Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a press conference during the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Trudeau says feds want fixes, not control, of long-term care system

Trudeau says feds want fixes, not control, of long-term care system

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he has no intention of trying to assert federal jurisdiction over long-term care facilities but still believes there is a role for Ottawa to play in fixing the country’s troubled nursing homes.

Trudeau is pushing the provinces to agree to harmonize minimum standards for long-term care so that vulnerable seniors are protected and cared-for well no matter where they live.

“This is a moment for us to step up and reassure Canadians that their loved ones, that they themselves as they advance in age, won’t be left aside, won’t be made vulnerable,” Trudeau said Friday.

Trudeau met with the premiers by phone about the issue Thursday. The Canada Health Act does not govern long-term-care homes, and their existence and operation are entirely up to each province, a fact Trudeau said he fully recognizes.

“Obviously, I respect provincial jurisdiction in running those institutions,” he said. “But we’ve seen that those institutions haven’t done a good enough job in this pandemic particularly, but in a long-standing challenge.”

He said his proposal for “national norms” wouldn’t mean a top-down approach from Ottawa, dictating what provinces must do on long-term care. Rather, he said provinces that have done better can share what worked with their counterparts, and all can commit to reaching minimum basic care standards on their own.

“We’ve seen varied outcomes in various provinces around our seniors and I think every Canadian can understand how important it is to make sure that all of our vulnerable senior citizens are properly protected, regardless of which province or territory they happen to live in,” he said.

Provincial governments are wary of federal intrusions, with Quebec Premier François Legault warning the prime minister before Thursday’s meeting that he was “playing with fire” and suggesting Ottawa intervening in long-term care would be akin to Quebec trying to make up rules about the Canadian border.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed serious problems in care homes across the country, with overcrowded conditions, underpaid staff with high turnover, staff levels too low to provide adequate care and very limited infection control.

In the spring, the federal government sent in the military to help replace staff at dozens of homes in Quebec and Ontario that could not cope with the pandemic. Subsequent reports to the government from the military exposed horrific conditions in some of those homes, including COVID-19 patients not isolated from non-infected residents, cockroach infestations, rotting food and patients left in soiled clothing.

In the first wave of the pandemic, long-term-care residents accounted for about 20 per cent of all confirmed cases of COVID-19 — and 80 per cent of the deaths. Some homes saw more than one-third of their residents die.

In Ontario, nearly 2,000 long-term-care residents have died of COVID-19, and eight long-term care workers.

The infection rate slowed over the summer, but as the second wave began to explode this fall, long-term-care homes are starting to get hit again. One care home in Ottawa saw 100 residents infected and 15 die of COVID-19 in September.

The provinces have asked for a massive increase in federal health transfers, including to help improve long-term care, but with few if any federal strings attached.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 16, 2020.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Love, Oran’ is a documentary feature made by Red Deer-raised filmmaker Colin Scheyen. It’s about hidden letters, found in a Woodlea home after 70 years, revealing a family secret. (Screenshot by Advocate staff).
Hidden letters reveal secrets of Red Deer family in a new documentary film

‘Love, Oran,’ by filmmaker Colin Scheyen is showing at Edmonton’s NorthwestFest

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer addressed the city in a Facebook Live video Wednesday and asked citizens to continue to be diligent in the battle against COVID-19. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
‘It’s affecting us all’: Veer encourages city to come together in response to COVID-19

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer is gravely concerned about the growing COVID-19… Continue reading

Alberta Health Services locked the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror on Wednesday morning after owner Christopher Scott refused to comply with health orders. Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff
UPDATED: AHS shuts down Whistle Stop Cafe for defying health orders

Justice minister promises to get tough with those ignoring public health orders

Alberta Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling. (Twitter photo from ATA)
Teachers appreciate aggressive action to fight COVID

School staff have the opportunity to get first vaccine dose before in-person learning resumes

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland joins Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as they participate in a virtual discussion from Ottawa on Monday, May 3, 2021, with seniors from Residence Memphremagog in Magog, Quebec. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal budget ‘overstates’ economic impact of stimulus spending, budget officer says

OTTAWA — Parliament’s spending watchdog says the federal Liberals’ budget overestimates how… Continue reading

A dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination is prepared at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada maintains getting immunized ASAP with any vaccine offered is best

OTTAWA — Health Canada’s chief medical adviser says her advice has not… Continue reading

FILE - This Sunday, April 10, 2011 picture shows a rig and supply vessel in the Gulf of Mexico, off the cost of Louisiana. Thirteen states sued the Biden administration Wednesday, March 24, 2021 to end a suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal land and water and to reschedule canceled sales of offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska waters and western states. The Republican-leaning states, led by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, seek a court order ending the moratorium imposed after Democratic President Joe Biden signed executive orders on climate change on Jan. 27.     (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Report finds climate change rarely part of Atlantic Canada’s fisheries management

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Climate change is rarely factored into management decisions… Continue reading

Pharmacist Barbara Violo shows off a vile of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine after providing doses to customers at the Junction Chemist, which is a independent pharmacy, during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Friday, March 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
New Brunswick reports blood clot death in connection with Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

FREDERICTON — New Brunswick health officials on Wednesday reported the province’s first… Continue reading

FILE PHOTO
Avoid mixed messaging with any mix-and-match vaccine plan: CEO

Public health doctors and immunologists in Canada are calling for a wait-and-see… Continue reading

Passengers from New Delhi wait in long lines for transportation to their quarantine hotels at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Friday April 23, 2021. Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says the resumption of international travel requires a coordinated approach for testing and a common platform for recognizing the vaccinated status of travellers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canada supports ‘common platform’ to recognize vaccine status of travellers: Alghabra

OTTAWA — Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says the resumption of international travel… Continue reading

Toronto FC midfielder Richie Laryea (22) and Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Caio Alexandre (8) compete for the ball during the second half of an MLS soccer match, Saturday, April 24, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. Unable to dig itself out of a deep first-leg hole, Toronto FC exited the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday at the hands of Cruz Azul. THE CANADIAN/AP/Phelan M. Ebenhack
Toronto FC exits CONCACAF Champions League at the hands of Mexico’s Cruz Azul

Mexico to face either MLS champion Columbus Crew SC or Monterrey in the August semifinals

Most Read