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‘This will happen again’: Advocates call for national rules for long-term care amid COVID-19 crisis

Click to play video: '‘This will happen again and again’: Seniors advocates call for national standards in long-term care' ‘This will happen again and again’: Seniors advocates call for national standards in long-term care
WATCH: As Canada's aging population is most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus, seniors advocates say the pandemic has exposed historical problems in the long-term care industry – Apr 16, 2020

Families agonize over putting a parent into long-term care and it’s a decision that can be overwhelmed with stress.

Valerie Stitchman said it wasn’t easy, but it was necessary to have her mother, June, placed into a long-term care home. June Lawrence lives with multiple sclerosis. Stitchman said she’s very worried about the system caring for seniors.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirius outbreak: Dr. Tam says curve is ‘bending’ but outbreaks in long-term care homes driving up projected COVID-19 deaths' Coronavirius outbreak: Dr. Tam says curve is ‘bending’ but outbreaks in long-term care homes driving up projected COVID-19 deaths
Coronavirius outbreak: Dr. Tam says curve is ‘bending’ but outbreaks in long-term care homes driving up projected COVID-19 deaths – Apr 16, 2020

“We are scared out here but they are powerless. They are the most vulnerable and at risk to die and this needs to be addressed on so many levels,” Stitchman said. “This pandemic is shining a light on what many people know already.”

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Valerie Stitchman and her mother, June Lawrence. Courtesy: Valerie Stitchman

Senior advocates say the long-term care system is broken, and has been for years because of a patchwork of protocols that should be more unified right across the country. Dr. Jane Barratt with the International Federation on Ageing said more needs to be done.

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“This COVID pandemic has exposed in the most brutal way that we have not invested significantly in the care of the homes,” Barratt said. “It is time once again to start talking about national standards, things like building codes and standards and the staff-to-resident ratio.”

Barratt is worried about a repeat if nothing is done.

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“This pandemic has opened our eyes to what investments we need to make as government and as civil society. Now is the time to change.”

READ MORE: Increasing pay for long-term care home workers high on agenda for Trudeau, premiers

Part of that change are calls to do deeper on-site examinations of these homes. Alberta Health conducts audits of continuing care homes for things like cleanliness, water temperature and maintenance, findings are made public.

Alberta Health Services also does inspections focusing on provision of healthcare. James Woods, spokesperson for AHS said, inspectors have conducted 179 audits of continuing care settings in the last year.

“These audits assess compliance with all the healthcare standards. Once audits are completed there may be follow-up action required by the site,” Woods said. “As of March 2020, all continuing care sites have been audited.The results of these audits are not currently publicly disclosed but plans are in place to publicly report these results later in 2020.”

CEO of CanAge, Laura Tamblyn Watts, said more random checks should be happening.

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“We don’t have enough inspections in Alberta, we don’t have enough kind of what we call full or comprehensive inspections and we don’t have enough quick spot inspections as well. We’ve got a responsive inspection so if you call and you indicate that there’s a real problem they will come out, but they are not what they need to be. and they’re not what we would expect,” Tamblyn Watts said.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: What is Trudeau doing to help provinces address crisis at long-term care facilities?' Coronavirus outbreak: What is Trudeau doing to help provinces address crisis at long-term care facilities?
Coronavirus outbreak: What is Trudeau doing to help provinces address crisis at long-term care facilities? – Apr 16, 2020

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