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Joint letter to ministers of health and seniors on improving long-term care for people in Canada

Dear Minister Hajdu and Minister Schulte,

We are writing to you with recommendations for responding to the staggering effects COVID-19 has had on our health-care system, particularly in long-term care (LTC) homes across Canada. These recommendations were recently unveiled by the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) on May 27 through a report entitled 2020 Vision: Improving Long-term Care for People in Canada [PDF, 979.9 KB]. We invite you to read it and consider the proposals we are bringing forward.

As you know, Canada has had unacceptable rates of COVID-19-related deaths in LTC; by late April, 79% of the country’s deaths due to COVID-19 were linked to outbreaks in these homes. These tragic numbers are in part a result of decades of neglect of the LTC sector and a growing mismatch between the level of care required by people living in those settings, and the level of care available. Furthermore, the recent reports from the military deployed to Ontario and Quebec’s long-term care homes have emphasized the shocking and horrific conditions that exist in some nursing homes in Canada.

We applaud the Prime Minster’s recent commitment to work closely and support the province’s efforts to improve standards of care for older people in long-term care homes across the country. Moreover, further decisive action needs to be undertaken. To address the flaws COVID-19 has revealed in the support and care systems available to Canada’s older people, we recommend that your Government take immediate action on three important fronts:

  • The Government of Canada should immediately appoint a commission of inquiry on aging;
  • Federal public health leaders must work with provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments and public health leaders to review the country’s COVID-19 response and organize preparations for the next pandemic;
  • Federal, provincial and territorial governments must increase investments in community, home and residential care to meet the needs of our aging population.

As the Prime Minister indicated last week, providing support in the short term and having broader discussions in the long term is critical. We believe many solutions can be put in place now in some long-term care homes if they had better funding, for example. In the long term, a deeper look to identify the best models for delivering better health and social services will support safe and dignified aging for every person in Canada.

We recognize the challenges involved to address the issues in the support and care systems for older people in Canada. The benefits of redesigning how we provide care for older people (Canada’s largest growing demographic) and others with complex continuing care needs will go beyond improving their lives and health. A good long-term care system, in tandem with effective, well-organized community and home care, will ease pressure on the acute-care system and eliminate many of the gaps in the continuum of care that too often result in previously independent older people landing in the hospital or long-term care.

Acting on these three recommendations will help to provide a solid foundation on which to build a safe and dignified future for Canada’s older people. Canada is known for its humanitarian work around the world. It’s time we brought those values home, to care for the people to whom this country and each one of us owes so much.

We look forward to discussing these proposals with you and your staff as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Claire Betker
RN, MN, PhD, CCHN(C)
President
Canadian Nurses Association

Michelle Pavloff
RN, BSN, MN, PhD(c)
President
Canadian Association for Rural and Remote Nursing

Jan Christianson-Wood
MCSW
President
Canadian Association of Social Workers

Trina Klassen
RN, BN, ASMH, Med
President
Canadian Family Practice Nurses Association

Tracy Thiele
RPN, MN, PhD(c)
President
Florence Budden
BN, RN, CPMHN(C)
Past President
Canadian Federation of Mental Health Nurses

Lori Schindel Martin
RN, PHD
President
Canadian Gerontological Nursing Association

Lea Bill
RN, BScN
President
Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association

Sandy Buchman
MD CCFP (PC) FCFP
President
Canadian Medical Association

Ian Culbert
Executive Director
Canadian Public Health Association

Miranda R Ferrier
National President
Ontario Personal Support Workers Association
Canadian Support Workers Association

Francine Lemire
MD CM, CCFP, FCFP, CAE, ICD. D
Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer
College of Family Physicians of Canada

Jen Calver
RPN-GPNC(C), BAHSc (Hons), MHSc(c)
Professional Advocacy Director
Gerontological Nursing Association

Lenora Brace
MN, NP
President
Nurse Practitioner Association of Canada