The Canadian Association for Long-Term Care says the sector has long fallen through the cracks and this lack of support has helped create the conditions that have led to widespread COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths in nursing homes across Canada.
Now that the pandemic has exposed the fragility of the long-term care system, association president Jodi Hall says the Liberals need to spend more infrastructure dollars on nursing homes.
“Historically, the federal government has failed to support this sector… It is imperative that it assist the sector by giving it access to existing federal funds for infrastructure,” she said Wednesday.
Long-term care homes were particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, combining a base of patients already ill with a new coronavirus, to which no one is immune. Nursing homes in Canada are often older and have shared bedrooms, bathrooms and dining areas, which made containment of COVID-19 a challenge at the start of the pandemic, as its ability to Little was known about spreading to asymptomatic people, Hall noted.
Ottawa could alleviate those pressures in the future by allowing nursing homes to access funds through the national housing strategy, she said. The homes could also be placed at the top of the list of “out of the box” projects likely to attract federal and provincial stimulus funds as part of economic recovery efforts.
“These are simple, readily available solutions that could and still can be implemented quickly to help provinces and operators modernize long-term care homes.
Earlier this month, the Royal Society of Canada released a scathing report on the state of long-term care in Canada, accusing the country of failing in its duty to protect vulnerable seniors.
He revealed that the pandemic was a “shock wave” that exposed many long-standing loopholes in the system and that while the causes of this systemic failure are complex, they are rooted in what the authors called ” systemic and deeply institutionalized implicit attitudes towards age. and sex. ”
A whopping 81% of COVID-19 deaths in Canada have been in long-term care homes, far more than what is reported in comparable countries, including 31% in the United States, 28% in Australia and 66 % in Spain.
The results of this study and other recent studies revealing cracks in the system are nothing new to those on the front lines, Hall said.
Since 2017, the Canadian Long-Term Care Association has met with more than 60 MPs, various ministers and dozens of federal policy advisers to call on them to address urgent housing and care needs for the elderly, but she says their concerns have not been heard.
With Statistics Canada figures showing the number of seniors over 65 is expected to increase 25% by 2036 and the number of Canadians over 80 to double between 2011 and 2036, the association hopes governments will step in. finally with help and stop arguing over problem skills.
“Seniors and their families don’t care who is, strictly speaking, responsible for which parts of the delivery of senior care,” Hall said.
“The argument that the federal government distributes funds and the provinces deliver programs may have been a considered argument in the past, in the 80s and 90s, but today’s demographics are completely different,” she declared.
“The federal government can no longer ignore the aging crisis.”
In addition to capital investments, the national body is also pushing for a pan-Canadian health human resource strategy to address the growing challenges of attracting and retaining workers in the senior sector – another key stressor that has been attributed to COVID-19 outbreaks.
The federal government has pledged emergency aid to help long-term care homes under the $ 19 billion “Safe Restart deal” with the provinces last week, including cash for testing and personal protective equipment.
Daniel Pollak, a spokesperson for Seniors Minister Deb Schulte, said $ 780 million of that total will cover one-time costs over the next six to eight months for infection prevention and control measures, which “ could include resolving long-term care issues. ”
Pollak also highlighted other emergency aid that has benefited nursing homes since the start of the pandemic, including money for essential wage supplements for workers, ordering and distribution of PPE and troops. military personnel deployed to more than 50 long-term care facilities in Quebec and Ontario.
But Donna Duncan, CEO of the Ontario Long-Term Care Association, says federal and provincial amounts committed and spent to date on nursing homes are well below the immediate emergency needs of homes across the country.
This money will also do nothing to address the sector’s systemic and chronic underfunding, Duncan said.
“Significant investments in infrastructure will be needed as well as an immediate response to COVID-19,” she said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month said deeper reforms to the long-term care system were likely needed, but he remained firm that it would be up to the provinces to lead those discussions.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 22, 2020.
Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press