Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that provincial governments have “failed to support seniors” in their handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic, while floating the idea of bringing in national standards at long-term care facilities.
Trudeau was responding to a newly released report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information that found long-term care residents made up 81 per cent of all reported COVID-19 deaths in Canada compared to an average of 42 per cent among all countries studied.
“I think one of the things that is very clear is our current system of supporting seniors across this country has not worked,” Trudeau told reporters outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa Thursday morning.
“It is a provincial responsibility. So it is them that have failed to support our seniors,” he said.
“What this recent report has shown, and quite frankly what this pandemic has shown from the very beginning, is that the job isn’t being adequately done in long-term care centres across the country.”
As of May 25, the study found 5,324 people died at long-term care homes in Canada from COVID-19, with Ontario and Quebec being hardest hit by the virus.
Long-term care deaths represented more than 70 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta and 97 per cent of all deaths in Nova Scotia, according to the study.
The number of reported COVID-19 deaths among long-term care residents varied widely in the report, from 28 in Australia to 30,000 in the United States, with more than 10,000 in France, Italy, Spain and the U.K. The number of LTC residents who had died of COVID-19 in Canada was similar to the average of countries with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The OECD is an international organization designed to stimulate world trade and economic progress.
Trudeau said that although the facilities fall under provincial jurisdictions, he hinted the federal government may propose legislation to regulate long-term care facilities.
“We need to do better for seniors, and the federal government is committed to doing more, whether it be through regulations that could be applied countrywide or other measures. We will work with provinces to improve the situation,” he said.
“We want to respect provincial jurisdictions, but I think we know that things need to change. Do we need national standards, or do the provinces just need to increase their standards significantly? These are conversations we can have with the premiers.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Thursday that he was “a little shocked” by Trudeau’s comments saying the prime minister had been “pretty good” in terms of collaborating and working together on the fight against the new coronavirus.”
“Put your money where your mouth is. Support us because we can’t do it alone,” Ford told reporters.
“We are supposed to be all in this together? Let’s all be in this together.”
Ford called for additional funding through the Canada health transfer noting the “20-22 per cent” Ontario receives is not enough.
“We are putting the whole burden of the health-care system, which is massive in Ontario, on our shoulders,” he said. “We need a real partnership.”
More than 1,800 residents have died from the virus in Ontario nursing homes, which has led the provincial ombudsman to launch an investigation and Premier Doug Ford has promised an “independent commission” to begin next month. Ford said Thursday that while no dates or a commission leader have been set, an announcement could come “very shortly.”
Meanwhile, Quebec’s Health Ministry has announced it will only provide weekly reports about COVID-19, rather than providing a daily update on the virus, which included the number of cases, hospitalizations, deaths and the number of tests conducted in the province.
Quebec is currently the lone province to switch to a weekly COVID update. As of Wednesday, 54,937 people in Quebec have tested positive for the virus and 5,441 have died.
Trudeau said it’s up to each province to decide how transparent it needs to be and noted Quebec still has a “significant number of cases” every day