Politicians and public health officials promised new measures to further protect long-term care home residents and workers are coming very soon, as facilities caring for some of Canada’s most vulnerable grappled with “horrific” COVID-19 outbreaks over the weekend.
“People who are residents at long-term care homes are a particularly vulnerable group of Canadians, and we have been working very closely with the provinces to put in place measures to protect the safety of those people even more,” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said at a Saturday morning news conference.
She was joined by chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam, who had a slew of recommendations for long-term care homes, including limiting volunteering to “essential work only,” like feeding residents.
Anyone entering such homes should wear a mask for the duration of their shift or visit, meal times should not involve residents congregating closely together and items used by many people at these facilities should be cleaned and disinfected, she said.
Their remarks came as regional health authorities in Quebec took over two facilities after a Montreal Gazette story alleged authorities found two residents dead and many others who were unfed and soiled with feces.
WATCH | Nurses say conditions at Que. long-term care facility are ‘inhumane’:
Regional health authority CIUSSS Ouest-de-l’Ile-de-Montreal deployed a manager to the privately owned Residence Herron to ensure better control of the situation at the facility.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault said there have been 31 recent deaths at Residence Herron, with five coming after positive tests for COVID-19.
“Our teams are highly mobilized to ensure that residents receive appropriate care,” the health authority said. “We are aware that this is a difficult situation for the residents and their families. We are putting everything in place to ensure that the situation is under control, and it is in the process of stabilizing.”
Meanwhile, a group home for adults with disabilities just north of Toronto reported that an outbreak there led most personal support workers to walk off the job Thursday.
WATCH | Staff at Ont. facility for adults with disabilities walk out:
“These are incredibly horrific reports that we have all been seeing, really heart-wrenching situations,” said Freeland.
She and Tam lauded B.C., which has stopped long-term care home staff from working at multiple facilities in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.
“I am really heartened to see not just B.C., but many other provinces announce some of these stricter measures they are putting in place to protect residents of those facilities,” Tam said.
“This is the moment to really step up on everything we can do.”
WATCH | Older long-term care homes face harder fight against COVID-19:
Shortly before Freeland and Tam spoke, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer extended his sympathies to anyone in a long-term care home who is experiencing a drop in the quality of care they may be receiving and to the loved ones of the facilities in Quebec and Ontario, where there have been reports of outbreaks, staffing problems and neglected residents.
“As someone who had a parent spend the last few years of her life in a long term care facility, I can absolutely understand where people are coming from [and] the very real heartache that they’re going through when they see their loved ones in the conditions that the reports indicate,” he said.
The incidents, he said, raised important questions about ensuring front-line workers have the protective equipment that they need and that standards are continuing to be met across the country.