More Needs to be Done to Protect Those in Long-Term Care
I was heartened last week to see Ontario’s Premier pushing for personal protection equipment (PPE), and to read here that he has joined forces with Hayley Wickenheiser and many volunteers to obtain, organize and distribute PPE to front-line workers. This equipment is desperately needed in hospitals and health care facilities, and especially for residents and workers in Long-Term Care Homes (LTCH) who have been vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly, half of our country’s deaths are noted as connected to LTCH.
More needs to be done to protect those in LTCH, as many of the elderly and their families are suffering greatly as a result of the rapid spread of the disease. It is heartbreaking to regularly see media reports of yet another outbreak and more deaths. Pinecrest Nursing Home is Bobcaygeon, Ontario has sustained tremendous loss, with nearly half of its residents reportedly succumbing to the disease. Another tragic loss of life has taken place in a Montreal LTCH, where 31 residents have died in the last month. Some deaths are from the virus, and staff not reporting to work may also have contributed to the devastation. Police and public health investigations are ongoing in that case, as reported here.
Increased staff absences in an already strained system are surely aggravating the suffering, in addition to staff mobility between facilities. Many staff are part-time workers, and also work in other homes or hospitals to supplement their income. Ontario has not yet clamped down on the issue, but here it is reported that British Columbia has learned a hard lesson after an outbreak at one of its LTCH and upon obtaining evidence that care staff were potentially carrying the virus from home to home. As a result, an Order of the Provincial Health Officer was issued to restrict the movement of staff by ensuring that they work in only one facility.
In Ontario, the Chief Medical Officer of Health has released a Directive for LTCH. However, we have yet to see a firm commitment to mandate working at a single facility. This is particularly worrisome when coupled with the relaxed screening measures recently implemented by way of O. Reg. 95/20: Order Under Subsection 7.0.2 (4) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.9 – Streamlining Requirements for Long-Term Care Homes. I support the government taking urgent measures intended to help our most vulnerable elderly Ontarians, but hope that soon we can receive assurance that immediate action is being taken to support the new measures, including adequate testing, tracking, tracing, isolation, quarantine, PPE and training.
Thanks for reading and stay safe,