Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Trudeau was asked about topics on the agenda for an upcoming meeting with the premiers, which will be the twentieth such meeting since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Trudeau said in addition to discussing premiers’ demands for increased health transfers, he will also be raising the need for standardized rules for the level of care in long-term care homes.
“I think that all Canadians want to know that their parents, grandparents, our seniors are well supported across the country,” he said, speaking in French.
“This is a discussion that needs to be had with the premiers. I don’t think that seniors should be better protected in certain regions than others so we need to work together to offer quality care to all seniors and I will certainly be discussing this with the provinces.”
He suggested that not acting to set clear standards would lead to a continuation of the patchwork rules in place across the different provinces right now.
“I think that’s why the time has come for a conversation between the federal government and provinces on harmonizing and standardizing norms for long-term care across the country,” he added in English.
His comments come as the Ontario government is working to determine how to deploy Canadian Red Cross staff into seven of the province’s long-term care homes to fight COVID-19.
Sixty-six long-term care homes in Ontario currently have outbreaks of the virus.
Conditions in long-term care homes came under intense scrutiny earlier in the year as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged staff and residents in the facilities across the country.
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Ontario’s ombudsman for long-term care homes, Cathy Fooks, warned in a report issued last week on the state of the facilities that major changes are needed to avoid a repeat of the brutal spread in the spring.
“No one in Ontario’s health-care system wants a repeat of the scenarios we faced in the spring of 2020,” Fooks wrote in the report.
The recommendations emphasized the need for the care homes to have backstop policies in place for things like staffing and transferring residents to hospitals during outbreaks, changing visitation rules as needed to make sure caregivers can still come into facilities, and legislating stronger whistleblower protections.
Long-term care homes in Quebec were also hit hard by coronavirus outbreaks, with the province’s ombudsman citing “understaffing, employee burnout, lack of qualified workers and dilapidated premises” in a report into the dozens of deaths at those facilities earlier this year.
The province expanded its red zones on Tuesday as many regions continue to report high levels of infections as the grip of the second wave tightens.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault, though, pushed back at Trudeau’s remarks that he would work to get the provinces to agree to harmonized rules on provincial long-term care standards.
He said Trudeau was “playing with fire” during a press conference on Tuesday.
“I don’t think the federal government should get involved in the management of long-term care homes,” he said when asked about Trudeau’s comments.
“I think Mr. Trudeau is making a mistake when he proposes centralized measures.”
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, added that rules and regulations are just one part of what needs to be a broader effort to protect seniors in long-term care homes.
Reducing community spread also remains critical to preventing outbreaks in the homes, she said.
Tam noted last week she is “really concerned” about residents in the homes and that staff “need to do a lot better” to prevent the second wave from spreading rapidly among the residents.
Roughly half of Canada’s reported deaths from COVID-19 stem from cases in long-term care homes.