Embarrassment, shame, and unexplainable conduct

di Joe Volpe del May 9, 2020

Thank you, Covid-19, your visit – happily, and seemingly, coming to a much-anticipated end – has laid bare the rot that lies beneath the surface of our institutions. We will be able to bid adieu to our assumptions of their ability to provide the service we so dearly pay with our dollars and now with the lives of our elders.

A country that was supposed to be “so ready” to meet the virus turns out to have been “caught with its pants down”.

A shortage of Personal Protective Equipment, testing instruments in both quality and quantity, an absence of procedural protocols for next steps when cases were discovered and confirmed, a non-existing coordinated reporting mechanism obliging all “partners“ to comply for the benefit of all concerned seems to be the order of the day.

This according to the Director of Ryerson University’s National Institute on Ageing in an interview on CBC, Saturday May 9, and in the various reports his organization has published for public consumption.
The projections by his institute for policy development speculate that the cost to remedy the structural shortfalls of this policy failure will cost roughly between $22 billion and $ 71 billion over the next 30 years.

Throwing numbers around like they are “nickels and dimes” does not add to the credibility of the organization which is otherwise a “go to” academic department for issues dealing with social and economic issues related to ageing.

Nonetheless, he did highlight a statistic which suggests the collective “we” has been addressing the Covid19 crisis wrongly: 82% of all deaths, so far, in the country have occurred in retirement residencies and Long-Term Care homes.

For Canada (currently experiencing a fatality rate from the virus that is low compared to large European large nations), that suggests 3,836 of all 4,678 deaths might have been avoided had appropriate measures been in place. The European experience with Covid-19 was suggesting “clues” for two months before it hit us.

Only 842 deaths attributable to Covid-19 in Canada occurred outside LTC homes. In Ontario, the latest figures suggest that 1,236 (75%) of the 1,649 Covid-19 related deaths occurred in LTC homes. If so, then the virus has claimed only 413 lives outside these institutions.

Mind you, we cannot be sure. Even government websites and interactive dashboards – late into the game – note that numbers are “preliminary” and may “differ from other publicly available” because “data is extracted from iPHIS, (the integrated public Health Information System), and only the “hospitalizations are current”. By the way, some LTC homes allege that hospitals in the GTA decline to accept their patients who exhibit virus symptoms.

So reminiscent of British response in the early stages when the UK began to reluctantly acknowledge the presence of Covid-19. They did not even report deaths in LTC homes until last week.

It all points to a dysfunctional mess in health care delivery and health care priorities. Two directions to follow when this is done: (1) a public inquiry into the LTC homes industry and (2) legal actions brought to address “willful neglect”, if the data on these government dashboards is correct.

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