Long term care homes: time for a critical lens

di Priscilla Pajdo del May 13, 2020

TORONTO - We are entering a new normal, post Covid-19 world. An assessment of key data, key causes and consequences is indispensable if we are to understand how and why we need to change and why we must adapt.

Some of those answers may lie in the statistics the world and Canada have complied so far. Of the 4,277,258 confirmed cases worldwide, 287,698 ended in fatalities. The global death rate is 6.7% for those proven infected with Covid-19.

In Canada, as of May 12, the case count is 69,981, with 4,993 dead. This represents a national fatality rate of 7.1%. That is about 0.5% more than the collective rate beyond our borders.

It is even less as positive for our home province of Ontario, with its, to date, 20,546 confirmed positive cases and 1,669 deaths from Covid-19, resulting in a death rate of 8.1%.

That is higher than the global rate and considerably higher than our own Canadian casualty rate from Covid-19. The difference is a full 1% greater rate of death than the national average.

The picture worsens if we focus our attention to the situation unfolding in Ontario’s Long-Term Care Homes (LTCH). In Ontario, Covid-19 has claimed the lives of 1,235 residents living in these LTCH. That represents 72% of all deaths in Ontario related to the virus - three out of every four citizens in the province who succumb to Covid-19.

Once a deadly virus like Covid-19 enters into any of these homes, it is definite cause for alarm. Due to a multitude of factors such as underlying medical conditions and living in a congregate facility, the residents in LTCH are more susceptible to contagion and potential death from the virus.

Today's graph lists some LTCH that have reported the largest number (but not all) of deaths related to Covid-19 in Ontario. Most of these homes are located in and around the Greater Toronto Area. The data should be a cause for concern to everyone.

For example, Orchard Villa, operated by Southbridge Care homes, has reported 69 fatalities – a death rate of 29.6% for all residents at the home. Another LTCH, of Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, has a mortality rate of 44.6%. It is tragic to say the least.

“Someone needs to get a handle on this”, as the saying goes. It may not be easy, but action is warranted, as the table suggests. According to the Ministries of Health (MOH) and Long-Term Care (LTC), 651 separate LTCH operate under license granted by the province.

The various operators and/or owners of these homes include charitable organizations, corporations, municipalities, partnerships and sole proprietors. They claim to be operating within Ministry Guidelines.

Whether operating as for-profit or non-profit, it is a legitimate topic of debate – and maybe inquiry – to determine if these operators are taking care of the residents in their homes.

Few of the homes in the table come close to the national fatality rate, most have far exceeded it, and the final count is not yet over.

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