(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

Duncan’s Knights of Columbus hand out cheques to a slew of deserving organizations in an online event Nov. 8, 2020. (Submitted)
Duncan Knights of Columbus hand cheques to lucky 13 in virtual event

Another historic first for the Knights was to have two area mayors join the presentation

Changes to the holidays due to COVID-19 will be a challenge for people with dementia. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)
Webinars aim to help those with dementia approach holidays

“The holidays can present difficulties for people living with dementia for a multitude of reasons”

Theresa Bodger at the Duncan Curling Club, displaying the championship trophy and a photo of her mom, Georgina Falt. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Cowichan Alzheimer’s fundraiser surpasses $65,000 since inception

Courier editor and his wife overwhelmed by continued support

“Jeff Abbott sinks in a mass of mud where a tributary to Coon Creek earlier ran. The creek supplies 60 families in Youbou with drinking water.” (Lake News, Nov. 19, 1980)
Flashback: Winter tires, winter weather, watershed watch

Remember these stories from Lake Cowichan

Duncan’s Callum Davison is up for a bursary from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. (Submitted)
Duncan golfer Callum Davison up for national bursary

20-year-old finished fifth in Canada Life Series this summer

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

This 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association shows Pat Quinn. Quinn, a co-founder of the viral ice bucket challenge, died Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, at the age of 37. (Scott Kauffman/The ALS Association via AP)
Co-founder of viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge dies at 37

Pat Quinn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2013

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti speaks with the media following party caucus in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental health as grounds for assisted death is likely temporary: Lametti

Senators also suggested the exclusion renders the bill unconstitutional

Claudio Mastronardi, Toronto branch manager at Carmichael Engineering, is photographed at the company’s offices in Mississauga, Ont., Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. As indoor air quality becomes a major concern in places of business, HVAC companies are struggling to keep up with demand for high quality filtration systems. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Business is booming for HVAC companies as commercial buildings see pandemic upgrades

‘The demand right now is very high. People are putting their health and safety ahead of cost’

Bank of Montreal, located on Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver. (Google Maps)
Heiltsuk man files human rights complaint against Vancouver police, BMO after bank arrest

Pair remains distraught after employee falsely reports fraud in progress leading to their arrest

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

RCMP Cpl. Cory Lepine pictured at BC Livestock Producers Co. in Kamloops, Nov. 16. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Meet B.C.’s only cowboy cop; a voice for the livestock industry

Cpl. Cory Lepine serves as a bridge between the law and those who make a living off the land

BCHL
BCHL pushes back season start due to provincial health orders

The delay is minimal, just six days, for now. But the league is open to starting up after Christmas

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest

Most Read