The study found that the proportion of deaths in nursing homes accounted for 69% of all COVID-19 deaths in Canada, which is considerably higher than the international average of 41%. In Canada, between March 2020 and February 2021, more than 80,000 residents and staff of long-term care homes were infected with the coronavirus. Outbreaks have occurred in 2,500 care homes, killing 14,000 residents, according to the report.
“COVID-19 has taken a toll on long-term care homes and retirement homes in Canada, resulting in a disproportionate number of epidemics and deaths,” the report’s introduction said.
The study, which focused on the first six months of the pandemic, found that across the country, nursing home residents received less medical attention. They had fewer doctor visits and there were also fewer hospital transfers compared to other years.
Researchers also looked beyond the coronavirus for all deaths in nursing homes.
“Resident deaths – from all causes, not just from COVID-19 infection – have increased by 19 percent in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador” , indicates the report. “There were 2,273 more deaths than average in the five years leading up to COVID-19, with the largest increase occurring in April 2020.”
Last spring, Ontario saw the largest increase in “excess deaths” at 28%, while British Columbia recorded the smallest at just 4%, according to the study.
“It really tells us that there were things we could have done to prevent a lot of the deaths that we’ve seen in Canada and that countries, frankly, that were better prepared before the pandemic, that had better systems. funded, they performed well. better than Canada, ”said Dr. Samir Sinha, director of health policy research and co-chair of the National Institute on Aging, a study partner with CIHI.
“Compared to other countries in the world, Canada actually has the worst overall record. ”
Family among people excluded from care institutions
Along with the lockdowns and forced isolation, people living in nursing homes have also had less contact with friends and family.
Mae Wilson is among the statistics.
The 93-year-old was among thousands of long-term care residents who died in 2020 after her eastern Ontario nursing home, Almonte Country Haven, was defeated by a COVID-19 outbreak – with 72 out of 82 residents contracting the disease.
Wilson, a former nurse, was one of 29 residents to die last spring from COVID-19.
“I really want people to feel uncomfortable with the way they have treated our elders. Not just my mom, all of them, ”said her son, Grant Wilson. “I’m still mad at this. ”
The study authors found that in the first wave of last spring, the total number of resident deaths was higher than in the years before the pandemic, even in places with fewer deaths from COVID-19.
“The proportion of residents who had no contact with a loved one tripled in the first wave, compared to previous years. Residents who had no contact with family and friends were more likely to be assessed as having depression, ”the report says.
But it appears that the lessons learned from the first wave did not lead to any changes in the results during the second wave last fall, which was “increasingly broad” in Canada, resulting in “a plus. large number of outbreaks, infections and deaths ”.
The study found that the number of COVID-19 infections among nursing home residents increased 62% in the second wave compared to the first.
The report singled out Ontario and Quebec, noting that they “had the highest proportion of outbreaks with outbreaks involving resident cases.” He also said that during the first wave of the pandemic, “over a third (34 percent) of all LTC homes in Ontario and 44 percent of all LTC homes in Quebec experienced an outbreak with at less one resident case ”. These numbers compare to just 8% of long-term care homes in British Columbia and 17% in Alberta.
“Have we had a number of preventable deaths? Absolutely. Could they have been avoided? Absolutely, ”said Sinha, who is also director of geriatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.
Recommended national standards for houses
Several provincial investigations are currently underway to try to understand what happened in long-term care homes during the pandemic and to recommend changes.
Staffing continues to be a problem.
“All surveys have indicated that staff are important, that it is important to have a medical director on site, to make everyone understand what infection prevention and control precautions are and to use them consistently. , all of these things are considered really important, ”said Tracy Johnson director of health system analysis at CIHI.
The report says that during the first wave, staff shortages in long-term care homes “were exacerbated in parts of Canada due to staff illness from COVID-19 and high rates of higher absenteeism ”.
In response, according to the report, more than 1,500 members of the Canadian Armed Forces were deployed to 32 of the “most severely affected homes” in Ontario and Quebec last spring and reported “poor infection prevention and control practices. (eg training, personal protective equipment not available), residents “are denied food or are not fed properly” and serious staffing issues. ”
WATCH | Several Ontario nursing homes have broken safety rules:
In last year’s Speech from the Throne, the federal government promised to set new national standards for long-term care, but new rules have yet to materialize.
“We like national standards, but that will be up to the federal government and the provinces to decide,” Johnson said. “This is the discussion I think they’re all in right now, and the provinces really feel like it’s their territory.