care Association says.

Association CEO Donna Duncan is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to quickly negotiate an agreement with provincial governments to deliver funds to help long-term care systems ramp up preparations as soon as possible.

“We need to act fast,” she said, noting many experts think the second-wave of novel coronavirus infections will hit no later than September.

She is looking for an agreement along the lines of the 2017 deals signed between Ottawa and provincial governments to flow money for mental health and home care. Those agreements — more than $11 billion over a decade — required provinces to produce plans for how the funds would be allocated.

Duncan said she doesn’t have a specific national dollar figure in mind but is looking for everything from money to hire more workers, to prioritizing the delivery of personal protective equipment and rapid on-site COVID-19 testing, as well as infrastructure funds that will help make some of the older, smaller homes better able to prevent infection and isolate patients when they become ill.

Last week, Trudeau said long-term care was on the agenda when he and premiers had their weekly COVID-19 conference call. He has not yet put any specifics on the table and has noted the provinces have jurisdiction.

“I said to the premiers, our government will be there to support them as we work together to ensure that our elders receive the care they deserve,” Trudeau said Friday.

Duncan’s organization represents about 70 per cent of the 626 long-term care homes in Ontario, but she said it is working with national and other provincial associations as well.

Long-term care homes have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada to date, with more than 4,000 residents dying in Ontario and Quebec alone. The Canadian Armed Forces deployed more than 1,000 members to care homes in Quebec and Ontario which were unable to look after patients with so many staff members sick.

Last week, the military reported serious problems in homes in both provinces.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault is mulling over a full-scale overhaul of his province’s system for caring for seniors in their final years, while Ontario Premier Doug Ford has promised an independent commission to investigate the failings of his province’s care homes starting in July.

Duncan said the commission and investigations are welcome but the residents and the workers who care for them need something a whole lot faster than that.

“We’re a bit concerned that everyone wants to be reflective now, as if this is over,” she said. “It is not over. This is the beginning. Let’s not become complacent. We have got to keep focused on keeping this out of our homes and protecting our seniors.”

In Ontario, more than 5,000 care-home residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19, almost one-fifth of all the confirmed cases in the province to date. As of Tuesday, 1,465 residents had died of it, representing almost two-thirds of the province’s total death count.

Another 1,825 long-term care home workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and seven have died.

There are still outbreaks at more than 1,000 facilities in Ontario, affecting at least 1,000 patients and more than 900 staff.

More than 2,000 long-term care residents have died in Quebec, and thousands more have been infected. A handful of care homes saw every single resident test positive for COVID-19.

More than 100 residents of long-term care homes in British Columbia have also died of COVID-19.

In Ontario, Duncan said long-term care homes where residents live in three- or four-patient rooms were the hardest hit by the outbreaks. Others that saw outbreaks use fans instead of air conditioning, which contributed to the spread of infected droplets, and have things like carpeting which is harder to keep clean.

She wants funds to fix some of those issues, including immediately preparing to reduce rooms to a maximum of two patients. However, in Ontario that will mean needing to find space for 10,000 beds.

The federal-provincial agreements should also look to the future, said Duncan, where an aging population is going to drive up the need for more long-term care homes. In Ontario alone, she said 100,000 new beds and 100,000 new workers will be needed over the next 15 years.

But the looming threat of another wave of infections is “what keeps me up at night,” said Duncan.

She said the fear and stigma about working in long-term care homes is high right now, so an aggressive recruitment and skills-training initiative is going to be crucial, along with better pay for those workers. She believes two or three months is enough time to do some decent skill-building and recruitment drives.

Ottawa, which is helping provinces procure protective equipment like face masks, shields and medical gowns and gloves, needs to be sure to include long-term care homes on its priority list, she said. In the preparations for the first wave, hospitals were the focus for those things, and care-home workers were left short.

Duncan said there are solutions, but it is going to take resolve and creativity to put them into action.

“We’re all going to have to problem solve together and try to figure this out,” she said.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Seniors

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross at his swearing in on Thursday (Nov. 26), with his wife, Tracey, left, mother, Frieda, and grandson, Parker. (Ellis Ross photo)
Ellis Ross sworn in as Skeena MLA

Ceremonies happening virtually rather than all in-person in Victoria

CityWest internet and other services are down in Kitimat as of Wednesday (Nov. 25) evening. (Black Press file photo)
UPDATE: Services down for CityWest users in Kitimat

Services were put out due to a landslide cutting a fibre line

The Terrace River Kings lost 3-9 to the Quesnel Kangaroos on Mar. 2, 2019 in the final CIHL playoffs. (Lindsay Chung Photo)
Central Interior Hockey League cancels 2020/21 season

League open to playing exhibition games if possible

The team at Burns Lake Elizabeth Fry Society, who work to support those affected by domestic abuse and violence. (Submitted/Lakes District News)
Rio Tinto donates $25,000 to each Kitimat’s Tamitik Status of Women, Burns Lake Elizabeth Fry Society

Part of larger support to those helping women and children experiencing family and domestic violence

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
41 positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 887 new cases

Another 13 deaths, ties the highest three days ago

Arthur Topham has been sentenced to one month of house arrest and three years of probation after breaching the terms of his probation. Topham was convicted of promoting hate against Jewish people in 2015. (Photo submitted)
Quesnel man convicted for anti-Semitic website sentenced to house arrest for probation breach

Arthur Topham was convicted of breaching probation following his 2017 sentence for promoting hatred

Langley School District's board office. (Langley Advance Times files)
‘Sick Out’ aims to pressure B.C. schools over masks, class sizes

Parents from Langley and Surrey are worried about COVID safety in classrooms

The baby boy born to Gillian and Dave McIntosh of Abbotsford was released from hospital on Wednesday (Nov. 25) while Gillian continues to fight for her life after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
B.C. mom with COVID-19 still fighting for life while newborn baby now at home

Son was delivered Nov. 10 while Gillian McIntosh was in an induced coma

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

FILE – A paramedic holds a test tube containing a blood sample during an antibody testing program at the Hollymore Ambulance Hub, in Birmingham, England, on Friday, June 5, 2020. (Simon Dawson/Pool via AP)
Want to know if you’ve had COVID-19? LifeLabs is offering an antibody test

Test costs $75 and is available in B.C. and Ontario

The grey region of this chart shows the growth of untraced infection, due to lack of information on potential sources. With added staff and reorganization, the gap is stabilized, Dr. Bonnie Henry says. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 tracing to keep up with surging cases

People now notified of test results by text message

Most Read