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

Just Posted

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

A promotional image for The Wharf Sessions album. (Salmon Arm Arts Centre image)
The Wharf Sessions album pays tribute to Salmon Arm’s long-running concert series

Salmon Arm Arts Centre wanted to give recording opportunity to artists in a tough year

(Heather Lueck image)
Crash north of Enderby knocks out power, slows Highway 97A traffic

A witness captured footage of a medical helicopter landing at the scene

An overhead view of the proposed location of 5 new units at Sicamous Creek Mobile Home Park. (District of Sicamous image)
5 new rental units proposed at Sicamous Creek Mobile Home Park

Coun. Gord Bushell said he thinks it will be great to have five new rentals in the community

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Longtime SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru (far left) walks with members of her family as they Walk To End Abuse Sunday, June 13, 2021. South Okanagan Women In Needs Society (SOWINS) raised a record amount this year. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS’ services

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read