By now we have all heard how heard some of the most vulnerable in our society are being hit as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – the elderly. In particular, the greatest amount of deaths have occurred within long-term care and retirement homes. All the while, the front line staff of nurses, PSWs, doctors, cleaning staff, physiotherapists and dietary aids are working harder than ever – and putting themselves at risk every minute of their shift.
So what is happening?
We know that this virus is particularly dangerous for the elderly and immune-compromised. There is no getting around that fact. We also know how important social distancing and isolation are in helping prevent the spread of the virus. This is not always possible in a care facility or home. Most residents share rooms and many staff work in multiple homes (or at least were working in multiple homes before mid-April when Premier Ford made restricted staff to working only in one home). Of course, as we have seen, spread is unavoidable to some degree. The question is why?
What we are seeing now in our long-term care facilities in Ontario is a direct reflection of the overall systemic deficiencies. While COVID-19 may be new to all of us, outbreaks in long-term care homes are not. Outbreaks (flu, respiratory illness, scabies, etc.) are common place. Homes are supposed to have a plan in place to protect residents from outbreaks of infection, which is set out in the regulations under the Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007. What we have seen recently is that there has been, in some cases, a delayed response to the pandemic in nursing homes with respect to physical distancing measures and personal protective equipment for the front line workers. Homes that were already understaffed are facing even more significant staffing issues as some are having to quarantine, some have left because they do not feel safe, and the ones who are working are working harder than ever.
It is important during this time to also be mindful that with attention focused on the pandemic and spread of COVID-19, that regular day to day care is not being forgotten. This is especially the case because families are no longer able to visit and be involved in their loved one’s care. The residents of these homes still deserve to have their rights protected, which are embedded in the legislation. And the front line workers who are selflessly putting themselves directly at risk are protected during this time as well so that they can continue to do the good work they do and protect their families.
Melissa Miller is representing clients in Nursing Home/Long-Term Care Home Lawsuits in Ontario. If you have lost a love one to COVID-19 while they were in a Nursing Home, Long-Term Care or Retirement Home in Ontario, tell us what happened here and a member of our Team will be in touch with you shortly.