The Lynn Valley Care Centre in Lynn Valley in North Vancouver, B.C. Monday, March 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Funding for long-term care needed before second wave of COVID-19: advocates

Advocates say the pandemic has laid bare the fragility of the long-term care system

With an uptick in new cases of COVID-19 in Canada sparking concerns about a second wave of the illness, advocates for seniors in long-term care say more federal support must start flowing immediately to ensure elders do not again become the primary casualties.

The Canadian Association for Long Term Care says the sector has long fallen through the cracks and that this lack of support helped create conditions that led to widespread COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths in nursing homes across Canada.

Now that the pandemic has laid bare the fragility of the long-term care system, association chair Jodi Hall says the Liberals have to dedicate more infrastructure dollars to nursing homes.

“Historically, the federal government has failed to support this sector … It is imperative they help the sector by providing access to existing federal infrastructure dollars,” she said Wednesday.

Long-term care homes were uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19, combining an already-sick patient base with a new coronavirus, to which nobody has immunity. Nursing homes in Canada are often older and feature shared bedrooms, bathrooms and dining rooms, which made containing COVID-19 a challenge in the early days of the pandemic when little was known of its ability to spread through asymptomatic people, Hall noted.

Ottawa could alleviate these pressures in the future by allowing nursing homes to access funds through the national housing strategy, she said. Homes could also be placed at the top of the list of “shovel-ready” projects likely to get federal and provincial stimulus dollars as part of economic recovery efforts.

“These are simple and readily available solutions that could have been and can still be implemented quickly to support provinces and operators in modernizing 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 elders.

It found the pandemic was a “shock wave” that exposed many long-standing deficiencies 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 about age and gender.”

READ MORE: COVID-19 ‘hoax call’ to B.C. long-term care home leads to arrest

A whopping 81 per cent of Canada’s COVID-19 deaths happened in long-term care homes, far higher than what is reported in comparable countries, including 31 per cent in the United States, 28 per cent in Australia and 66 per cent in Spain.

The findings in this and other recent studies exposing the cracks in the system are nothing new to those on the front lines, Hall said.

Since 2017, the Canadian Association for Long Term Care has met with over 60 MPs, various cabinet ministers and dozens of federal policy advisers asking them to address the urgent needs of seniors housing and care, but she says their concerns have not been heard.

With Statistics Canada figures showing the number of seniors over 65 is expected to rise by 25 per cent by 2036 and the number of Canadians over 80 to double between 2011 and 2036, the association hopes governments will finally step in with help and stop arguing about jurisdictional issues.

“Seniors and their families do not care about who is, strictly speaking, responsible for what parts of senior-care delivery,” Hall said.

“The argument that the federal government distributes funds and provinces provide programs might have been a thoughtful argument in the past, in the 80s and 90s, but the demographics today are completely different,” she said.

“The federal government cannot ignore the aging crisis any longer.”

In addition to capital investments, the national body is also pushing for a pan-Canadian health human-resources strategy to address rising challenges with attracting and retaining workers in the seniors sector — another key stressor that has been blamed on the COVID-19 outbreaks.

The federal government has committed some emergency aid to help long-term care homes as part of the $19-billion “Safe Restart Agreement” reached with the provinces last week, including money for testing and personal protective equipment.

But Donna Duncan, CEO of the Ontario Long-Term Care Association, says the federal amounts in this package for nursing homes fall far short of the immediate emergency needs of homes across the country.

This money will also do nothing to address systemic and chronic underfunding of the sector, Duncan said.

“Significant infrastructure investments are going to be required as well as just the immediate response to COVID-19,” she said.

Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said deeper reforms of the long-term care system are likely needed, but he remained firm that it would be up to the provinces to lead those discussions.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

Surrey students paint mural, paying homage to First Nations, at SkyTrain station

Artwork to showcase ‘positivity and racial inclusivity in the city’

PHOTOS: Residents showcased as ‘companion’ sculpture unveiled

Amica White Rock welcomes bronze guardian, celebrates resident talent

More than 50,000 checks: Surrey COVID-19 compliance, enforcement team’s role has ‘evolved’

Joint bylaw, RCMP team created to help with coronavirus education, support

Homemade explosives detonated in South Surrey

Police asking public for help identifying those responsible

White Rock highrise on hold after workers exhibit ‘severe’ overexposure symptoms

WorkSafeBC issued stop-work order at 1588 Johnston Rd. site on July 24

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

Captain Horvat’s OT marker lifts Canucks to 4-3 win over Blues

Vancouver takes 2-0 lead in best-of-7 NHL playoff series with St. Louis

PHOTOS/VIDEO: Wings and Wheels set for weekend lift-off in Abbotsford

Fundraiser to raise money for Crystal Gala Foundation and the fight against breast cancer

Undercover video shows alleged animal abuse at Fraser Valley egg farm

One employee wearing logo of Chilliwack chicken-catching company already facing abuse charges

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

Most Read