Seniors lawyers and medical professionals warn that we could be in another long-term care disaster COVID-19 Cases in Ontario homes revolve around similar numbers seen in early April – two weeks before hundreds of facilities were heavily torn apart.
“I’m definitely very scared and worried,” said Dr. Amit Arya, a palliative care specialist who specializes in long-term care, who first saw the devastation of the first wave at GTA facilities. “We really need to realize that long-term care is not a parallel universe. The further spread of COVID-19 in society will increase the prevalence that begins in long-term care facilities.”
As of Thursday, the regional government said there were 159 residents and 199 staff in long-term care homes with active cases of COVID-19. Compare COVID-19 with 176 long-term care residents and 141 staff as of April 7, according to data gathered by the Ontario Health Coalition, a non-profit, non-partisan network of public health care advocates. The April numbers collected by the Coalition were not scientific and did not capture all the infections, but they were the best data available since that time, as the province had not begun publishing active long-term home care outbreak statistics for more than two weeks.
Current regional data is absolute: active cases in long-term care homes have quadrupled since September 1, but the number of outbreaks in homes has increased from 13 to 71 since then.
Outbreaks appear to be exacerbated in some areas. The two Toronto homes, Vermont Square and Fairview Nursing Home, each have more than two dozen certified residential cases, with 27 and 13 certified staff cases, respectively. This past weekend, the federal government stepped forward The Red Cross assists in seven Ottawa area long-term care homes After the Ontario government reached out for help. Ottawa was recently declared a red zone, making public health the most serious classification for COVID-19 existence, and one of three regions, including Toronto and the Peel. Moved back to step 2 of reopening Last week.
On Wednesday, the province announced that long-term care residents in these areas would be banned from making short-term excursions for social or personal reasons. Long-term care homes in these areas were previously restricted to regular visitors, with only the required visitors allowed up to one caregiver per resident.
But experts say such actions are not enough to become a Full-blown second wave In homes. They say tackling acute staff shortages in homes is crucial in preventing most infections and deaths.
Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, said: “Homes are still very small, with most of them much larger than at the beginning of the first wave.”
She cited a recent report in Ottawa Citizen describing the remarks of a worker at ExTDicare’s West End Villa in Ottawa, who said there were only a few times when only two PSWs were at home caring for 60 COVID-19 infected residents.
“Even if they are not sick with COVID-19, it’s impossible. It’s unspeakable,” Mehra said. “PPE is unlikely to adhere to those few PSWs for changing protocols and all infection control measures. They can’t do this all day. “
She said health workers from employment agencies were working in multiple locations due to staff shortages and PSWs were also providing protection to the public in their homes and long-term care facilities. This practice continues despite regional orders in April banning health workers from working in more than one long-term care facility. The reason? The ban did not apply to temporary workers, and measure critics labeled it a “big loophole”.
Mehra said Ontario should follow the ambitious response of its neighbor Quebec, which launched a massive recruitment drive in June, not only for rent, but for 10,000 orders (equivalent to PSWs in Ontario). 60,760 per week during training and $ 26 per hour after completion of full-time jobs. Quebec employs 400 managers for each household response to COVID-19 – one for each long-term care home. Each manager is paired with an infection-control specialist to ensure that homes follow proper protocols.
“Where is the systemic interference in the solution that took place from June to early September to get real staff in homes like Quebec, with some resilience to the inevitable second wave?” Mehra said.
But finding enough people to take over the campus is a challenge, said Miranda Ferrier, president of the Ontario Personal Support Workers Association.
“Right now it’s not a very attractive profession. You are working in COVID-positive homes, you do not have enough staff, you are constantly on fire, you do not have professional recognition, ”she said, referring to the fact that PSWs are not regulated like other health care providers. Professions such as nurses and doctors.
There are 135,000 trained PSWs in Ontario, but only 60,000 are employed, Ferrier said.
“It’s not a career of choice right now, unfortunately, even though it’s a very respectable position,” she says. “We are in a lot of crisis and we are running a high risk of catastrophic consequences.”
Donna Duncan, CEO of the Ontario Long Term Care Association, which represents 70 percent of the province’s long-term care homes, said her organization is “clear” with the Ontario government and other stakeholders about the challenges facing homes and what they are. It is necessary to stabilize them by the second wave of this global pandemic.
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“Recent commitments of personal protective equipment, small capital investments and resources for infection prevention and control are beginning to address some of the gaps in the system, but they will only be successful if they are quickly fitted and improved to meet the best system requirements,” she said, adding that the number problem facing homes continues to be a staff crisis in long-term care.
“Ensuring the health and safety of our residents and staff in our homes is critical to our ability to recruit and retain new workforce in long-term care homes. These measures will assist us in our recruitment efforts. We need to recruit an army of employees for long-term care,” she said.
“We need to be proactive,” Arya said, adding that there was no reason why Ontario should not act quickly to address the staff shortage. He referred to British Columbia, which had a long-term care sector about half the size of Ontario, but had one-tenth of the deaths in the first wave.
This more favorable outcome was somewhat attributed to the fact that the BC government in March hired all front-line long-term care personnel to ensure they had a decent living wage and to limit their employment to one facility.
“If we protect the rights of health workers and improve their working conditions, we will improve the conditions of care,” Arya said. In Ontario, we are “protecting the operators and we do not need to protect anyone, it is the residents and their families,” he said.
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