Canadian standards for long-term care could right COVID-19 wrongs: Experts

November 23, 2020

TORONTO, VANCOUVERTwo veteran seniors care researchers have detailed federally mandated standards to reform long-term care amid a second wave of COVID-19 in a new discussion paper by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

A Higher Standard: Setting national standards for long-term and continuing care outlines the key principles and minimum requirements needed to implement the federal government’s Throne Speech promise to set national standards for long-term care. It is a promise that came in the wake of the pandemic tragedies, some of which were so devastating the army was called in to respond.

“A global pandemic that has ravaged long-term care facilities in Canada forces us to reckon with the obvious: it is time to set a higher standard for long-term care,” says co-author Pat Armstrong, a professor at York University. “COVID-19 revealed the tragic consequences of a fragmented and neglected essential service. We have a chance to right that wrong.”

“Globally, countries with strong national regulation and oversight in long-term care fared better during COVID-19,” says Marcy Cohen, co-author and research associate with the CCPA-BC Office. 

Armstrong and Cohen recommend the federal government:

  • Ensure that everyone has access to care based on need, without financial barriers, and with maximum wait times for admission to a long-term care home;

  • Establish and enforce minimum staffing levels in these facilities—accompanied by decent working conditions and recruitment strategies to attract and retain staff;

  • Ensure a minimum of 70 per cent of staff work full-time in a single site and that all staff (including part-time) have benefits and pay based on equity principles;

  • Set in place plans to address infections, ranging from adequate stock of PPE to methods for effective laundry treatment to adequate room size and ventilation;

  • Require public accountability through public reporting of consistent, verified data and enforcement of penalties for failure to comply with standards;

  • Invest significant federal funds into developing a universal seniors care system, with stringent accountability mechanisms attached.

“The federal government also needs to address the elephant in the COVID-19 room: our dependence on for-profit facilities,” Armstrong says. “Canada needs a federal plan to ensure that all public money for elderly care goes to public or non-profit organizations, including sub-contracted services.”

“It is time for cooperation among provincial and federal leaders,” says Cohen. “The setting of clear standards in health care as a condition of federal funding is not an attack on provincial jurisdiction—it is the only path forward to a universal public system of long-term and continuing care, the same path Canada took to universal hospital and physician care. Seniors and people with disabilities deserve nothing less.”


For more information, contact Alyssa O’Dell at 343-998-7575 or [email protected]