TORONTO / MONTREAL (Reuters) – With deaths in nursing homes which make up nearly half of the deaths from the Canadian corona virus, the province takes control of their workforce, raises the wages of care workers and re-employs health monitors from hospitals to curb the spread of the virus among seniors .
A paramedic removes protective equipment outside Lynn Valley Care Center, a senior nursing home that accommodates the first man in Canada to die after contracting a new coronavirus, in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada March 9, 2020. REUTERS / Jennifer Gauthier
In one home in Ontario, more than a third of the population, 27 people, have died since March 25 and more than half of its staff tested positive for corona virus due to lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) that afflicts workers.
“This long-term care facility is at the forefront of this crisis,” said Kitra Cahana, whose father is paralyzed living in Quebec’s long-term care facility while his mother works at a senior Quebec residence.
In Quebec, 60% of deaths occur in parent homes or long-term care facilities and a quarter of provincial nursing homes have at least one confirmed case, according to provincial data.
Residents in nursing homes and long-term care facilities are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus, because the immune system is more vulnerable, weak and shares common areas. Visitors and workers who often come from outside complicate the situation.
“Other people can accidentally transmit the infection, and here is the problem. Often it is a vector from outside the house to house, “said Dr. Roger Wong, clinical professor of geriatric medicine at the University of British Columbia.
In British Columbia, where 68% of deaths in the province occur in nursing homes, the virus spreads through different dwellings when low-paid care workers supplement their income by working in several homes.
Provincial health workers impose strict restrictions on who can visit long-term care facilities, restrict employees to only work at one house at a time and cancel patient transfers between facilities.
In Alberta, where 56% of deaths occur in nursing homes, employees who work at the homes of some seniors are required to notify their superiors if they work in facilities where there are confirmed or suspected cases, among other actions.
Canada on Tuesday reported 17,063 cases of corona virus and 345 deaths.
Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, has issued emergency orders that give long-term care homes more flexibility in staffing and recruitment, passing collective bargaining agreements that limit who can be hired and the use of volunteers, and inspectors who are rehired to provide additional assistance.
“What we see happening to our seniors and in our long-term nursing homes … is difficult to process, difficult to understand and difficult to deal with,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford told reporters.
‘WAR ZONE IN SOME HOUSES
The Ontario order will take some pressure from workers who say there are not enough staff to provide proper care for residents, especially in the outbreak, said Miranda Ferrier, president of the Ontario Personal Support Workers Association.
“They really need help. This is a war zone in some of these long-term nursing homes, “Ferrier said. “Our hope with this emergency order is that people will be employed to help with things such as snack carts, feeding, washing clothes, helping (personal support workers) where they can.”
Frontline workers have warned of inadequate protective equipment at several long-term care facilities in Quebec, which has become the epicenter of the Canadian pandemic earthquake with 9,340 positive cases.
A Quebec nursing home worker told Reuters that he bought his own face shield because the house where he worked did not provide equipment because there were no positive tests. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the worker said he had dealt with two sick citizens and was waiting for COVID-19 test results.
Faced with a staff shortage, Quebec raised wages for most health workers by 4% to 8% and said on Tuesday that it would employ more nurses and doctors to care for the home.
Jeff Begley, president of the largest health sector union in Quebec, said workers began to become “very worried.”
“If the virus doesn’t make you infected, stress will arise.”
Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Additional reporting by Tessa Vikander in Vancouver; Editing by Amran Abocar and Peter Cooney