Canadian Long-Term Care Advocate Tells of New Crisis in Facilities Due to COVID-19

Ongoing virus crisis is harming residents and staff of long-term care facilities. Staff shortages are placing residents in isolation. Residents tell families they would 'rather die' than live in solitary confinement. Being prepared for the costs and burdens of aging will benefit you and your family in the decades to come.

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Canadian Long-Term Care Advocate Tells of New Crisis in Facilities Due to COVID-19
3 Min Read January 17th, 2022

Outbreaks of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities are creating a crisis in both the United States and Canada. Staff shortages are making providing quality care for residents more difficult.

In the United States, several states are using the National Guard to supplement staff. In Canada, COVID-19 is confining residents to their rooms, placing residents and staff into isolation.

Media reports say about half of Ontario's long-term care facilities have outbreaks of COVID-19, and about 3800 staff are out sick due to the virus. 

Vivian Stamatopoulos, a long-term care advocate, an associate teaching professor, and researcher at Ontario Tech University, says she is frustrated with the increasing number of outbreaks of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities in Ontario, Canada.

Vivian Stamatopoulos

"It's incredibly dire; it is probably one of the worst situations we've been in matched only by the height of the second wave where we were losing seniors by the hour," Stamatopoulos explained during an interview on CBC-TV.

She said what is upsetting is that the problem was predicted.

"We could have blunted the curve so that we wouldn't be at this level of, frankly, disaster that we are in now," she explained. 

Stamatopoulos wonders who is replacing this care with the growing number of staff out sick. Hospitals are also seeing their own staff shortages.

"I fear that we back at the days where at the height of the problem. During the military report era, we heard about residents not being fed properly, undetected illnesses, and undetected falls—neglect leading to preventable death and injuries," Stamatopoulos said.

Government Not Prepared

She said the fact we are going through the problem again is "inexcusable."

"We had two years to prepare. You throw your hands up and say, how are we here again," she said.  

Stamatopoulos says long-term care workers are burnt out and scared. She says she is told that long-term care staffers are not being provided the proper personal protective equipment to keep themselves and residents safe.

"They have yet to mandate N95s to be used at all times in these facilities, which is mind-blowing given we have advice from Public Health Ontario that everyone should be wearing N95s even if not fit tested. Yet we haven't mandated it in long-term care?" she explained.

There is no daily rapid testing for staff, only for two times per week. Plus, there was no prioritization for vaccine boosters for staff in long-term care facilities.  

Government Was Warned

Stamatopoulos says she warned the government in early December about the spread of Omicron infections when the government could have taken action, but she says they did not. 

"We lost the window to act in time, but we didn't. Now we are watching the tsunami hit," she said.

Stamatopoulos says residents have been confined to their rooms for upwards of a month. 

"They are trapped in their room and can't even walk down the halls, no baths, no showers. Can you imagine what life is like? They are telling their families they would rather die than live in this soldiery confinement," she says.

Stamatopoulos says these residents are continually being revictimized by terrible government policy and the lack of proactive action to make their lives 'somewhat enjoyable'.

She says the level of staffing crisis is unprecedented and may require federal government assistance in the form of the military or the Red Cross.

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About the Author

An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

LTC News Contributor James Kelly

James Kelly

Contributor since August 21st, 2017

Editor's Note

Complications due to COVID-19 are impacting long-term health care worldwide. Labor shortages are increasing costs in the United States. Families unprepared for the costs and burdens of aging must find ways to take care of loved ones, often becoming caregivers themselves despite being untrained and unprepared.

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