“Devastating,” “emotional,” “lonely” and “depressed” are a few of the words the Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission said they heard from various residents of long-term care homes, as well as board members.
The report found that in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, 55 per cent of long-term care homes in the province reported an outbreak, while 75 per cent of all deaths were represented by long-term care residents.
Earlier findings found that long-term care homes in the province suffered from staffing shortages, and a lack of strong infection and prevention and control measures (IPAC), among other things.
The recommendations come on the heels of another independent commission which stated that hospitals and long-term care homes in Ontario are already nearly at capacity and will be unable to handle the second wave of patients.
The Ontario Hospital Association said there is enough space for patients, however, there is not enough staff.
The letter released Friday has recommendations for the Ford government and Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton in regard to staffing, IPAC and collaborative relationships.
“Based on the information we have gathered to date, we feel confident in providing these early recommendations now, consistent with the precautionary principle, instead of waiting for more certainty as the pandemic continues to grow,” the report said.
In regard to long-term care home staffing, the commission recommended to increase the number of personal support workers (PSWs), increase the number of full-time positions, provide residents with a minimum of four hours of care per day, and to allow that families and caregivers have safe access to the residents.
The commission said the province should implement its own staffing plan that came out of an inquiry into a serial-killing nurse who preyed upon nursing home residents.
In regard to IPAC and other resources for long-term care homes, the commission recommended that every home has an IPAC leader who can ensure that the staff has proper training, and are following proper protocols. Furthermore, residents have better access to testing and faster results.
Residents who are COVID-positive should have alternative places to go to recover, and keep other residents safe. The commission also asked for the ministry of long-term care to have better resources and capacity to allow for more “timely, focused inspections to ensure homes are properly implementing proactive IPAC measures and are repsonding effectively to their assessment results.”
Finally, the recommendation into collaborative efforts said the government should immediately mandate and formalize relationships between the homes, hospitals and public health units.
“There is no need to wait until an outbreak has occurred before a local hospital assists or is compelled to assist a LTC home,” the commission wrote.
The commission said these are solely early recommendations they are releasing and their investigation will continue with plans to submit a final report by April 30, 2021.
—With files from The Canadian PressView link »