Covid-19’s vulnerable seniors accustomed to giving leadership, receive none

di Priscilla Pajdo del April 20, 2020

TORONTO - Numbers of confirmed Covid-19 cases continue to rise in Ontario. Political leaders, their expert advisors, and whatever data one consults have convinced us all that no member of society is safe from infection. We are all susceptible to contracting Covid-19. As of April 17, Ontario reported 10,010 total confirmed cases and numbers continue to change, hourly.

Those most vulnerable – most susceptible to contagion and a subsequent unfavourable outcome - would appear to be seniors, particularly those living in Long Term Care Homes (LTC).

Of that 10,010 number, 514 have unfortunately deceased. Considering that 233 of the deceased (45.3%) were residents of LTC facilities begs the question: is Ontario doing enough to protect these at-risk individuals?

There are 651 facilities, all operating under license granted by the government of Ontario. They serve a clientele of diverse economic means, not all dependent on the government. They reside in centres that provide a mix of residential and health care services.

Several enterprises and communities offer a good mix of services catering to affordability.

For example, Ontario is home to several municipalities with an enviable financial base (measured per capita). According to Maclean’s most current list of wealthiest municipalities in Canada – West Vancouver, BC, tops that list with an average household net worth of $4,454,424 - a number of cities in Ontario, some of them in the GTA, rank among the top 20.

The residents from those households are no slouches in influence and finance, judging from the chart 1.

They and their families know how to navigate the system. When considering perspective LTC homes, they consider a number of factors such as the type of care support, security, amenities, programs, and private pay vs. subsidized care.

There is ample choice. Twentyeight LTC Homes of the 651 operating in Ontario have a York Region address. For example, Chartwell, one of the largest operators of LTC Homes (34), owns and operates 3 homes in King City alone.

Whether or not one qualifies for, or wants, government subsidies depends on factors such as net income, type of accommodation requested/receiving, and other federal and provincial benefits for which they are eligible.

In any case, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care sets accommodations rates (July 1, 2019) and standards of service. Here (chart 2) is a sample around which companies build a financially stable model. Additional amenities will affect the ultimate rate. The Covid-19 pandemic has heightened scrutiny on whether the Government has been fulfilling its obligation to supervise these homes and ensure the safety and security of their residents. The Ministry contends that it conducts annual inspections to ensure compliance.

Whether that is enough is a fair question. We posed it by email and by phone. Moreover, we asked whether the Ministry recommended, or demanded, any specific precautionary measures be imposed by the LTC homes’ operators in advance of, or during, this crisis.

A spokesperson from the Ministry responded that they continue to monitor the situation closely and follow all procedures and precautions proposed in the guidance Dr. Williams and the province’s expert medical leadership provided.

Given the current environment, how does that make you feel?

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