Devastation in Long-Term Care: Residents and Staff Pay the Ultimate Price

COVID 19 outbreaks have caused devastation in long-term care homes – most notably at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, where 12 residents plus 1 volunteer have died and 24 staff members have tested positive.

The situation is quickly worsening in the GTA where the virus has spread to numerous Long-Term Care homes including:

  • Seven Oaks Long-Term Care where CBC News reports that 14 residents and 9 staff members have tested positive. Two residents have died to date.
  • Hillsdale Terrace where Global News reports 8 residents have tested positive and 2 have died.
  • Markhaven Home for Seniors where CP24 has reported 2 residents have died and 3 staff members have tested positive.
  • Rekai Centre where CBC News also reports 4 residents have tested positive.

Other Ontario Long-Term Care homes with COVID cases include: Extendicare Bayview; St. Clair O’Connor Community Inc; Chartwell Gibson Long Term Care; Westpark Long Term Care Centre; St. Joseph’s Health Centre Guelph; Heritage Green Nursing Home in Stoney Creek; Almonte County Haven; Anson Place in Hagersville; and Ina Grafton Gage Long Term Care. This is not an exhaustive list!

Prior to the pandemic, the situation was already dire for the long-term care system in Ontario.

The Provincial government was well aware of staffing shortages related to inadequate wages and poor working conditions for personal support workers (PSWs). This resulted in low recruitment rates, high turnover and quality of care issues. The province is facing a rapidly aging population and many long-term care residents have complex medical conditions. All of these factors created a difficult situation for residents and staff in LTC homes even before COVID 19.

The government must act now.

Action is needed to prevent the further spread of COVID 19 in LTC homes. The provincial government’s Emergency Order relaxes staffing, training and record keeping requirements on LTC homes. The Order also authorizes the homes to use volunteers to perform work and redeploy staff within different locations. In the face of a highly contagious virus that poses a serious threat to the lives of our elderly population, relaxing training requirements and authorizing volunteers to perform work is NOT an adequate response by our government. There are many residents who are completely dependent on the staff at the homes for their care. What happens when too many staff fall ill and cannot work? Who will care for these residents?

To start, immediate government funding for increased staffing and personal protective equipment could help. Second, rather than relaxing training requirements staff should be given adequate training.

COVID 19 has turned a difficult situation in Long-Term Care into a desperate one.

More and more families have decided to take their loved ones out of the homes until the pandemic has resolved. The Province’s Emergency Order amends the regulations to the Long-Term Care Homes Act to allow residents who request a discharge to be placed on a re-admission list once the outbreak is over. The idea is that this will expedite their return to the LTC home. At present this only applies for absences that are three months or less. For longer absences, the process will be more complicated. Residents now worry that they waited months or years to get into long-term care and might lose their spot if they leave. Other residents have no option but to stay because their care needs that can’t be met at home or they have nowhere else to go.

The situation in long-term care homes is only going to get worse as more and more residents test positive and the number of staff infected rises. To make matters worse, recent visitor restrictions mean many family members and friends cannot get into the homes to visit their loved ones and check in on their care. Unfortunately, given quality of care concerns even prior to the pandemic, many families believed these visits were critically important to ensure that their loved ones were being properly cared for.

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