Long-term care: it must first improve the working conditions

Soins longue durée: il faut d’abord améliorer les conditions de travail

Soins longue durée: il faut d’abord améliorer les conditions de travail

The federal minister of Health, Patty Hajdu.


May 9, 2020 10h42

Updated at 11: 20 am


Long-term care: it must first improve the working conditions

Laura Osman

The canadian Press

OTTAWA — For years, people living or working in homes for the elderly or long-term care have suffered, then that employee is overloaded attempting to maintain the safety and dignity of older Canadians.

The situation was hidden behind closed doors, said Carole Estabrooks, a professor in the faculty of nursing at the University of Alberta. Citizens discovered the state of the system only when they emménageaient or sending a loved one to live in one of these establishments.

The deadly effects of the pandemic of the COVID-19 have shown, however, the issues in these homes.

“And now, the public is horrified, and people are willing to listen, noted Ms. Estabrooks. But my God, at what cost?”

An octogenarian residing at Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver has been the first victim of the COVID-19 in Canada, in early march. The virus was then hit in several residences throughout the country.

More than 80 % of the approximately 4500 deaths related to the COVID-19 in Canada have occurred in institutions of long-term care.

“I call it benign neglect,” said Ms. Estabrooks, scientific director of the research program on care for the elderly at the University of Alberta.

“Nobody sets up a plan with the intention to harm the state of the elderly.”

Unfortunately, this is what happened, she admitted. And while officials and politicians have promised to solve the problems, the solutions remain uncertain.

If the data suggest that the residences of long-term care facilities have been particularly affected by the COVID-19 all over the world, those in Canada may have been more affected than elsewhere.

The international data are difficult to compare, but an analysis of the universities of Ottawa and British Columbia, as well as the London School of Economics was awarded the dubious honour in Canada of the countries with the largest proportion of deaths related to the COVID-19 in residences of care among the 14 countries surveyed, on April 26.

Ms. Estabrooks admits that it is necessary to change the system in a fundamental way, but she added that it is an extremely complex task. The long-term care are under provincial jurisdiction and their operation will therefore vary from one province to another.

We find, however, certain common denominators, she noted, including low wages, many part-time employees and the lack of staff.

Support workers make up the majority of the employees in these homes. They are, however, very little regulated. There are no standards for their education level, do not need a permit of some sort and the prerequisites vary from one province to another.

The prime minister Justin Trudeau has recently unveiled a plan of four billion dollars to increase wages for front-line workers, including the employees ‘ residences and long-term care.

However, Canada cannot afford to provide new minimum wage to all employees once the crisis is over, said Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian labour Congress.

The organization has published 21 recommendations for improving the system of long-term care after the crisis, including an increase in salaries and the legislation of the ratio between full-time employees and part-time. It is also recommended to put an end to the privatization of long-term care and that they are regulated according to the canada health Act.

The Canadian labour Congress says that the private residences have as interest in maximizing their profits, often at the expense of the terms and conditions of their employees.

The NDP has already given its support to the project.

Some research suggests that private homes provide care for less good qualities, according to Elizabeth Kwan, a researcher at the Canadian labour Congress.

According to data recorded by the Ontario Health Coalition (between the 28 April and 5 may, the proportion of deaths relative to the number of beds in residences for profit, the province affected by the COVID-19 was 9 %. This dropped to 5.25 % in the residences, non-profit and 3.6% in homes municipal. The analysis was performed by observing the data of approximately 95 homes in Ontario, while close to 200 homes were affected during this period.

Dr. Samir Sinha and the National Institute on Ageing have shown that it may be too early to determine if private or public establishments had better outcomes. The data will be revised once the crisis is over.

The minister of Health, Patty Hajdu said on 23 April that it would like to know the results of the reviews to ensure that Canada makes the necessary adjustments to allow its elderly to live in safety and dignity.

“The people and the government want the situation to be settled once and for all, for the well-being of older people throughout the country and for their families,” she said.

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