There are few of us who can say they have been unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the impact on our seniors has been absolutely devastating.
Over 600 nursing and retirement homes across Canada have reported COVID-19 infections, with Quebec and Ontario being the hardest hit provinces. At the privately-run Résidence Herron care home in Dorval, Quebec, 31 residents died over a three-week period, after residents were largely abandoned in response to a COVID-19 outbreak that wasn’t properly reported.
Altogether, those residing in seniors’ homes account for up to 80 percent of Canada’s COVID-19 deaths.
This is a national tragedy.
It is shameful that it takes a pandemic to shine the light on the quality of care in our long-term care facilities. While Saskatchewan has not yet witnessed widespread outbreaks in seniors’ homes like other provinces, CUPE, family advocates and others have been raising concerns about the quality of care for years.
Last fall, our union commissioned a report of Saskatchewan’s long-term residential care system. This report by Carleton University researchers, entitled Crumbling Away, revealed that provincial government policies are contributing to crumbling and neglected infrastructure, a shift towards private care homes, increasing workloads and short staffing in our public long-term care facilities.
In private personal care homes, jobs require significantly less training for care staff, and, in contrast to special care homes, there is no requirement for nursing oversight, either on-site or on-call.
The Crumbling Away report concludes that for-profit provision of long-term residential care leads to lower-quality care, lower staffing ratios, higher rates of hospitalization and mortality, escalating costs, lower accountability and financial transparency.