Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he plans to push provincial premiers in a meeting this week to work towards harmonized “norms” for long-term care homes as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
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.
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“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.
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.
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.
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