It’s time for governments to listen to workers in long-term care homes

seniors help

Image by Chelsea Flook

IT’S TIME FOR GOVERNMENTS TO LISTEN TO WORKERS IN LONG-TERM CARE HOMES 

The Council of Canadians is calling on governments across the country to do more to support and protect both the residents of long-term care and those who work to care for them.

Jan Malek July 2020
I recently had the opportunity to participate in a video conference where long-term care workers from across the country spoke about their experiences with the COVID-19 outbreak in Canada. Their stories echoed with sadness and frustration as they described the tragedy that has transpired in many homes across the country. 

To date, more than 8,800 people have died in seniors’ care homes across Canada from COVID-19, the majority of them in long-term care homes, according to numbers compiled by freelance journalist Nora Loreto. This number represents more than 80 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths in the country. 

Canada’s shameful record of COVID fatalities in long-term care is the highest of all developed country in the world. A report by the Canadian Institute of Health Information found that “the proportion of deaths occurring in long-term care (LTC) is double the OECD average.” It is a national tragedy that cannot be ignored, especially as the threat of another wave of COVID-19 infections looms. 

Workers in long-term care homes have unique insights on what is needed to avoid additional tragedies. Governments should be listening to their experiences closely – not to the managers or the corporate faces representing the homes – but the people who work and provide care in the homes (and whenever possible, the people who live in them too). 

Here are some things I learned from long-term care workers: 

* There was a lack of communication in the first wave of COVID-19. Many workers reported  
difficulty getting information on infection rates and weren’t always made aware of who was  
sick with the virus. This lack of information made it difficult to limit the spread. In some 
provinces the health directives were unclear and poorly communicated within the homes. 
One worker said they knew they should wear a face mask, but the management of the home  
they worked in discouraged it because it would “scare the residents.”   

* Many workers said they had to “beg” for proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Homes  
are required to have a three-month supply in case of outbreaks or pandemics but many  
workers found the supplies were old and degraded, or not substantial enough in quantity to 
last longer than a few weeks. 

* By far, the most repeated concern workers expressed was staffing shortages. Workers have 
been sounding the alarm of staffing shortages in long-term care homes for years and they say 
the pandemic made this crisis even worse. 

To read more, click on IT’S TIME FOR GOVERNMENTS TO LISTEN TO WORKERS IN LONG-TERM CARE HOMES