RNAO continues to advocate for national long-term care standards in Canada

As reported in the media, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he planned to push provincial premiers in a meeting earlier this week to work towards harmonized “norms” for long-term care (LTC) homes as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, PM Trudeau was asked about topics on the agenda for the meeting with the premiers, which will be the twentieth such meeting since the coronavirus pandemic began. PM 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. RNAO is fully on-side and so are the majority of Canadians! 

As our readers are aware, RNAO has been at the forefront of the demand to establish national standards in LTC, given the failure of provincial governments to act – for two decades – and the tragedy brought by the pandemic as a result. This week, RNAO wrote again to the prime minister and to Premier Doug Ford in anticipation of their meeting reiterating the urgency to establish standards. See the October 14 letter below. In the meantime, we plea to you to please sign urgently this Action Alert calling on the prime minister and our premier to act now!

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Ford,

On the eve of your First Ministers’ meeting, RNAO is urging you to move forward with haste on the commitment made in September’s Speech from the Throne to set national standards for long-term care (LTC) across Canada.

To date, two-thirds of Ontario’s 3,000 COVID-19-related deaths have been residents of Ontario’s LTC homes. COVID-19 has overwhelmed Ontario’s LTC sector once and threatens to do so again. For the protection of LTC residents, their loved ones and staff, the federal government has been asked to assist again – the first time with personnel from the Canadian Armed Forces and now, just this week, with the Red Cross.

Our experience over the last seven months has demonstrated that this is not only a problem in Ontario. COVID-19 swept through LTC homes across the country early, taking the lives of more than 5,000 residents. That number represents more than 80 per cent of all COVID-19-related deaths in Canada. To our shame, the average percentage of COVID-19-related deaths among nursing home residents across other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries was less than half of Canada’s. This is a national failing that cries out for a national response.

Over the past two decades, in report after report, experts across Canada have identified fundamental issues with Canada’s LTC sector and offered solutions. The standards set out in RNAO’s Nursing Home Basic Care Guarantee reflect an emerging consensus among experts across the country of what needs to be done to protect LTC residents now and in the future. The guarantee calls for: 

  • a minimum of four worked hours of nursing and personal support care for each resident on each day – with adequate coverage of RNs, RPN/LPNs, NPs (or CNS) and PSWs;
  • a dedicated RN for infection prevention and control;
  • improved labour standards; and
  • an appropriate complement of interprofessional staff.

For the protection and dignity of LTC residents across the country, these ought to be national standards.

Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Ford, as we confront a resurgence of COVID-19 across Canada, RNAO calls on you to lead the First Ministers to urgently establish national LTC standards. Every day that passes without such standards in place comes at the cost of lives and inconsolable grief.

RNAO is always here to help make changes to our health system in Ontario and across Canada that save lives, lead to healthier outcomes and preserve the dignity of those in need. Please call on us to be of assistance.