Canada’s first death from the novel coronavirus has highlighted the urgent and often ignored need for better staffing at long-term care facilities where elderly residents are especially vulnerable to the disease, says the head of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.
Linda Silas said the need has become “top of mind” following the death on Sunday of a man in his 80s at a care home in North Vancouver, where another patient is infected with COVID-19. One of four care aides who contracted the illness there is in hospital and two relatives of another have also been sickened.
Discussions about preparedness were focused on emergency rooms, critical care and public health units, she said.
“A week ago we were talking about ‘Is the acute-care sector ready?’ ” Silas said.
“Everyone’s now talking about, ‘What about long-term care?’ ”
More infections of health-care workers leading to 14 days of quarantine would mean greater staff shortages that could leave frail patients, who often have chronic illnesses, at higher risk, Silas said, adding staffing levels are already affected by outbreaks of seasonal influenza.
“When it hits a long-term care facility it’s always more of a crisis than if it hits even your community or hospital. We’ve always known it’s a fragile population with any kind of illness and this (COVID-19) is one of those where we have to pay particular attention,” she said.
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