Canada needs a national strategy for long-term care now, not in a year’s time, says Annamie Paul

OTTAWA  – Following today’s press conference with Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner and president and CEO of CanAge, Laura Tamblyn Watts, Green Party of Canada Leader Annamie Paul reiterated the party’s call for a national strategy on long term care (LTC) that will create national standards for care and staffing levels at LTC facilities under the Canada Health Act, and eliminate profit-making by government-funded LTC facilities.

“For over a year now Greens have been sounding the alarm on the tragic situation that has unfolded in Canada’s LTC homes, and still the federal government has not provided a plan for national standards,” said Annamie Paul. “During this pandemic we witnessed the unfolding of a humanitarian crisis, one that shamed Canada as the country with the worst record for COVID-19 deaths in LTC homes compared to other wealthy nations. Thousands of families, including my own, lost loved ones and we know that many of those deaths were preventable.”

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) reported in March that between March 2020 and February 2021 more than 80,000 residents and staff members of LTC homes were infected with COVID-19 resulting in the deaths of 14,000 residents and close to 30 staff.

“Now is the moment for the federal government to collaborate with provincial and territorial governments to create a system that functions, one that ensures that all residents of LTC receive the care they need and deserve. It’s important to acknowledge that residents of LTC are not only the elderly; there are many others who find themselves in need of round-the-clock support. For all those who lost loved ones, and for those who remain terrified for family members still in LTC, I say Enough! We must implement solutions now, not in a year from now.”

“Yesterday’s Ontario Auditor General’s report highlights multiple failures within the LTC system that contributed to the avoidable humanitarian crisis that unfolded,” said Mike Schreiner. “We owe it to elders and the staff who care for them to seize this moment to show that we are serious about caring for elders. This means not only creating national standards, but also investing in the staff who work in LTC.”

Ms. Tamblyn Watts pointed out that caring for our elders means “Taking the issue of physical space seriously to ensure residents are safe and ... not to medicalise LTC, but recognise that these people are part of the community. This should not be politics, this should be an issue of care, of justice and morality.”

In March, after consulting with numerous LTC advocates and health experts the Green Party proposed some of the following components should be included in any planned strategy:

  • Increasing and stabilising staffing in LTC homes and improving training, fair pay for workers and paid sick leave;
  • Taking the profit out of LTC facilities and reorienting long-term care towards community-based models;
  • Setting a national standard of four hours of regulated care per day for each LTC resident;
  • Ensuring safe family access to LTC facilities;
  • Investment in training and education to support ongoing professional development and specialization for LTC workers;
  • Enforcement of standards of care through accountability and penalties, including criminal prosecution;
  • Shifting LTC policy towards community care, such as naturally occurring retirement communities, co-housing models, and enhanced home support programs.

“We urgently need short- and long-term strategies that take a holistic approach to elder care in Canada,” said Ms. Paul. “The lack of national plan and insufficient investment in LTC in the 2021 Liberal budget, was one of the principal reasons that Greens voted against it. Can we honestly call ourselves a caring society if we are not prepared to care for those who built it? The kind of transformative investment we need right now is one that will ensure that our seniors, and those who care for them, are treated in the best possible way. It’s time to acknowledge that we collectively as a society have failed our most vulnerable, but moving forward we will not.”

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For more information or to arrange an interview:

Rosie Emery

Press Secretary