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

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

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ district administration centre. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district gets started on new budget amid unknowns

Ministry’s per-student funding increase doesn’t fully cover pay raises for teachers and support staff

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo school district reports COVID-19 case at Fairview Elementary

April 9 exposure the fourth case reported in SD68 since spring break

The old career resource centre, formerly Quennell School, was demolished last week. (Photo courtesy Erik Warners)
Old career centre and school demolished in Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter

School district says building was decaying and was unsuitable for use

Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s two new pumper trucks, slated to be delivered in the fall, will have battery-powered idle-reduction technology. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo’s newest fire trucks will come with idle-reduction technology

Pumper trucks arriving from U.S.-based manufacturer will use battery power to save fuel

A raccoon prowls near a porch in north Nanaimo last fall. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Attack on dog shows raccoons can be nasty creatures

We had to take our black lab to the emergency vet for treatment, says letter writer

People take part in an anti-curfew protest in Montreal on Sunday April 11, 2021. Hundreds of people gathered in Old Montreal tonight in defiance of a new 8 p.m. curfew. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giuseppe Valiante
VIDEO: Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

Quebec reported 1,535 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, as well as five additional deaths linked to the virus

AstraZeneca vaccine is becoming available at B.C. pharmacies outside the Lower Mainland, as of Friday, April 9. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
Immunization program expands to five Nanaimo pharmacies

Residents 55-65-year-old can get their first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

Firefighters, including those from Cranberry volunteer department, are battling a blaze in the Nanaimo River Road area. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Dwelling destroyed, two taken to hospital after Nanaimo River Road blaze

Firefighers arrived to find dwelling and garage fully engulfed in flame at property south of Nanaimo

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

Most Read